Ayodeji is the Chief Operation Officer of Powa Up, a subsidiary of Doskia Consult Nigeria Limited which is operating Solaris systems in Nigeria.
Solaris Offgrid: Could you please tell us what led you to co-start this initiative carried by Doskia Consult?
Ayodeji Oderinde: We saw a dying need in the Niger Delta region for clean renewable energy and we wanted to bring a solution to it.
The energy crisis in Nigeria has lingered for several decades now and has defied efforts by the government to solve the electricity deficit. The country relies on a population of over 170 million people, but only about 50% of these people have access to electricity. The larger population without access to electricity lives in the rural communities. For this reason, many people in the affected communities rely on biomass and kerosene lantern and local paraffin lamps to produce heat and light energy. This traditional way of generating energy exposes community members to adverse social, health and environmental impacts. The burden of procuring wood-fuel used for household cooking, lighting and heating fall on women and children.
The concept of ‘renewable energy’ has been existing for a while now, although needs are growing and it is far from being fulfilled through such technologies. I believe government policies would go a long way in the general acceptance of this new idea, although their efforts already started with the Solar Power Programme kicked-off a few weeks ago by the acting president.
Solaris Offgrid: What are you guys trying to achieve with your venture?
Ayodeji Oderinde: We hope to contribute to the Solar revolution taking place. The concept of solar energy is perceived by many Nigerians as something for the elite. We want to attract 70% of Nigerians that feel this way by selling a device that is affordable, reliable and most importantly that can answer the needs of entrepreneurs.
From our pilot project, we chose three states. Abuja, Nassarawa and Niger. Once we have completed our pilot phase, Abuja is to be considered as our first phase of proper operation. With a population of estimated 2.3 million people, the territory is currently made up of six local councils, comprising the City of Abuja and five Local Government Areas. We are expected to "Powa Up" about few hundred homes in our first year of operation to then scale to a couple of thousands to start with.
Solaris Offgrid: To what extent Solaris Offgrid helps you deliver an impact?
Ayodeji Oderinde: Initially we didn’t fully grasp how a PAYG solar business was working aside from the technology aspect. After a few days spent at Solaris Tanzania, we completely understood the distinct duties of Sales and Customer Care departments for example and how these teams are working in synergy to make the plan execution as effortless as possible, partially thanks to their smart software. I believe if I had intended to start the venture prior to my trip to Solaris Tanzania, most processes to try to make my business work would have been a failure. Also, the Solaris software is the most efficient tool we could expect as it provides very critical analysis for both customer care and technician teams. With these tools I know we have found a way to support and sustain change in Nigeria.
Solaris Offgrid: Would you have any anecdote to share with us about what is it to be an entrepreneur in the access to energy sector in Africa?
Ayodeji Oderinde: They are many risks that could affect us as entrepreneurs in Nigeria, I believe the 3 main of them are:
Currency fluctuation: the rise of the Dollar makes everything much difficult because of the oil crisis we are facing. 95% of Nigeria total exportation prior this regime was from oil while most manufactured goods were (and are still) imported. As a result, last June 2016 when we started the business, the Naira/USD rate was N340 to $1 which was a viable position. Today such rate dropped to N500 for $1 which limits our short term capacity of expansion until further stabilisation.
Inadequate Funding Structure: the funding institutions in Nigeria have a very short scope of projects they sponsor. Basically, because of the change we are facing (described above), we are forced to think inward and this breeds uncertainty in the minds of financial institutions.
Government Support: Various regimes in Nigeria have paraded good policies and program for entrepreneurship and/or energy. The latest one being the Solar Power Programme. Unfortunately, in the past, almost all those good policies and programs were frustrated at the corridor of implementation. So we are hoping this new programme won't fail.