“To be passionate about Africa is to believe in Africa, understand Africa.” These words from Jean Claude Bastos De Morais, the Founding Board member of African Innovation Foundation (AIF) were enough motivation for the Chief Technologist in the Department of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry University of Nigeria Nsukka, Justus Nwaoga, to begin the journey of changing Nigeria’s electricity supply via renewable energy.
Justus Nwaoga, a pharmacist, set out a project solely focused on Africa’s solar energy market, believing that it is possible to have clean, renewable solar energy powered by African solar panels. He arrived at an understanding that Mimosa can utilize solar power system, so he converted Mimosa’s sensitivity to sunlight into what is now called the Mimosa solar panels.
In an age where there are complaints about power outage, recession and lack of opportunities, Justus is seeing the need to provide that which is lacking: he is solving the power challenge using his own invention because he understands how dependency on energy is the key to unlocking potentials and market values. Think about it, his invention is 100% novel and the power is energy saving, solar, clean and renewable, sustainable energy using the organic medicinal African weed, Mimosa pudica which is commonly known as ‘touch and die.’
“This plant is a common weed around us that children sometimes play with; when someone touches it, it closes itself and after sometime it will reopen. So as a pharmacist I wasn’t really looking at the weed, I was fascinated at its reaction to sunlight and got more interested in what’s making it react to radiation. I was certain this would be a huge business opportunity that will not only change the solar power market but also provide jobs for our labour market.”
It is a fact that one in five people still lacks access to modern electricity as 3 billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. More so, research has also shown that energy is the dominant contributor to climate change because it is accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, reducing the carbon intensity of energy is a key objective in long-term climate goals now.
Green finance is one business opportunity people can tap into because it is an opening that centres on supporting local, community-level projects with an emphasis on sustainable, ecologically friendly agriculture. Green finance is usually concerned with providing educational opportunities, funding for artistic endeavours and projects that support local ecology. A typical example is The Bank of Industry (BOI) recent upward review of its Solar Energy Fund (SEF) to N6 billion. This SEF is to enable various categories of end users (commercial and residential) acquire reliable solar solutions. As opposed to more conventional companies in the world of finance, green finance is preoccupied with social profitability. While monetary profit remains important, the goal of green finance is to support beneficial projects that provide value to the local community and ecology. In fact, green financial institutions can fill a void to realize a positive project that otherwise would not exist that truly benefits the community.
Today, four-fifths of all electricity in southern and eastern Africa is generated from fossil fuels which process involves burning these fuels to produce carbon dioxide emissions that trap the sun’s energy, thereby making our earth too warm and contributing to extreme weather events. But this is also where a cleaner energy alternative, known as renewable energy, offers tremendous potential. With the right infrastructure, half of all electricity in southern and eastern Africa could come from clean, cost-effective renewable by 2030. We would then see a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Today, consumers are just as interested in corporate social responsibility (CSR) as they are in a company’s products and services. This is especially good news for eco-minded entrepreneurs. Uzochukwu Mbamalu, a 2014 graduate of Electronic Engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) is solving energy needs through solar technology and distributed generation. He has eight full time staff and 20 contract staff depending on the project and the demand. “I also collaborate with people in the industry because I believe that it helps to give competitive advantage,” he said. His final project in the university was a solar tracking system to conserve energy.
Nigeria is blessed with abundant renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, geothermal, ocean waves and tides. Despite this, the nation continues to grapple with substantial electricity deficit. Nowadays, the demand for solar arrangement as an alternate source of energy is growing very fast. This, alone, provides a vista of opportunities to entrepreneurial minds. Think Eco-consulting, for instance. As an expert on green living, one could easily start an eco-consulting service, relying on friends and colleagues to spread the news and additionally employ social media tools to strategize the business. Consultants evaluate homes and offices, and offer solutions to make them more environmentally friendly. One could advise clients on switching their home appliances to more energy efficient machines or implement a recycling programme. To further boost their credibility, they need to become certified eco-consultants.
• Ekene Odigwe, an OAP at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, wrote from Enugu