The Smart Energy Solutions For Africa (SESA) is a collaborative project between the European Union and nine African countries. The nine countries are Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Nigeria. The SESA program aims to boost energy access technologies and business models with a specific focus on business models that are easily scalable, replicable, and generate local opportunities for economic development and social cohesion.
Through several local active labs, the SESA project is expected to facilitate the co-development of scalable energy access innovations, to vigorously test and validate the innovations, and then later move to replicate them throughout the African continent. These solutions will include decentralized renewables (solar photovoltaics), innovative energy storage systems including the use of second-life electric vehicle batteries, smart microgrids, waste-to-energy systems (biomass to biogas), climate-proofing, resilience and adaptation, and rural internet solutions.
The SESA project will run for 48 months from October 2021 to September 2025 and is based on a strong partnership between leading African and European universities, research centers, industry players, local governments, and knowledge and implementation organizations and networks. The consortium is funded by the HORIZON2020 program of the European Commission. Siemens Stiftung executed the “Call for Entrepreneurs 2022” to boost accessibility to affordable renewable energy in Africa. It was an open and competitive call for small and medium-sized enterprises focused on Productive Use of Energy (PUE) solutions in Ghana, Malawi, Morocco, and South Africa.
The sectors under PUE included: energy efficient appliances, renewable energy, biomass, and ICT. A SESA jury selected four innovative solutions from close to 100 applications based on their replication potential. Women-led enterprises were particularly encouraged to apply, resulting in over 30% of the total applications coming from female founders.
The selected companies will now join the SESA Incubator Program with the aim of validating selected proof of technology concepts and business models linked to the SESA living labs. Let’s have a look at the 4 companies:
Econexus Ventures Limited Ghana
Econexus Ventures Limited Ghana enterprise provides affordable, reliable, and clean-burning bioethanol and cookstoves to gradually replace polluting cooking fuels and stoves. More than 800 million people in Africa still lack access to clean cooking solutions, making it a major energy challenge requiring urgent solutions. The clean cooking sector is an area where a lot of work needs to be done to really tackle this problem, and Econexus want to help lead the charge to solve this.
Co-founded by a female entrepreneur Patience Alifo in 2019, Econexus aims to become the region’s climate-smart social enterprise by providing clean cooking solutions through waste-to-energy bioethanol production. In collaboration with SESA partner AAMUSTED, Econexus will test local manufacturing of cookstoves and seek to validate its business model in public schools in Ghana.
Nastech Power Solutions, Ghana
Nastech Power Solutions provides affordable solar energy solutions to businesses and communities in Ghana and other African countries. Founded by Samuel Asare in 2018, Nastech combats Ghana’s massive electronic waste issue by recycling electronic waste materials to develop an affordable solar power alternative. Through their solution, they address GHG emissions, environmental pollution, and health challenges. As part of the SESA Incubator Programme and SESA Living Lab Ghana, Nastech will test and validate the circular economy approach and test new customer segments such as secondary schools in two districts in Ghana.
Smart Energy Enterprise (SEE) Karonga, Malawi
Smart Energy Enterprise (SEE) Karonga, Malawi, offers solar-powered irrigation systems, customized advisory services, and access to markets for smallholder farmers. 85% of smallholder farmers in Malawi remain largely dependent on rainfed agriculture that is prone to drought and lacks access to affordable irrigation systems.
Founded by Gift Mwangairo in 2017, SEE provides solar-powered irrigation systems to smallholder farmers on loan basis. Within the SESA Incubator Programme, SEE will provide the relevant technological solutions, expertise, and support to test and validate the replication potential of his business model and technological solution in Northern Malawi.
GREEN Solar Academy Johannesburg, South Africa
GREEN Solar Academy is an independent training provider of solar PV systems, envisioning to make renewable energy accessible for all Africans. GREEN Solar Academy is a female-founded enterprise led by Antje Klauss-Vorreiter.
Green Solar Academy will collaborate with SESA partner uYilo E-Mobility Programme of the Nelson Mandela University to test and validate a containerized off-grid renewable energy system in Alicedale, Eastern Cape, to improve affordability and access to energy solutions for rural communities.
The four selected enterprises have received sub-contracts ranging from €50,000 up to €70,000 per business over 18 months, with the aim of validating selected proof of concepts and business models for up-scaling. As a part of the SESA Incubator Programme they will receive mentoring and tailored growth support and capacity-building programs to prepare them for follow-on funding and to strengthen the financial sustainability of their enterprises.
“Empowering entrepreneurs to increase the use of renewable energies will drive sustainable development and catalyse a more equitable and prosperous future for all. My heartiest congratulations to all, we are particularly delighted to have two promising women-led enterprises amongst the selected companies,” added Dr. Nina Smidt, Managing Director and Spokesperson of the Board, Siemens Stiftung.
SESA Project Coordinator and ICLEI Europe Representative, Magdalena Sikorowska welcomed the four companies into the SESA Consortium: “Your contribution and expertise will accelerate the implementation of clean energy projects and improve the socio-economic conditions of local communities. Within SESA we aim at empowering entrepreneurs and developing local innovation!”
I really like that the EU-funded SESA project aims at ensuring a high level of applicability, replicability, adaptation, and scalability of the selected business solutions. Zoning in on areas and projects that can be replicated locally, regionally, and ultimately across the continent will go a long way in meeting its overarching vision of energy access for all. The success of these enterprises will go a long way in helping to stimulate economic growth along with creating jobs and contributing to low-carbon development. I am looking forward to following up on these projects as they progress, especially when it comes to replicating some of their work in other parts of their respective countries, regions as well as the rest of the continent.
Images courtesy of Siemens Stiftung
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