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Ex-army officer-cum-inventor struggles for recognition

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by Dingswayo, Oct 25, 2009.

  1. Dingswayo

    Dingswayo JF-Expert Member

    Oct 25, 2009
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    Ex-army officer-cum-inventor struggles for recognition
    By Lucas Lukumbo
    19th October 2009

    Captain Athumani Msekeni at his workshop at Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organization (TIRDO) in Dar es Salaam recently.

    Captain (retired) Athumani Msekeni

    Captain Athumani Msekeni (retired) was the winner of the first best invention award in the industrial rights after he had invented an air-driven generator during African Union (AU) Intellectual Property and Technology Day on September 13, 2006. However although the invention is recognized by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and the Business Registration and Licensing Agency (BRELA)from that year he has been struggling single-handedly to have his invention benefit Tanzanians. Our STAFF WRITER profiles the inventor's struggle ...

    Captain Athumani Msekeni's zeal for invention was manifested when he was in the army. In 1977 he sought audience with Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Chief of Armed Forces to sell his idea of making strong chassis and boards for some military vehicles. This was after finding out that certain military vehicle chassis were not durable especially when subjected to rigorous military exercises.

    "I went to Mwalimu's place with two models I made. One was my own model and the other was the one from outside the country. I asked him if he could sponsor me to rectify the anomaly by making our own type of chassis," he narrated.
    "Mwalimu was very much impressed with my idea," he noted
    He said Mwalimu called Joseph Wassira who was by then the Mara Regional Commissioner. Mwalimu introduced me to the regional commissioner"who was puzzled to see me there with Mwalimu."
    "Mwalimu ordered that I should be given money for the work," he said adding that he was transferred to the regional block "opposite the regional commissioner's office,"he revealed.

    He was given some money for the project and went to Dar es Salaam to buy the needed material for the work. "When I made a chassis and a board Nyerere came to see them. Nyerere told Wassira to encourage me. I named the vehicle I had changed the chassis and board as MUT 01 meaning Mapinduzi Ufundi Tanzania," said adding, ‘this should be the first product in the country's engineering revolution."

    In the same year Msekeni demonstrated the fitness of the vehicle by driving it from Musoma to Mwanza and back 1977. He drove it to Shinyanga and returned to Musoma through Mwanza. "I asked the RC to give me money as Mwalimu had ordered so that I could go around the country for people to see and admire but the money was not forthcoming," he said.

    His sense of innovation was also evident during Tanzania's war with Iddi Amin Dada in 1978. He was transferred to Dar es Salaam in preparation for the war.
    "I did not go to war, but was given the task of rehabilitating all military vehicles which were grounded after which they could be distributed to other battalions to fill the gap after many military vehicles sent to the frontline in Kagera to oust the invading Iddi Amin troops. "I rehabilitated 70 military vehicles altogether which were later sent to other regions," he said.

    One of his remarkable contributions to the war was when a problem cropped up at the frontline. "At times our tanks were vulnerable to Iddi Amin Dada's artillery launching jeeps. We also had the same type of missiles but the jeeps were not plenty for mounting the missiles.

    The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) at that time, General Msuguri ordered that Captain Msekeni be contacted in Dar Salaam so that he could design attachments in selected vehicles to be used as launching pads for the long range artillery.
    He therefore went to the frontline to see for himself some of Uganda jeeps which were hit by the Tanzania army so that he could see the set-up of the vehicles and design his own type.

    "It was an honour for me to share the same military plane with Prime Minister, Edward Sokoine- former Prime Minister to the war zone. That was way back in 1978. We landed in Bukoba and went inside Uganda with Sokoine. I left the prime minister at the headquarters of our operations and went singly to see the versatile military jeeps," he narrated.

    Within a week Msekeni was in Dar es Salaam at his drawing board. "I decided to make some modification on our Land Rovers we had in the military. Some 18 Land Rovers were assembled before me so that I could make the required modifications.
    "After I had made my first modification I tested it on the field to see if they could perform to the required standards. We tried to fire the artillery while the Land Rover was in motion and when it was not moving," he said adding," after the satisfactory testing we dispatched the vehicles to the frontline.

    "The modified Land Rovers did wonders. After the war, the Land Rovers did not come back to Tanzania because President Museveni had wanted them for his peace keeping operations in the country.

    Msekeni was born in Kwachaga, Handeni District, Tanga region in September 1,1938. His father Omari Mwanchiga mother Mwajabu Athumani were both farmers. They are both dead.

    He attended primary school at Kwachaga Primary School between 1948 and 1951. After that he went to Mkonji Middle School in Handeni District. He trained at Korogwe motor mechanics school between 1955 and 1959.

    In the 1964 he joined Ruvu National Service camp after which he went to Kitai, Songea in Ruvuma Region. He left Kitai in 1965. In the same year he joined the Tanzania People's Defense Forces (JWTZ) at Mgulani undergoing training between May and September in the same year.

    He was transferred to Tabora 5th Battalion. In 1968 he was transferred to Kyabakari in Mara Region as a technician for military vehicles. In the same year he was transferred to Nachingwea, Lindi region in1968 to be in-charge of motor mechanics section for the military vehicles.
    He returned to Kyabakari again in the same section where he was promoted to lance corporal and in-charge of motor mechanics. In 1971 he was sent on an infantry course in Tabora and on his return he became a corporal.

    In 1972 he became a sergeant at Kyabakari and in 1974 he went for officers' course at Monduli in Arusha where on return he was raised to a Lieutenant. After the war in 1979 he was transferred to the TPDF headquarters in Dar es Salaam. In 1985 he got a scholarship to Czechoslovakia for six months to be trained in motor mechanics.

    He was transferred to Lugalo Barracks in Dar es Salaam in 1989 and was in-charge of a military workshop there. In September 1 the same year he resigned at the rank of Captain.

    After resignation, he now wanted to utilize the knowledge he had accumulated over the years to help his countrymen. His aspiration was to design an engine using ordinary air which could be vital in agriculture for pumping water to farms and production of electricity. In September 28, 1993, he wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister John Malecela to seek for help so that he could develop the engine."Malecela wrote a letter to NYUMBU asking them to help me and if the project was feasible," he said.

    With that letter the leadership of NYUMBU appointed a group of professionals to see if the machine really worked. NYUMBU leadership replied to Malecela advising him that "the project was good and that it required more support to be able to draw professional drawings and produce a few prototypes for testing."

    The former prime minister released the money and work for making technical drawings started. "To my surprise on March 6, 1997 I was summoned by Nyumbu officials and told that the work was impracticable. That is when the war with government officials started. I realized later that someone had written a letter to the then ministry of Industries convincing the officials that my project is not viable," he said adding, " that officer instead made an appeal to the ministry asking for the money intended for my invention to be diverted to another project."

    "I was not satisfied with the situation. I asked NYUMBU officials to return my drawings. At first they seemed reluctant to give me back my documents. It took me seven years from 1997 to 2006 for NYUMBU to give me back my technical drawings. In fact that was after the office of the prime minister ordered them to do so," he noted.

    He then asked the Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organization (TIRDO) to allow him to conduct his work in its premises. He was allowed to do so. In early 2006 he started making the engine himself completing it in September the same year.
    This reporter went to the inventor's ‘workshop' at TIRDO to witness the invention recently.

    It took some few minutes before the inventor made the engine move as water driven by the engine's power jutted out as a demonstration for the reporter.
    "You have now seen how it works. Go and tell those who do not believe that my invention is a reality," he said as he roared into laughter.

    TIRDO advised him to participate in the 2006 show of African inventors which took place in the same year in Dar es Salaam. The results were positive.

    The Business Registration and Licensing Agency (BRELA) awarded Captain Athumani Msekeni the First Best Invention award in the Industrial Rights for exhibition of air driven generator. The exhibitions were to mark the seventh African Union Intellectual Property and Technology Day on September 13, 2006. It was jointly organized by BRELA, the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA).

    The next year, January 30, 2007, he was subsequently given a certificate of grant of patent TZ/P/07/00128. "I want someone to sponsor me in the production of the engine. The engine will revolutionize agriculture in the country," he says adding," my invention has come at the right time when ‘Kilimo Kwanza' is in its high gear."

    The working principle of the machine is that air is filled in the cylinder by using a hand or foot until the required pressure has been reached. After the required pressure has been attained, the operator has to open a valve which releases the compressed air to go to the engine through high pressure pipe and this causes the engine to rotate.

    After the engine has started rotating it will also rotate the compressor through belt movement which would fill the air in the cylinder replacing the air used to rotate the engine.

    "The action of a compressor to fill the cylinder makes the engine continue working without any aid or support from the operator to refill the cylinder. The engine will only stop when the operator shuts off the valve which allows the air to drive the engine," he explains.

    "This type of machine could make Tanzania a world power in agriculture. Because the machine would not use the high cost fuel like petrol or diesel many people would afford to utilize it," he says.

    "We will no longer face hunger as all farmers would afford owning it. After all it only uses air as fuel and not oil which is expensive," he says. He also says ozone layer which is in danger of depletion because of greenhouse effects would also be saved.
    "It is environmentally friendly as long as it does not disturb the ozone layer because it does not bring out smoke or heat the temperature," he notes.

    The TIRDO Director of Industrial Research Dr Ludovick Manage says "Msekeni is a very important person in Tanzania." "That is why we have accommodated him in our premises. In fact we have assigned some of our professional cadre to work with him. This is to acknowledge the fact that what he is doing would benefit our country if given the necessary inputs," he says," he says.

    Msekeni has only one last hope- The State House. He has written a letter to the president to help him in realizing his goal, and hopes the High Office would not let him down as many offices have so far done.

  2. M

    Magezi JF-Expert Member

    Oct 25, 2009
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    The problem of african we think things may happen just over night. If this guy will get support we could witness a lot in terms of agriculture development but our politicians needs 10% to support someone.