Dr. Ngalula Sandrine Mubenga, assistant professor of electrical engineering technology in The University of Toledo College of Engineering, is the leader of a new regulatory agency in her native country in Africa.
President Felix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), appointed Mubenga as the country’s director general of the Electricity Regulatory Agency in July.
She started in the position in August and continues to teach and conduct research on battery power systems at UToledo during the week and live full time in Toledo with her family.
“We all have learned during COVID-19 that a lot can be accomplished remotely,” Mubenga said. “My Electricity Regulatory Agency leadership activity is done through virtual meetings, emails and phone calls during the weekend with my team in the DRC and several stakeholders. I have not flown back and forth because of travel restrictions. After the pandemic, I plan to travel during my breaks and the summer when I am not teaching so I can manage the office in Kinshasa, the country’s capital and largest city.”
Mubenga’s goal is to regulate the electricity market and get power to more people. With a population of 85 million, the DRC has one of the lowest rates of electrification in the world – 20% of the people in the country don’t have access to electricity.
“The Congo is a beautiful country with many human, natural and mineral resources such as the Congo River, which is the second largest in the world by flow of water. That has a potential to generate 100,000 megawatts of clean hydropower,” Mubenga said. “A major goal is to regulate the electricity market so that operators, investors and consumers interact to increase the rate of electrification.”
Mubenga, founder of SMIN Power Group LLC, stepped down from her role as CEO in order to hold the public office. The company develops and installs solar power systems in communities throughout the DRC.
Mubenga also is the founder of the STEM DRC Initiative, a nonprofit organization that has awarded scholarships since 2018 to pay all associated costs for more than 60 students in the Congo to attend college, including transportation and books. This year, STEM DRC has secured 100 scholarships and is in the process of selecting scholars.
She started studying renewable energy at the UToledo College of Engineering in 2000 and earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering.
As a child she nearly died waiting for surgery when the hospital in Kikwit had no power.
“My near-death experience inspired in me the desire to become an electrical engineer so that one day I may help provide electricity in places that need it the most,” Mubenga said. “It seems that that day has come and I am fulfilling my purpose. I feel honored and grateful for this opportunity and excited by the challenges ahead.”