TAMPA, Fla. — A University of South Florida graduate student plans to take what he learns in Florida back home to his native Cameroon, hoping to solve one of that country’s oldest problems.

What You Need To Know

  • According to USF graduate student Freeman Talla, Cameroon experiences 35 hours without electricity each week on average

  • Talla wants to help his home country by taking what he's learned to launch a solar power company in Cameroon

  • He hopes to get a job at Tesla, then attempt to get his company up and running upon graduation

Freeman Talla is pursuing a master’s degree in both computer science and entrepreneurship at the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

For decades, Talla’s home country, Cameroon, has struggled with power outages. According to Talla, they’re so common, the country averages 35 hours without electricity each week.

“The thing is, the infrastructure isn’t keeping up with the population growth,” he said. “People don’t get sad over it anymore. It’s just accepted.”

Talla has decided to not accept it.

Instead, he wants to combine what he’s learned on college campuses  — a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, plus the two master’s degrees he’s pursuing at USF — with what he’s learned working at American tech companies to launch a solar power company in Cameroon.

“Everyone can have reliable electricity as a back-up if the primary source is unavailable for whatever reason,” Talla said, explaining his goal for the solar power company. “No one has stepped up to fix the problem (in Cameroon). I can’t wait indefinitely to have this problem fixed. I need to be part of the solution.”

Talla said part of his drive was born when his aunt died — he was a teenager at the time living in Cameroon. One day, Freeman’s aunt had a medical emergency and his family rushed her to a nearby clinic in Cameroon, but the electricity was out.

The equipment that possibly could have helped her wouldn’t power on. Talla's family rushed her to a different medical facility, but it was too late.

“Losing her was really, really hard for me,” he said. “How many other families are going through this issue? How many other kids became orphans because of this poor infrastructure?”

After Talla graduates from USF, he’s hoping to first get a job at Tesla, then attempt to get his company up and running. He aspires to employ 20,000 Cameroonians and provide electricity to the entire country, especially the more remote villages.