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Poor Power Supply: Startups to the Rescue

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  • Poor Power Supply: Startups to the Rescue

Poor power supply is affecting economic growth. Tech startups are tackling the problem, reports Daniel Essiet.

Energy is an essential factor for reducing poverty and boosting economic growth. But across Nigeria, there is inadequate energy to spur the much- needed development.

About 70 per cent of households are either off-grid or have a ‘bad grid’ connection with less than four hours of electricity per day, according to a report by Dalbery.

To this end, analysts say expanding electrification is an important step towards building an economy. This has created opportunities for tech startups, which are preoccupied with delivering transformative change through solar and other forms of alternative energy.

Now, there are entrepreneurs powering solar street lights and solar projects. Some are processing waste into biodiesel and solar energy.

One of them is Quaint Global Energy Solutions. The firm develops renewable power projects and provides solar energy solutions to rural Nigeria. The company has been given a grant by the United States Trade and Development Agency for a solar power project that they are developing in northern Nigeria.

Quaint Global Energy Solutions is working with California-based Tetra Tech. On its completion, the project is expected to bring 50 megawatts of clean energy to Kaduna State and generate more than $160 million revenue.

Another one is Rensource Energy, aimed at delivering affordable solar energy to households and businesses to replace the use of generators.

It introduced a segmented subscription-based business model in March 2017 that enabled customers prepay for energy, rather than own the infrastructure. This means customers can save a lot of money by switching to solar energy. The system uses a combination of long-lasting lithium-based batteries and solar energy. The service is offered through a mobile-based user interface that allows its customers to pay their bills, and to understand how they use their power.

Since its inception in 2015, Rensource has managed well over 1,500 customers.

Last year, the firm secured a loan of €500,000 from Trine Financial Limited.

Early last year, the renewable energy startup also secured $3.5 million in bridge financing to expand the business. In 2016, Rensource had secured a previous funding of about $1.1 million, bringing its total investments from external funding to $5.5 million.

Other startups have also entered the sector. But that of OneWattSolar, a startup based in Lagos, has been significant. It allows Nigerians to pay for solar energy with Blockchain tokens.

The company allows customers to purchase tokens in naira using the platforms of third party tech finance firms.

It seeks to help people pay for the energy using Blockchain without owning the solar infrastructure that provides the power.

OneWattSolar uses blockchain in three ways: raises funds to buy and install the solar systems, helps users track energy use and allow users buy energy credits for their homes.The startup targets customers who spend about N10, 000 monthly or more on their energy bills. There are plans to target other customer segments.

So far, it has a target of 12,000 homes or businesses with clean solar energy.

OneWattSolar systems comprise solar panels, internet-enabled meter system and inverter battery technology. The system components are being custom-designed specifically to meet the needs of its customers as against buying ready-made solar panels and equipment. OneWattSolar pays for, installs, owns and operates the Solar Residential Energy Unit (SHS). OneWattSolar is working with independent solar installers within GoSolar Africa’s network.

OneWattSolar was founded by GoSolar Africana renewable energy startup also based in Lagos that provides clean energy to households, businesses, schools, non-profits and government organisations.

GoSolar Africa is led by Femi Oye who founded the company in 2010.

Another firm is AllOn, an impact investing firm established to stimulate the development of collaborative partnerships for innovative solutions that facilitate increased access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy sources in Nigeria.

AllOn CEO, Dr. Wiebe Boer Boer said: “The energy gap in Nigeria is the foundation for so many of the country’s economic and social development problems.”

He said power distribution is a major stumbling block to development with firms seldom making it beyond big cities due to high costs of installation.

He said the huge energy access gap in the country means the opportunities to address the gap were also considerable.

With limited grid coverage, the Allon chief noted that many Nigerians relied on electricity generators.

He stated that with Nigeria’s increasing energy requirements to achieve its developmental goals, there was the need to find and support clean energy innovators to build successful and sustainable businesses around their solutions.

He said many small scale firms and startups have ventured into the sector and can explore its vast amount renewable energy potential.

Boer explained that many entrepreneurs were rising to the challenge of leveraging the off-grid power revolution to provide electricity for millions of people in parts of the country through innovative and adaptive technologies and business models borrowed from outside.

One area that offers sustainable investment opportunities for entrepreneurs, he said, is solar energy due to advances in technologies.

Boer said the mini-grids and solar home systems that will save Nigerians billions yearly.

He said the company focuses on energy efficiency and renewable energy and aims to help startups develop practical solutions, test-bed the solutions in actual projects, and build their track record.

He said his organisation is ready to support startups to bring lighting solutions to off-grid communities who live in informal settlements and rural areas across the country.

According to him, there are opportunities for small businesses to invest in solar cells, earn income and help bring electricity to areas in need.

He said startups could provide low-cost, environmentally-friendly power sources for lighting, cooking, among others.

Boer said the company would invest in entrepreneurs that could provide electricity to households without going through the complexities of building a big generation and transmission infrastructure.

He said funders were searching for innovators in the sector, to expand off-grid energy access for underserved markets, through solar, wind and biogas technologies.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Economy

India, Spain, the Netherlands, USA, Nigeria’s Major Export Markets -NBS

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India, Spain and the Netherland top Nigeria’s export markets in the final quarter of 2020, according to the latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The Commodity Price Indices and Terms of Trade Q4 2020 report showed that the United States and China trailed the three.

However, the NBS revealed Nigeria exports mainly crude oil and natural gas during the period under review.

It, “The major export and import market of Nigeria in Q4 2020 were India, Spain, the Netherlands, United States and China.

“The major export to these countries were crude petroleum and natural gas. The major imports from the countries were motor spirits, used vehicles, motorcycles and antibiotics.”

The bureau stated that the all-commodity group import index increased by 0.13 per cent between October and December 2020.

This was driven mainly by an increase in the prices of base metals and articles of base metals (one per cent), boilers, machinery and appliances; parts thereof (1.03 per cent), and products of the chemical and allied industries (0.75 per cent),” it stated.

The NBS, however, noted that the index was negatively affected by animal and vegetable fats and oils and other cleavage products.

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Economy

Onyeama: Qatar To Invest $5bn In Nigeria’s Economy

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The oil-rich state of Qatar is to invest a total of $5 billion in Nigeria’s economy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Godfrey Onyeama, has disclosed.

Onyeama, who spoke Sunday at a send forth dinner in honour of Nigeria’s Ambassador-designate to the State of Qatar, who is also the outgoing Director of Protocol (DOP) at the State House, Ambassador Yakubu Ahmed, also stated that recent career ambassadorial appointments made by the gederal government was based on merit, experience and professionalism.

The minister further said there had been discussions with Qatar on partnership with Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), for significant investments in the region of $5 billion in the Nigerian economy.

According to him, ‘‘Qatar is a weighty and strategic country and very strategic in that part of the world and we are putting our best feet forward to advance the interest of our country economically and in other areas.”

He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had visited the State of Qatar in 2016 and the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani, reciprocated with a State visit in 2019.

Onyeama also explained that only trusted hands with a track record of diligence, experience and professionalism in the Foreign Service were recently appointed career ambassadors by the federal government.

The minister said the appointment of Ahmed and other career ambassadors were predicated on posting dedicated and keen Foreign Service practitioners to serve as image makers of the country.

He said: ‘‘Ambassador Yakubu Ahmed is a dedicated professional with a penchant for rigour and detail. He is very capable and one of the best in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is personable, affable, extremely friendly, dispassionate and objective.

‘‘He is going to head a very important mission, a very important country, reckoned to be one of the richest countries in the world, per capita, and there’s a lot we will be doing with the State of Qatar.”

Also speaking, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Adeola Rahman Ipaye, described the honoree as a ‘‘perfect gentleman, very even-natured and always well turned out’’.

Ipaye said he had no doubt that the newly appointed ambassador would serve the country well in Qatar, adding that: ‘‘We are further encouraged that when he completes this assignment, he would return to serve Nigeria in a higher capacity.’’

In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, while congratulating the outgoing DOP on his appointment, lauded Ahmed for excellent service to the State House and the nation.

‘‘He served this institution and the nation with the deepest sense of responsibility and it is very important that we establish a tradition where the system appreciates those who have served it well and those who will continue to serve it well,’’ he said.

Umar urged the new envoy to keep very fond memories of his time at the Presidential Villa, assuring him of the prayers and goodwill of all the staff.

Responding, Ahmed thanked President Buhari for the great honour and privilege of making him his principal representative in Doha, Qatar.

The Ambassador-designate pledged to deplore his energy and skill to the promotion of the existing cordial relationship between Nigeria and Qatar, particularly in the areas of economic, political, cultural and consular affairs as well as other key areas.

Ahmed, who joined Nigeria’s Foreign Service in 1993, said during his years in public service he had learnt that ‘‘patriotism, selfless service, diligence, determination and perseverance will always result in the achievement of the desired objective’’.

According to him, these virtues would be his ‘‘watchword’’ in the pursuit of Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives and the attainment of national interests.

The Ambassador-designate singled out for appreciation the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and the state Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure, saying he had learnt a lot working under their mentorship.

He expressed gratitude to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Secretary, State House for giving him the opportunity of a memorable work experience in the State House.

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Economy

France, Nigeria to Build New Partnership

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France is currently aiming at building a new partnership with Nigeria, with the dispatching of its Minister in charge of Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, Franck Riester, to Nigeria.

Riester, who was expected at the time of filing this report on Monday, is scheduled to visit Nigeria from 12-14 April, 2021.

A statement from the French Embassy in Nigeria said: “Franck Riester is visiting Nigeria from 12 to 14 April, a visit that follows up on the priorities set by French President Emmanuel Macron during his official visit to Nigeria in July 2018 and his desire to build a new partnership between Africa and France.

“As the largest economy in Africa and the economic engine of West Africa, Nigeria is indeed a major partner for France, the first in sub-Saharan Africa with bilateral trade amounting to a total of 4.5 billion USD in 2019 (2.3 billion USD in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic).”

It disclosed that the minister will have several official meetings in Abuja and Lagos, in order to underline the importance of the bilateral economic relationship and to prepare the summit on the financing of African economies in Paris on 18 May.

It revealed that the objective of the mission is also to further strengthen the links between the French and Nigerian private sectors, and “in this regard, the minister will have in-depth discussions with the main Nigerian economic actors to strengthen bilateral cooperation and investments, both in Nigeria and in France, particularly in the logistics sector”.

It said while in the country, the minister would meet with young Nigerian entrepreneurs in the cultural and creative industries sector, to discuss the major role of their country in African creativity and the development of the African entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the support of France.

It further said: “The minister will also open the ‘Choose Africa’ conference, a €3.5 billion initiative by President Emmanuel Macron dedicated to supporting the development of start-ups and SMEs in Africa to enable the continent to benefit fully from the opportunities of the digital revolution.”

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