Interview of Yoven Moorooven, CEO of ENGIE Africa
What’s at stake in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of energy?
Africa is growing and many of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region is expected to grow by 3.8 per cent this year1, far-outstripping Europe at 2.3 per cent2.
Growth is, however, placing greater and greater demands on the continent’s patchy energy infrastructure. Demand for energy has always exceeded production, and today more than 600 million people or 60% of the population living in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity in Africa.
Some more key figures which give us an idea of how huge the stakes are on the continent : Africa’s population is projected to double over the next 30 years to over 2 billion and 50% of African will be living in cities by 2030. Africa’s rapid urbanization and its infrastructure is making life in African cities expensive and slows down economic growth. All this will have enormous implications for access to energy, to clean water, increased demand on sanitation and purification, irrigation for agriculture and agro-industry, etc.
If you would have to choose one game-changer that will enable Africa to overcome its energy challenges, what would it be ?
Undoubtedly, digital technologies are becoming increasingly important to the success of Africa’s energy sector, due to the increase in demand for innovation, adaptation to new market technologies and the development of new skills. Overall, innovation in Africa thrives and there are lots of efforts to improve the environment for promising innovators, with tech hubs popping up all over Africa and high-level academic programmes training the next generation.
Just as mobile phones have transformed the continent, Africa is now on the brink of a technological leap in its mode of energy supply. Digitalisation in the energy sector allows utilities to maintain grid stability and reliability, monitor the grid and more effectively identify failures, reducing operations and maintenance costs and extending assets’ lifetime. Decentralised electricity solutions such as Solar Home Systems and minigrids function via mobile payment and other digital applications. That’s why ENGIE believes that, dependent on regional energy demand, universal access to energy is achievable in the foreseeable future through a combination of national grid extensions, mini-grids, and pay-as-you-go solar solutions.
What can ENGIE bring to the African continent ?
ENGIE has had a footprint in Africa for decades, and an already well-established business in parts of the continent. We want to continue co-developing and implementing the most relevant, value-creative and innovative solutions to meet the economic and social needs of African populations. We will continue to develop business models designed to meet these needs – with a focus on the entire value chain. This incorporates centralised and decentralised power production, as well as energy services and decentralised solutions for off-grid customers.
So in the future we will further develop our centralised power solutions, such as the 100 MW Kathu Concentrated Solar Power plant that we will be inaugurating this 4 April. We will capitalise on our strong positions in energy services in Morocco, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and grow in this market. Through our off-grid energy solutions (mini-grids with PowerCorner and SolarHomeSystems with Fenix) we want to promote energy access.
All this has to be intimately co-developed with African stakeholders, authorities and regulators, industrial clients and potential partners; in the end, Africa’s problems will be solved by Africans. At ENGIE we aim to be a long-term collaborator of choice, bringing our technical, legal and financial skills. Local anchorage and the development of a clear partnership-approach with African stakeholders is key. We always want to listen and understand the needs of our clients as the starting point of any strategy.