This year’s biennial eight-day Sasol Solar Challenge will take place from September 24 to October 1. The event will start in Pretoria, move down to Port Elizabeth and wrap up in Cape Town, similar to the 2014 solar challenge. The 2016 event again revolves around maxi-mising and managing the energy created by the solar vehicles. Each of the eight stages is around 260 km long, with the challenge being 2 000 km in total. However, each day, teams must decide how many loops their vehicle can complete in addition to the daily stage, with loops varying in length from 23 km to 74 km. Vehicles may only be charged by the sun during the eight-day event.
The winner is the team which can complete the most kilometres. The winner of the previous Sasol Solar Challenge, the world champion Nuon Solar Team, from the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, won the 2014 event by travelling more than 4 000 km, says Sasol Solar Challenge manager Annalie van Vuuren. She says 29 international teams have shown interest in competing in the South African event. The 2014 challenge had six international participants. “The international teams appreciate the route’s dynamic change in landscape, which requires strategic thinking and planning.
The routes in other challenges are often straight and through the desert. “We hope to secure the top five in the world’s top ten teams for this year’s event.” Van Vuuren says this year’s line-up will most likely include Nuon; previous Sasol Solar Challenge winner – absent from the 2014 event – Tokai University, from Japan; Near East University, from Cyprus; Anadolu, from Turkey; and Punch Powertrain, from Belgium. Local competitors, which every year up their game, should include the North-West University, Tshwane University of Technology and the University of the Witwatersrand. Entries for the solar challenge close on May 1. Van Vuuren is currently hard at work to secure a shipping sponsor for the event, as this will enable many of the interested international teams to participate in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge.
“We have had interest from teams in Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Colombia, Australia, Canada and Chile, to name but a few, but it is expensive for these mostly university teams to ship their vehicles to South Africa.” She adds that the South African challenge has ascended to now rank as one of the top six solar events in the world.
As many African countries grapple with economic uncertainties, resulting in increasing rate of unemployment, business leaders believe that the sure way to reverse the ugly trend is to train future entrepreneurs that will help leapfrog the continent through enterprise and innovation. David Audu reports on Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, concept as one of the components of such social enterprise initiatives.
As global unemployment rate soars, with the International Labour Organisation, ILO, projecting that an estimated 212 million people may be jobless by 2019, most countries are adopting remedial policy measures to avert the looming crisis and by so doing, mitigating the socio-economic damages to their economies.
Conscious of the negative effects of burgeoning unemployment in their domains, political leaders, businessmen and other development experts are consensual in their views that entrepreneurship, particularly among the youth population, remain the key to guaranteeing the future of the countries and people and laying enduring foundation for their real social, economic and political transformation. They agreed that the only way to achieve this lofty dream is to increase the number of entrepreneurs so as to minimise the increasing rush for formal, white collar jobs by young school leavers and giving them the right orientation about entrepreneurship and its potential for their self fulfilment. Besides, the new emphasis on entrepreneurship development assumes that entrepreneurs will in turn provide employment for others along the value chain. It has also become a known fact that small and medium enterprises are globally regarded as the backbone of any economy. According to experts, when given adequate support, SMEs can spur significant economic growth.
According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO, SMEs have a significant role to play in economic development. According to UNIDO, SMEs form the backbone of the private sector; make up over 90 per cent of enterprises in the world and account for 50 to 60 per cent of employment. “They also play an important role in generating employment and poverty alleviation”, It said. The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, put the total number of SMEs in Nigeria at over 17 million. However, because of some challenges in the economy, a lot of SME operators in the country fi nd it very difficult to effectively play their role. Some of these constraints include competition, infrastructure, taxes, accounting, management, marketing, economic, planning and finance. Also, poor economic conditions, which also imply poor finance and inadequate infrastructure, have been identified as the most crucial limiting factors. Again, poor access to finance at relatively cheap cost is also one of the most crucial problems hindering SMEs to have significant contribution to national output in Nigeria.
There is no doubt that Nigeria as a nation, since attaining independence in 1960 has tried out various economic policies in a bid to achieve meaningful economic development. Most of these policies, some analysts say, are centrally planned and government dominated. The resultant impact of this excessive government domination of the economy left much to be desired leading to massive divestment in the 1990’s by the government. This was done under the economic policy of “privatisation and commercialisation”. The shift of emphasis thus created a challenge of building capable, dynamic and resourceful entrepreneurs to take the baton of economic revitalisation from government. These entrepreneurs incidentally have to fulfi l this onerous task through the establishment of business that could mainly be classified as small and medium scale in nature. However, over the years the task of creating a sustainable environment for SMEs to thrive was a difficult one, and for obvious reasons. One, the dwindling state of the economy has made it difficult for people to save and thereby little capital accumulation for investment. Further, the private sector was long undeveloped making experienced entrepreneur and small business managers scarce. Today, there is a growing consensus among policy makers, academia, industrialists and economic planners, that the development of local entrepreneur and encouragement of the establishment of small and medium scale business is the only penance to our economic growth. With this reality in view, a number of private organisations and individuals have taken it upon themselves to provide the necessary impetus to encourage young people to embrace entrepreneurship.
One current example among others is the chairman of Heirs Holding Mr. Tony Elumelu whose foundation, Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, TEEP, which in its current drive towards this end has earmarked about $100m as grants to about 1000 young people from Nigeria and other African countries to train and mentor in various entrepreneurship projects. According to Elumelu, “African destiny lies with us African to realise”. The project, though with an African wide focus, has about 50 per cent participants coming from Nigeria. Launched in December 2014, the TEEP project is a $100m initiative to discover and support 10,000 African entrepreneurs over the next decade, with a target of creating one million new jobs and $10bn in additional gross domestic product contribution to African economy by the end of the programme. Economic analysts have described the programme as the first of such initiative to be launched by an African philanthropic organisation targeting the entrepreneurial space designed to empower the next generation of Africans entrepreneurs. Areas of focus by the programme include agriculture with 30 per cent participants; commerce and retail have nine per cent, while education and training have equally nine per cent each respectively.
Other areas include ICT, eight per cent, manufacturing, eight per cent, while healthcare and fashion have five and four per cent each. Energy, power and construction have three per cent; waste management, transportation, financial services, tourism and hospitality have two per cent each. While the programme covered 51 African countries, 49 per cent are from Nigeria followed by Kenya with 16 per cent; Uganda, four per cent; Ghana 3.6 per cent and South Africa with 3.2 per cent. At the TEEP boot camp in Otta, Ogun State last year attended by dignitaries and government officials, the need to harness Africa potentials through creating conducive environment and empowerment for Africa entrepreneurs to thrive was highlighted. Vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, underlined the need for African leaders to pay attention to developing entrepreneurs to move the continent forward. Restating the plight of Africa as a continent, which he stand in the throes of poverty and disease, and having the highest ratio of unemployment, and therefore the need for concerted efforts to pull it out, adding that entrepreneurship and handwork are the instrument of growth and development. He enjoined all to embrace integrity, rule of law, transparency and self discipline to entrench enduring business ethics in Nigeria and on the continent in generals. He charged the aspiring entrepreneurs to embrace the spirit of trust, integrity, and consistency, reminding that enduring success comes from respect for the rule of law and commitment to set objectives He commended the Heirs Holdings for initiating the programme, noting that “economies cannot be developed without social entrepreneurs like Tony Elumelu”.
He said Elumelu invoked the daring spirit successful enterprise by investing substantially in the ideas of entrepreneurship of the young Africans. By doing this he is shaping the future of the continent as he empower them to embrace entrepreneur to enable them direct the economic affairs of the continent in the coming years. He said government on its part will continue to provide enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive Acting United States Consul General, DI Gilbert likened the gathering to African Union meeting in Nigeria and described it as the ‘future Africa’. She said it is education that gives people the working tool that will make them productive. Asking how we can do things differently? She charged the beneficiaries to look for a creative new way of doing things to add value to society.
To African leaders and business men, she reminded them of the potentials that lie in Africa. “With 30 per cent of your population under 30, the energy is there and therefore the need for you to get going through right economic initiatives such what the Elumelu foundation has done”. Guest of the occasion, Prime Minister of the Republic of Benin, Lionel Zinzou, lauded the initiative while describing every effort to boost entrepreneur in Africa as the urgent thing the continent requires for growth and development. He said every country in Africa and indeed Africa as a whole need innovative idea which young talents who are beneficiaries of the TEEP project will bring Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who was at the event urged the beneficiaries of the programme to convert their ideas into work that will make Africa proud. Speaking on what government can do to encourage entrepreneurs, he said only government through workable policies and good legislation can provide the level of trust that is required for successful entrepreneurship.
“Nothing is possible without a functional government. No matter how rich you are, without a minimal functional government to provide the basics such as road, power and other infrastructure you are lost.” He therefore urged the federal government on the need “to take a pragmatic approach to policy redemption and investment in Africa”. He noted that Africa with it large population stands at a great advantage if it leverage on the huge demographic dividend but will be a disaster if it fail to do so, while urging African political leaders to boost their economies through appropriate policies and legislation that will encourage entrepreneurship. Managing director Bank of Industries, BOI, Mr. Rasheed Olaoluwa, noted the impact the programme will have on the continent and Nigeria in particular. He said the bank will work with the candidate to help them evolve successful business that will enable them be employers of labour in the future. Explaining further his vision for Africa’s entrepreneurship project, Elumelu noted that only the present Africans can develop the continent for the future, stressing that “Africa needs multiple successful private sector business to make its mark on the world stage”. Advising the young entrepreneurs, Elumelu urged them to imbibe the spirit of hard work, discipline and the need to think long term in their vision. The entrepreneurs would receive $5000 seed capital each to enable them start their dream projects.
Africa needs a new deal on energy, and now it has one. US President Roosevelt’s post-Depression New Deal of the 1930s focused on ‘Relief, Recovery and Reform’. For Africa’s New Deal on Energy, in the spotlight at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, the focus is on Power, Potential and Partnership.
‘Power’ – because the New Deal aims to light up and power Africa by 2025. Energy is the lifeblood of any society. It is the passport to economic transformation, and it is one of the foundations for any society in the provision of education and health. And yet as we begin 2016 over 645 million Africans – some two-thirds of the people on the continent – have no access to energy.
Africans are tired of being in the dark: children suffer, because 90% of the continent’s primary schools have no electricity. Women suffer: 600,000 people, largely women, die each year from cooking with unclean energy like wood or baked earth. Hospitals and their patients suffer when equipment simply doesn’t work. Small and even large businesses suffer – Africa loses an estimated 4% of its annual GDP for the lack of energy. The unavailability of energy in Africa is unacceptable, and so is its cost. A woman living in a village in northern Nigeria spends around 60 to 80 times per unit more for her energy than a resident of New York City or London.
‘Potential’ – because Africa is aching to release its full economic potential, and to turn strong but uneven economic growth into deep-rooted and universally shared economic transformation. Energy is the secret to that. With a strong and secure energy supply we can unleash the skills of a young and dynamic population. We can continue the process of turning agriculture into agro-industry, and partial diversification into full-scale industrialisation. The raw materials that will provide our energy await us – unused or as yet untapped. As well as 300 gigawatts of coal potential and 400 gigawatts of gas, the continent is waiting to get its hands on 10 terawatts of solar energy potential, 350 gigawatts of hydroelectric, 110 gigawatts of wind, and a further 15 gigawatts of geothermal.
‘Partnership’ – because no country, no organization, no initiative can do it alone. The Africa Progress Panel has already done the research to show that Africa can power itself – if it and others work together. There are already key players in the field, like the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative supported by the G7, the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, and the US Power Africa Program. The private sector is a source of leadership as well as funding, for instance through the Africa Energy Leaders Group. The task is to point them all in the same direction. So the New Deal is an African-led initiative to mobilize political will and financial support to solve Africa’s energy challenges.
What will it do?
It has four – huge – targets. To increase on-grid generation by adding 160 GW of new capacity by 2025, nearly doubling what we have today. To increase on-grid transmission and grid connections that will create 130 million new connections by 2025, 160 per cent more than today. To increase off-grid generation to add 75 million connections by 2025, nearly 20 times what we have today. To increase access to clean cooking energy for around 130 million households.
First and foremost, it will raise money, from Africa and beyond, and from the public and the private sectors. We need a total of $60-90 billion a year, compared with the $22 billion invested in the sector in 2014. This money will come from a variety of sources. First, we will work with other multi-lateral and bilateral financial institutions to see if we can get investment into the power sector to triple on an annual basis. Second, governments themselves need to play a role. If Africa were to increase its annual spending on energy from 0.4% of GDP to 3.4%, this would solve the problem completely. This could also be done by putting an end to subsidies for products such as kerosene and diesel. Finally, the private sector is very willing to play a significant role. This will require changes in regulation to make the sector more attractive for private capital, but we have seen many examples of significant capital flow where regulations are appropriately structured.
The New Deal is also practical: it will set up the right energy policy environment: laws, regulation, governance; it will build the capacity of national energy utility companies; it will dramatically increase the number of bankable energy projects and the funding pool to deliver them; it will roll out waves of country-wide energy ‘turnarounds’. It will be energy resource neutral, using renewables and non-renewables alike, and technology neutral.
The African Development Bank will manage the New Deal, as well as investing US $12 billion in energy funding over the next five years, attracting up to four times as much from other financiers in the process.
‘I pledge you, I pledge myself to a New Deal for the American people’, said FDR in July 1932. The pledges – financial and political – are being made again on a different continent, over 80 years later. Meeting Africa’s energy challenge is both a moral and an economic imperative. ‘A flick of a switch’ can’t be delivered in an instant, but a flick of a switch is what it will take.