March 2019

It’s only impossible until someone makes it possible is a phrase often used when describing innovators and their inventions, and nowhere is this phrase more truthful than in Africa where necessities continue to birth incredible innovations that are transforming the continent, and perhaps in notable ways even leapfrogging African nations into the global markets ahead of the developed world.

Two such areas of innovations are mobile payment and energy. While the former, aids by technology, has proven provenance or entrant for many of the innovations spurting up across the continent, the latter, energy, is undergoing metamorphosis.

Energy is pivotal to the development and economic growth of any nation and Africa, as a continent, is blessed with vast natural energy resources, including coal, gas, geothermal, hydro, solar and oil. However, despite this ample of choice, insufficient energy due to a paucity of infrastructures across the continent has proven a major hindrance to Africa’s overall development and economic growth.

In order for the African continent to pivot from energy poverty to plentiful, bold actions are needed, says experts. And Discerning the hidden opportunities this energy crisis presents will depend on whether you see the hourglass as half empty or half full.

While some in rich nations may see the energy crisis as a deterrence, plenty of young African entrepreneurs see it as an opportunity to come up with new concepts to provide electricity to more people on the continent. That also means there are opportunities for regional governments, energy businesses, and investors to unlock energy access to millions of people in Africa who don’t have access to electricity. 

In short, the Africa’s energy shortage has made African countries attractive markets for investors, and could prove a blessing for renewable investors.

As traditional oil becomes a scarce commodity and puts restraints on traditional energy resources across Africa, new climate-friendly energy concepts and projects such as solar, wind, biofuel, geothermal are beginning to spurt up in many parts of the continent, developed by young entrepreneurs, to bring efficient, affordable and cost-effective energy products to people as well as creates hundreds of jobs to economically distressed rural areas. 

Earlier this year, African Energy Indaba chose five young African energy innovators as finalist for its annual Africa Youth Energy Innovator Award “to foster inspirational and innovative thinking that improve the lives of Africans, starting with our talented African youth and provide them with a platform and opportunities to access new markets, and expose them to the larger international audience,” says Liz Hart, Managing Director for African Energy Indaba. 

We think these five entrepreneurs in the rough is worth assessing for your portfolio for right now or later.

SPIN CYCLE: One day, thirty-two year-old Cameroonian, Bongajum Lesley Ndzi, an entrepreneur who owns Bonja Juice bar, was exercising on a bike as he often does to stay fit when suddenly he had “aha moment” to a problem that has plagued him and millions of other people living in Africa: How to make reliable, affordable and clean electricity available to the masses. His solution: Use the law of conversation energy, also known as thermodynamic, to convert or transfer energy from one source to another and based on this idea, he designed a bike, Bonga Power Bike that uses electromagnetism to produce energy when pedal. In turn that energy can be stored in a battery and use later for electricity.

TRASH TO TREASURE: A microbiologist from Kenya, Bonface Jiveri, 29, used his expertise of microorganism to convert fruit peeling cellulose biomass and egg shells as a basis for his patented Bio-Alkanol gel fuel invention, which delivers renewable energy to rural households in communities around the Lake Victoria region. His ultimate end goal is to help small-scale farmers in rural areas reduce petroleum and fuel-based electricity consumption-which often tends to be very expensive for many of these farmers, by converting farmers to use agro and bio-waste-derived biofuel as source of energy. Bonface’s invention has led to a reduction in malaria in the area, as well as improve income due to the recycling of farm produce.

DATA IS GOLD : Ugandan Hashim Mutanje, 32, who has a degree in Information Technology, cofounded SolarPipo, a leading energy data aggregation platform that collects energy data by requests from households, businesses and  communities located in off-grid areas in Uganda. His company provides that data to energy providers who use that data as insight to access new customers. By leveraging his expertise in IT to empower energy providers to plan efficiently, he is also creating local jobs for member of the local communities by engaging members of the community to become mobile agents. The company is registered in Netherlands and is one of Rockstart Smart Energy’s startups.

GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK: A stalwart of sustainable development, green economy and clean energy, Tanzanian Victoria Henry Ngayamgunda, 27, tapped into her knowledge of science and technology to design clean energy solutions that will improve people’s lives as well as keep the environment less polluted. She co-launched Alpech Africa, a social enterprise that produces charcoal briquettes from agriculture wastes and biomass, and sells them as an affordable, clean energy option for cooking. Her goal is to empower women in rural communities while also addressing the very important issue of sustainable development.

IT’S CALLED UPCYCLE, (duh!): With a mission in mind to increase access to affordable, reliable and clean energy, Chifungu Samazaka, 31 designed and developed a peer-to-peer gas micro-grid systems that provide off grid communities with access to low cost renewable energy for cooking made from recycled solid wastes. Samazaka, who is from Zambia, cofounded, Green Malasha – a renewable energy venture and Recyclebot – a peer-to-peer waste recycling platform. Both ventures work in tandem. His innovation has become a more accessible and affordable option to charcoal, and firewood for off grid consumers.