Sterling Bank is a commercial bank in Nigeria serving individuals, small businesses, and large corporations. The banks says it has a key focus on businesses within socially and environmentally conscious sectors, which it calls the H.E.A.R.T (Health, Education, Agriculture, Renewable Energy, and Transport) sectors. Under the Renewable Energy pillar, the bank, in collaboration with its partners, has offered a product called Imperium. Under the Transport pillar, it has a product called Qore in collaboration with its partners. Qore means “Green” in the local Hausa language.
The strategy of the bank is to go into all these sectors and engage with players that are in need of financing facilities. Sterling Bank says that a lot of emphasis is placed on understanding customer pain points, and therefore the bank works with customers to solve these major pain points in order to catalyze the customer’s growth plans. Sterling Bank also works with these customers to get them to a level necessary to qualify for the respective financing facilities.
As the upfront purchase costs for renewable energy systems tend to be quite high, Sterling Bank says it moved early in the Nigerian market to work with businesses and homes requiring these solutions by offering a platform for the customers to access more affordable, flexible, and sustainable financing solutions backed by credible suppliers and contractors. Sterling Bank does this by providing a digital platform where accredited installers and off-takers can interact and be matched. This platform is backed by Sterling Bank’s accreditation processes to improve trust and provide warranties, as well as a layer where financing solutions for these renewable energy systems can be provided via the respective channels.
Sterling Bank says it ensures that the vendors on the platform are able to adhere to strict standards and offer customer support, including service, maintenance, and warranties. The off-takers can then access the solar PV and battery storage solutions under flexible and affordable financing terms for up to 4 years. This allows off-takers to have access to products such as solar and battery storage that now have much longer lifecycles, and guarantees payment terms that offer savings on their operational costs compared with running traditional petrol and diesel backup generators.
For the Qore product, the motivation was driven by the general view not only in Nigeria but in a lot of places that EVs are expensive and only for the rich. Sterling Bank is therefore working to lower the barriers to entry in Nigeria by providing affordable solutions for the transport sector in collaboration with several partners. The Qore product is an e-mobility solution born out of the need to solve the problems in the Nigerian transport space, such as lack of supporting infrastructure (electric vehicle charging infrastructure), the high purchase price of the electric vehicles compared to equivalent internal combustion engine vehicles, and the problem of emissions from ICE vehicles.
Sterling Bank’s go-to-market strategy centers around smaller vehicles, starting with electric 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers for first-mile and last-mile transport sector applications, as well as minibuses, along with larger electric vehicles as the market evolves. Nigeria recently removed the fuel subsidy, which caused the price of petrol to shoot up, enticing more people to seriously start considering alternative solutions, such as electric mobility. It is great to see financial institutions such as Sterling Bank offer products to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles.
I spoke with members of the Renewable Energy and the Transport Teams at Sterling Bank to get more insights into their work in Nigeria:
RJK: How is the current transport landscape in Nigeria, and what are the main modes of transport and public transport?
Sterling Bank: Nigeria possesses a diverse transportation landscape with several key modes (Road, air, water, rail, and pipeline) serving as the backbone of the country’s passenger and freight movement. Road and air are the two main modes of transport with an extensive road network of about 195,000 km of road network and an average of 93,331 flights per year.
Rail transport is picking up traction, and our main railways include:
- The Western Line which connects Lagos on the Bight of Benin to Nguru in the Northern state of Yobe over a distance of 1,126km
- The Eastern Line connecting Port Harcourt in the Southeast to Maiduguri in the north-eastern state of Borno, near the border with Chad
Water transport requires more investment and infrastructural development for ease of navigation.
RJK: How has this influenced your prioritization of transport segments to support the transition to electric?
Sterling Bank: Sterling bank is an impact driven organization and so priority has been placed in the First Mile & Last Mile transport, not ignoring other categories. We hope to provide the public with access to transportation at a cheaper rate and avail transport service providers more revenue with minimized cost of operation.
RJK: Which electric vehicles will you be offering in the Nigerian market via your strategic partnerships?
Sterling Bank: Qore will be providing mainly electric motorcycles, tricycles, minibuses, minivans, sedans, buses, and others as the adoption of electric vehicles increases.
RJK: You work with strategic partners to provide your services — what is the scope of these collaborations?
Sterling Bank: Collaboration with strategic partners is a cornerstone of Qore’s approach and our partners span across various industries, allowing us to leverage their expertise, resources, and capabilities of our collaborators. Some of our partners include:
- OEM partners in China
- Imperium: Our partners for solar energy provision
- The Alternative Bank: For financing Qore product offerings, etc.
RJK: How widespread is your charging network currently?
Sterling Bank: Currently, we have our flagship charge station (which is also the first commercial EV charge station in Nigeria) located at Victoria Island, Lagos. However, our charging infrastructure expansion strategy is premised on the progressive sales of EVs. We hope to roll out swap stations so the waiting time for light electric vehicles is greatly reduced.
RJK: Nigeria’s electricity generation shortfall is well documented, giving rise to the prevalence of self-generation using generators. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for your renewable energy business and your EV focus, so how do you see the synergies between the two evolving ?
Sterling Bank: Our charge stations will utilize a power mix that includes renewable energy solutions and the grid as primary sources of energy. This is in line with our SDG targets as a responsible and green organization. In the future, alternative renewable energy sources would dominate charging infrastructure, offering better Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for businesses and EV users.
RJK: Do you have an idea how many electric vehicles are in Nigeria at the moment?
Sterling Bank: Well, there are no credible statistics we can allude such information to yet, however it is estimated that there are less than 1,000 electric vehicles in Nigeria.
RJK: What are some of your targets? How many electric vehicles do you hope to facilitate to get on the roads in Nigeria in the next 1 to 5 years?
Sterling Bank: Qore has ambitious plans for accelerated adoption of EVs in Nigeria and hope to inject about 3,500 electric vehicles (across all vehicle categories) in a year.
RJK: In terms of the electric vehicle charging network, there has been a plethora of charging standards across the various parts of the world. Which charging standard are you using for the larger 4-wheeler electric vehicles and also for the 2- and 3-wheeled vehicles?
Sterling Bank: Qore will provide charging points that can charge any EV connector type with the use of accessories like adapters.
RJK: For the 2 and 3-wheeled vehicles, are you focusing on battery swapping centers, or you will also have direct vehicle charging?
Sterling Bank: The swapping technology is the most viable use case for 2 and 3-wheeled vehicles. Qore will deploy battery swapping cabinets for these vehicle categories.
Images courtesy of Sterling Bank
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