20 Dec Why Electricity for Africa is a Focal Point
They say you should have passion to build a start-up. If that is the requirement, I can truly affirm that my team has world-class passion. It isn’t to find the best price alone – to make the most money. We understand that world and acknowledge its ends. But there are other ways – other ways that are not compromises but sensible strategies for growth and ambition and market share.
Clearly there are higher tariffs in the world and great places in Germany, the US, the Persian Gulf, Asia, etc. where we can and will deploy our energy technology solutions, but I see our focus as squarely falling on Africa.
Some business people have disagreed with us. They say Africa is corrupt, unstable, dangerous and “the WIld West.” Maybe so. I think about this quote:
With less than 50 per cent of Africa’s sub-Saharan countries on the grid, many still don’t have universal access to electricity. According to an article by Benjamin Fox, published on Euractive.com, “the average Kenyan ‘off-grid’ household spends over €200 per year on kerosene,” which is an alternative method of generating electricity that is often dangerous, and costly. An investment of €340 billion is needed for 100 percent of the African population to gain access to electricity by 2030. The costs and need for expanded access are causing new demand for off-grid renewables, such as solar energy, in East Africa.
I have a new son – 7 months old. He is ¼ Ugandan by blood – Bugandan to be exact and I am proud of that as he will be proud of it. I think of his cousins in huts throughout the region growing up breathing kerosene smoke and carbon – going to wash and be relieved in the morning in no light – where snakes and animals dwell, and I think to myself – enough already. It is time for the millions and 10s of millions who live this way to have more – frankly to have a fair chance.
Lots of people including NGOs and charities and development banks have said the same thing – the USA alone has said it will invest 10s of billions in Sub-Saharan power – and maybe it will. I hope so. But I realised long ago that the solution wasn’t giant dams and giant coal pits funded by giant organisations – it was local.
Our energy is made locally by heat from the ground, from bio-digested plants, from industrial waste. It isn’t a toy or something that breaks in a few weeks. We have the finest local shallow geothermal system on earth that operates at village and town scale. And we can sell it anywhere. Sweden would be a buyer. Germany… Japan. And we will install in those places. But that is just money for clean energy – a great end, but not enough. Don’t get me wrong – I like money! But it isn’t the point of our firm – at least not completely. There is plenty of money to be made in Africa – with Africans. And that is my focus – our focus.
There are also now plenty of rich people in Africa – billionaires. But they are not the people we aim to help. We want to do something that isn’t charity and isn’t a weak business. We aim to build something powerful and explosive that meets fundamental human needs – and puts those local people in partnership with us. We will do that. Help us. We need lots of help – engineers, financiers, lawyers – you name it. We are going to do this. Be part of it. This isn’t charity. This is growth. This is business – and we mean business.