Yesterday I was lucky to take part in the seminar “Business development for renewable enterprises in Africa” at Gründernes hus in Oslo. The Seminar was organized by Norges Vel and the Swedish-Norwegian project. The project is funded by Tillväxtverket, Innovation Norway, VINNOVA and the EU.
The norwegian businesses discussed common challenges and opportunities for creating businesses to increase access to greener energy technologies in African context.
Many of the businesses expressed the difficulties of trying to create change, impact and success on the African continent as small enterprises, while larger enterprises receive support from Nordic donors for start up investments.
The enterprises that presented success stories, particularly from Uganda and Kenya, had three key factors that could be extracted:
a) the value of having a money back-up for the start investment when operating in emerging markets, that allow for testing, understanding the market, and to survive failures/learning processes to take place.
b) the imperative of local presence and/or local partners
c) the value of local capacity building as a part of the solution
Since it is often the smaller companies that aim at rural electrification, while larger state-funded companies work with national partners to achieve larger scale impact that often benefit urban industries and/or urban citizens, it will be interesting to see how the smaller enterprises will make way in the direct market. It seems, however, that small scale energy companies need to team up with larger scale investors in order to scale solutions and impact.