Susty Person of The Week – Ifeanyi Orajaka
28-year old Ifeanyi Orajaka is a Social Entrepreneur, Engineer, Green Energy Ambassador, IEEE Smart Village Ambassador, Global Shaper, Mentor and Founder/CEO of GVE Projects Limited Nigeria. While a 2009 undergraduate intern in a leading Oil&Gas multinational operating in Nigeria, he discovered that several rural communities neighboring their facilities were in absolute electricity poverty and this spurred him and his co-founders to innovate a clean-energy solution to lift them out of energy poverty. This subsequently created a new industry (Clean-Energy Access) in Africa, currently valued at US$100Billion and on course to surpass the continent’s Telecom boom. Through their passion and commitment, over 600million Africans with no electricity access now have bright rays of hope. Since inception, GVE has attracted the collaboration of such renowned organizations as; US Power Africa Initiative, IEEE, GIZ, USADF, USAID, General Electric, DFID, Bank of Industry Nigeria, Deloitte etc. With them, they have installed a cumulative capacity of >500kW, generated 1GWhrs of clean, reliable and affordable electricity impacting >30,000 households, created >500 jobs, trained >260 youths, created >N16million in wealth in these communities. Through his visionary leadership, GVE is on course to impacting one million people. Ifeanyi equally mentors young and aspiring African-Entrepreneurs, to ensure they find their footing in the complexly dynamic but exciting African business environment. He currently has 18 Protégées from 6 African countries. He aspires that young Africans will take charge and create a socio-economic revolution transforming the continent from a developing to a developed status. Read his interview with us below:
How did you begin this amazing journey in the Renewable Energy World?
I first dabbled into renewable energy out of curiosity. I read about it in a technology journal and became fascinated by how energy can be generated from nature without any adverse environmental effects. However, my active participation in the sector was solely borne out of emotional encounters while still an undergraduate intern in one of the leading oil and gas multinationals operating in the country. I discovered that communities neighboring to some oil field were in abject energy poverty which left a pitiable mark on my mind. Subsequently, I and my co-founder always thought of how best to proffer a sustainable solution to the energy poverty of these communities. So when we got to know about Renewable Energy (PV Solar precisely), it was our Eureka moment. Along the line, we pioneered PV solar mini-grid technology in West Africa, incorporated GVE executed the first pilot project which is still very operational and the story goes on and on to where we are today.
What would you say has been your biggest tool for success?
This is really a tough one to answer because we haven’t been doing rocket science. Well, I would say it has been the passion, commitment, focus and synergy of the entire GVE team. Our goals are well aligned as a team which makes every other fall in place through the grace of God definitely
Do you see Nigeria shifting to larger Renewable energy projects in the very near future?
Absolutely, we do not have a choice as a country. The recurring energy crises coupled with the recent imbalance in our energy mix caused by disruptions in the Delta region has made large scale RE an unavoidable option. Already Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) were signed by Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) last year with project developers for ten large-scale solar projects. Upon completion, these projects will not only improve energy availability in the country but will also enhance our energy mix while providing better energy security.
To achieve the SDGs, energy creation and supply is central to development in Nigeria, how is your organization helping to achieve this goal and how in terms of data have you been able to impact your community?
I can’t agree any better. Energy is central to any form of sustainable development in this 21st century which is why it is the pivot of the SDGs attracting a lot of multilateral and global attention. In GVE, over the past few years we have been able to set the industry in not only Nigeria but across sub-Saharan Africa right by correcting the earlier negative perception encircling the efficacy of the PV solar technology in the region particularly in Nigeria. The result has been astronomical because now, a greater percentage of the populace now believe that if done rightly, PV solar not only works but is the most viable alternative for reliable and affordable electricity supply. Nonetheless, to us we have only scratched the surface in line with our short to medium term vision of providing reliable and affordable electricity supply to a minimum of 2% of Nigeria’s population.
What kind of projects should we expect in 2017?
From GVE, we will be rolling out energy access projects that will impact over 65,000 rural off-grid dwellers in collaboration with our development partners which includes Bank of Industry Nigeria, Institute of Electrical Electronics Engineers, Nigeria Energy Support Program (a joint effort of the European Union, government of Germany and the Nigerian government), US government Power Africa initiative etc. Furthermore, in strategic collaboration with Bank of Industry Nigeria, we will be contributing significantly to reflating our ailing economy by providing reliable and affordable electricity to Micro Small and Medium scaled Enterprises through a dedicated special very low interest and flexible Solar Fund. This is in response to the cardinal problem facing these businesses. More still, urban households are not left out as they are covered by our urban rooftop initiative. Our ultimate target is to decongest the grid by taking as much of these clients off the grid thereby freeing up more power for large industrial activities.
What are your favourite SDGs and why?
Actually all the SDGs I would say because at of them are critical and very much interconnected. Nonetheless, I have a special attachment to goal 7 which is what I am directly involved with and with is central to achieving all the other goals.
It is no brainer that collaboration from government, CSOs and private organizations are required to achieve the SDGs- what kind of partnerships are your organization looking to build with other private organizations?
We recently synergised with other key industry players to launch and all-encompassing industry association REAN which will be the driving force and rallying point for the energy industry in Nigeria. Equally, we are working on strengthening collaboration with other sectors such as the Manufacturers association of Nigeria, Estate developers, trade unions, financial institutions and relevant government agencies. Our aspirations are that these partnerships will lead to enhanced energy access for Nigerians at the most affordable and flexible rates.
If you were the minister of power for just one month – what would you do?
The first thing I will do is to create a transparent collaborative platform that enables all stakeholders in the electricity value chain to interact more in lieu of gaining deeper insight on the actual state of the sector, the challenges, prospects and ongoing activities. If effectively implemented, client expectations will be greatly shaped in line with the realities of the sector and I believe it will create an environment where consumers will be a lot more supportive. Subsequently, I will initiate and support policies that will enhance more private sector participation especially regarding distributed solutions for homes, rural communities, and SMEs which will ease the pressure on the grid system while ensuring increased energy access.
A lot of young people complain about funding opportunities for their start-up, an issue you have clearly found solutions for, how would you advise them?
While in school and during several business training sessions, I always heard that ideas are the real capital and not money. I personally did not understand the logic behind this until we started our entrepreneurship journey with GVE. So my advice to budding entrepreneurs is: always think of building an enterprise that profer long term solutions. If you succeed in getting a logically articulated solution/idea marched with passion, commitment and God, every other thing will align.
How can more people reach you to learn more about your work?
We are very customer and social media friendly through the following channels:
Facebook/ Instagram/ LinkedIn: GVE Projects Ltd
Website is www.gve-group.com