Why did you set up your company?
It was a combination of wanting to be my own boss, having an idea about how to supply sustainable electricity to rural communities, and a shared love (with my 2 co-founders) of Africa.
Did you have a ‘lightbulb moment’ (i.e. something which led to you starting your business, or which triggered a change in the way you did things)?
Not really. It was a continuous process of refining our model and of dogged persistence. Our first approach was to re-use second hand large wind turbines in developing countries, which did not have anything to do with mini-grids and did not work. After that we developed the Micro Power Economy Approach to foster mini-grid deployment, which we presented at various conferences starting 2005. It was not well received back then, but is now widely used in most business models for mini grids in Africa and Asia.
Were there any EU, national, regional or local business support services, programmes or funding initiatives that helped you set up or grow?
Yes we have had considerable support from the German and Dutch governments (through the ZIM and RVO’s Daey Ouwens Fund respectively) and from the European Commission’s ACP programme.
How would you describe your progress so far? Are there any significant challenges you have had to overcome?
We have been refining our business model and gaining market share steadily, not to mention winning awards too (winner of a 2012 European Business Award for the Environment for International Business Cooperation). In the last two years though we have found the last piece of the puzzle.
We have developed a concept of setting up policy frameworks around the mini grids to attract private and debt finance capital. Ultimately we need investors around the globe to choose mini grids over other investments
Our latest project– Jumeme – uses the power of the sun to supply electricity to ten remote islands on Lake Victoria in Tanzania; but it also seeks to provide management competence as well as boost the local value chains by creating a frozen fish market for the locals.
We would like to explore many more value chains and work with many more communities but we need sector back-up and policy drivers to roll it out on a global scale. Imagine the potential for stemming the refugee crisis by improving conditions in the rural communities that most economic refugees are currently fleeing.
I believe we have about three years to convince investors and governments of the long term viability of mini grids. We will make them work.
Rapid fire round
Which is better: partners or go it alone?
MBA or start work?
Which is a better motive: making money or doing good?
Making money (in order to do good)
Tempura or sauerkraut?
Which one do you say more: yes or no?
I hope I say yes more
“A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing". Which would you prefer to be, a fox or a hedgehog?