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SADC entrepreneurs turn to innovative renewable
energy approaches to address energy gaps

WINDHOEK, (Xinhua) -- Entrepreneurs in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region are betting on innovative renewable energy approaches to address energy gaps the region faces and to boost business proceeds.

More than 50 percent of the population in the SADC region remain without access to electricity and efficient energy sources.

Paulus Mulunga from Namibia left his regular job at a local university and used his savings to start Solar Lights Systems venture some years back. Tapping on the hot Namibian sun and modern technology solutions, the entrepreneur provides solar power to rural and urban areas off-grid the national electricity system.

Off-grid areas, mainly rural in SADC, are the least developed with electricity access, recorded at as low as 7 percent in some countries, said Kuda Ndhlukula, executive director of the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) launched in Namibia’s capital Windhoek this week.

Mulunga’s venture researches renewable innovation approaches and subsequently puts up systems suitable for dwellers, adapted to the needs and what people can afford as the installation of power off-grid can be costly.

“It is however efficient and sustainable. Thus dwellers are guaranteed light and power,” he said.

“We believe that the provision of modernized renewable energy solutions to the left out citizens will catapult the region into sustainable development, hence our commitment,” said Mulunga, who also showcased his work at an event organized along the launch of SACREEE.

Bandile Dlabantu from South Africa runs Khepri Innovations, an initiative that focuses on innovative renewable energy and sustainable food systems.

For Dlabantu, providing energy solutions is driven by the zeal to promote sustainable livelihoods and environmental protection as well as employment creation.

“We create technology that enables change, and is clean,” he said.

Fusing innovation into renewable energy sustainability has also enabled the enterprise to reduce the cost of feed to clients by 40 percent.

It is this business model that has enabled the trade to expand business and run testing sites for renewable energy innovation in Mozambique and South Africa.

“People look at the ground systems and assigns us to do production at farm level on solar power. As such, we do it sustainably because we run on renewable energy and innovatively,” he added.

The contribution of entrepreneurs is crucial for the region, according to John Titus, a director in Namibia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, adding that renewable energy has massive opportunities and gaps to fill.

“Innovators in the energy sector are a great resource to addressing gaps within the region, and with support, could prosper to address other economic challenges African youth faces,” he said.

Despite business prospects and passion, challenges, however, persist for the traders. “One of the challenges hindering growth is getting the right skilled personnel to execute at the competitive market level, and offer competitive salaries. We had to poach personnel, which comes as a high cost,” said Mulunga.

For Dlabantu, “the entrepreneurial journey can be difficult. One needs to do market research. One needs to keep innovating and re-strategising continually.  Hence, the need for extensive support for entrepreneurs,” he said.

The creation of new technology markets can only, however, be successful if are integrative, create domestic value, bobs and leave nobody behind, according to Philippe Scholtes, managing director of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) .

“Support for renewable energy entrepreneurs is thus high on the global and regional agenda(s), hence the call for robust investment for emerging and established enterprises within the sector,” said the UN official.

Meanwhile, according to Scholtes, UNIDO, which is a key stakeholder in SACREEE, runs various programs to promote innovation in renewable energy and has thus rewarded 865 start-ups under its green technology initiative, of which Mulunga and Dlabantu are beneficiaries.

Flora Ismail Tibazarwa, program director of the Southern Africa Innovation Support in Botswana, said that while traders look to innovation to revolutionize renewable energy and power supply in SADC, mechanisms are in place to facilitate collaboration amongst renewable energy enterprise to accelerate efforts to achieve regional goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Established by SADC member states in 2015, the launch of SACREEE in Windhoek is envisaged to drive initiatives and efforts towards sustainable energy for all citizens.


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