Category Archives: Energy & Power

How Entrepreneurs Can Pioneer a Sustainable Electric Car Industry in Africa

While Africa is still struggling to have stable electricity, build crude oil refineries and build Assembling-plants for petrol-powered cars, a Tesla electric car recently made a record 1078 km distance on a single charge. Some people still think Electric cars are the future but the truth is that we are already in the era of electric cars. Petrol powered cars are already becoming obsolete.

Electric Car Revolution

There is an electric-car revolution currently going on in the Scandinavian. Norway which is blessed with an enormous oil reserve, has over 100,000 electric cars, while Sweden has over 10,000. Finland’s 1,039-number even comes in below Estonia, where there are already about 1,200 electric cars and vans on the road. Finland has posted a goal: to have 250,000 electric vehicles on the road by the year 2030.

In November of 2016, there were 540,000 electric cars on the road in the USA. According to Forbes, in 2016 alone, 507,000 electric cars were sold in China, a 53% increase from 2015. Meanwhile, 222,200 units were sold in Europe, a 14% increase; and 157,130 units were sold in the United States, a 36% increase from the prior year.

Knowing all these: that Electric vehicles could represent 40% of auto sales and 30% of the global car parc in 20 years, knowing this could be disruptive to petroleum demand — a main source of revenue of African power houses like Nigeria and Angola, by 2030. I am forced to ask “How can Africa countries be part of this development?”

Electric Cars in Africa

In Africa, according to IEA publication South Africa is the only county that has made a significant advancement in the use of electric cars. The stock of electric cars in the country climbed from 30 all-electric cars in 2013 to about 50 in 2013, and as of December 2015, there were about 290 plug-in electric cars registered, consisting of 170 all-electric cars and 120 plug-in hybrids. All the plug-in hybrids were registered in 2015 and according to EVsales, BMW South Africa has plans to introduce electric car sales totaled 80 units during the first three months of 2016.

It’s obvious Africa is being left behind again due to lack of foresight of its governments. Most countries if not all have government incentives or subsidies to promote electric cars but Africa countries do not. African entrepreneurs have to come to the rescue – incentive or no incentive. Most of them have succeeded in business without any help from the government and can pioneer a rapid growth electric car industry in Africa.

The Concept is Simple

Two major trends in energy usage that are expected for future smart grids are: Large-scale decentralized renewable energy production through solar energy system. Emergence of battery electric vehicles as the future mode of transport.

Firstly, the use of renewable energy sources such as solar energy is accessible to a wider audience because of the falling cost of solar energy panels. Industrial sites and office buildings harbour a great potential for solar energy panels with their large surface on flat roofs. Examples include warehouses, industrial buildings, universities, factories, etc. This potential when exploited will enable African countries bypass their inefficient national grid and develop a future smart grid system of renewable energy.

Africa experience good amount of sun shine throughout the year, meaning we can generate enough solar power to charge the batteries of an electric car throughout the year so two sustainable business types can be built around this natural resource: the business of installation of solar-powered charging ports in the home of electric cars owners as they buy their car, and the business of building and running car parks with charging pots powered by solar panels around factories and office building where owners of electric cars can park and charge their cars while at work. An entrepreneur can also install charging ports in the car parks of public, government or private building too. All that is needed is a good deal with the owners of the properties.

So entrepreneurs, Africa needs you to lead this ‘leapfrogging’ or ‘disrupting’ or whatever you want to call it. Africa needs an ‘Elon Musk’ kind of entrepreneur right now to start building the company that will transport Africa for the future.

It is simple: you can easily calculate how much extra solar electricity you’ll need to charge your car. Here’s an example: the 2014 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle, has a combined fuel economy rating of 30 kWh/100 miles – this means the Leaf requires 30 kWh of electricity to drive 100 miles. If you drive 25 miles on an average day, that means you’re using approximately 7.5 kWh of electricity per day – or just over 2,700 kWh of electricity in a given year.

How BuyPower is easing the pain of utility payments in Nigeria

Benjamin Ufaruna and Asehinde Oladipo met at one of Nigeria’s emerging technology development services companies in Abuja. In the hard-charging startup world that the two men entered there was little time to remember the minutiae of everyday life — like paying bills on time.

“In the midst of our busy schedules we would try to find time to dash down to the electricity company to get electricity for the house,” Ufaruna said. Sometimes they wouldn’t make it in time.

“If they are closed you have to stay in darkness til Monday when they open,” said Ufaruna. “You have circumstances where people are traveling and they have to come to the utility and there are long queues.”

Some weekends, Ufaruna said he would see dozens of people milling around outside, waiting for the chance to get to the power company to pay their bills.

“It was that frustration that convinced us to do something about it,” Ufaruna said.

The men rallied utilities in Abuja to start working on the problem. Over the course of 2015, they pitched BuyPower, saying they would handle the cost of rolling out a payment service, all the utilities had to do was integrate with their software.

That proved to be a challenge in itself. “They had a very antiquated technology,” said Ufaruna. So with his partners, Ufaruna set about upgrading the back end of the utility’s payments system.

“We started doing the cleanup and that was the first layer of the challenge. It took us a half-year,” says Ufaruna.

By April of 2016, the co-founders had a product. They did a small email blast to their followers and rolled up their first 50 customers by the end of the day.

Now, the entrepreneurs have 40% of the paid electricity market in Abuja, all without spending a dime on marketing, according to Ufaruna.

Buypower is already generating $1 million in revenue a month, by charging utilities a percentage of every power purchase and a 50 cent fee for each transaction.

Only available to homes with net metering, who are pre-paying for electricity, BuyPower’s founders are already thinking about next steps and looking to expand into the water business.

“We’re going to expand the services that we have right now,” says Ufaruna. “Because we have this high engagement we don’t need to spend to acquire new business from the same customers.”

Roughly 35% of the company’s customers live in the suburbs surrounding Abuja, while another 50% are based in the capital itself.

“We have deep roots in two cities right now (Abuja and Jos) [and] we will expand beyond these cities after demo day and fundraising. Once we have integrated with all the utility companies in Nigeria, then we will go into our next vertical,” Ufaruna wrote in an email.

Source: Tech Crunch

Here Are Five African Inventions Which May Take Off in 2017

Brian-Turyabagye-Pneumonia-Jackets
Ugandan Engineer Brian Turyabagye designed a biomedical “smart jacket”

An electricity grid for the whole village

Problem: A total of 1.3 billion people worldwide currently don’t have electricity, according to Yale Environment 360. Getting people in rural areas onto the national grid is proving too difficult and traditional solar panels generate meagre amounts of energy.

Solution: Steamaco makes solar and battery micro-grids which can work for a whole village. They are small electricity generation and distribution systems that operate independently of larger grids.

How it works: Micro-grids are nothing new. The new part is that Steamaco’s technology automates the regulation of electricity.

So, if the system detects there will be a surge in demand for electricity, for example on a Saturday night when people want to start playing music for a party, or they see a dip in supply, like when the sun has gone down and so the grid is not collecting solar energy, then the grid automatically stops electricity for people it won’t affect too badly.

The system sends an automatic text to all customers on the grid saying that the electricity in houses it about to be cut off so that the hospital can keep on going.

Who is talking about this? In June the Kenyan company won awards from the clean energy charity Ashden, reports the Guardian.

A jacket that detects pneumonia

Problem: Pneumonia kills 27,000 Ugandan children under the age of five every year. Most of these cases are due to pneumonia being misdiagnosed as malaria.

Solution: Ugandan engineer Brian Turyabagye has designed a biomedical “smart jacket” to quickly and accurately diagnose pneumonia. The Mamaope jacket measures a sick child’s temperature and breathing rate. It can diagnose pneumonia three to four times faster than a doctor and eliminates most possibility for human error.

How it works: A modified stethoscope is put in a vest. It is linked to a mobile phone app which records the audio of the patient’s chest. Analysis of that audio can detect lung crackles, and can lead to preliminary diagnoses.


Who is talking about this:
It is shortlisted for the 2017 Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize.

A tablet that monitors your heart

Problem: It is difficult for people in rural areas to travel to the cities to see heart specialists. There are just 50 cardiologists in Cameroon, which has a population of 20 million people.

Solution: Arthur Zang invented the Cardio Pad – a handheld medical computer tablet which healthcare workers in rural areas use to send the results of cardiac tests to specialists via a mobile phone connection.

How it works: Cardiopads are distributed to hospitals and clinics in Cameroon free of charge, and patients pay $29 (£20) yearly subscriptions. It takes a digitised reading of the patient’s heart function. In a few seconds the results of a heart test are sent to a specialist clinic in the capital.

Who is talking about this: It won the Royal Society award for African engineering in 2016 and the Rolex award for Entreprise in 2014. But Mr Zang told BBC Africa that these things take time to develop and it only got approval from the Cameroon authorities in October 2016. So, it is more likely that people will actually see it in their clinics in 2017.

An app for hair inspiration

Problem: A lack of accurate information about how to achieve certain hairstyles and where to find a high quality stylist.
Solution: Three software engineers – Priscilla Hazel, Esther Olatunde and Cassandra Sarfo – invented Tress, an app to share ideas about hairstyles.

How it works: It is described by Okay Africa as a kind of pinterest or Instagram for hair. Once you have downloaded the app, you can follow other people who are sharing their hairstyle. You can search specifically by place, price range and the type of hairstyle your want, from relaxed hair to cornrow: You can then scroll until your heart’s content through people who have uploaded pictures of themselves with that style, tell them how much you like their style, ask how long it took, and even arrange to meet up with someone to style your hair.

Who is talking about this: The three software engineers behind this are graduates of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Accra, Ghana.They were then selected for the Y Combinator eight-week fellowship programme for start-up companies.

Y Combinator is prestigious – Business news website Fast company called it “the world’s most powerful start-up incubator”. In other words, the school is thought of as really good at finding the next Mark Zuckerberg.

A currency for paying online workers

Problem: There are online workers, specifically web developers, in Africa that people outside the continent would like to employ but it is difficult or prohibitively expensive to get their wages to them. Some don’t have passports, and so don’t have bank accounts either.

Solution: Bitpesa uses Bitcoin to significantly lower the time and cost of remittances and and business payments to and from sub-Saharan Africa.

How it works: Bitpesa uses the crypto-currency bitcoin as a medium to transfer cash across borders. Bitcoin is a system of digitally created and traded tokens and people keep their tokens in online wallets.It then takes the Bitcoin tokens and exchanges them into money in mobile money wallets – a popular way of paying for things in places like Kenya and Tanzania.BitPesa is already used to pay online workers – a company called Tunga is using it as a way of getting wages from clients abroad to web developers in Uganda.

Who is talking about it: It won an award for the best apps across Africa in November.

Source: BBC