Having worked in Mozambique’s renewable energy sector for more than a decade prior to joining the AECF, I always thought there was nothing left for me to learn! It was only after I immersed myself in the Renewable Energy and Climate Technologies in sub-Saharan Africa (REACT SSA) programme, that I finally understood what we do and how we do it.
Funded by the Swedish International Development Authority (Sida), REACT SSA covers eight countries in the SSA region. My job as the Relationship Manager entails supporting the companies AECF has invested in to create a trustworthy and collaborative relationship with each entity or investee to create solutions for every challenge that arises.
As one of eight Relationship Managers supporting the AECF’s regions, I am a team player who is focused on delivering on the ambitious goal of providing access to low cost, clean energy products and services for over 600,000 rural and peri-urban households living in SSA. Did I hear someone say this is a tall order? Well, that is the essence of our work at the AECF.
The five selected companies I interact with receive close operational support as well as investment funds. The struggles are inevitable – whether with marketing, or post sales services, or even financial management – but the REACT SSA team is always ready to step in to back-stop our investees with technical assistance that promotes the sustainability of the business. Even more importantly, these interventions ensure that the business reaches the agreed milestones and draw-down on the investment funds.
Three companies in the Mozambique portfolio deliver solar home systems on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model, while two others provide improved cooking solutions. Together, these companies have forever changed the lives of 83,360 Mozambicans by providing them with practical alternatives that provide lights in their homes, enable them to charge up their mobile devices, irrigate their crops, all the while avoiding inhaling health damaging gases whilst cooking. Of the numerous and varied stories that the AECF collects about the customers, the most memorable ones have been about small and medium enterprises that have managed to extend their operating hours by installing some of these systems thus increasing their revenues by between 35% to 45%.
From 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic added a new dimension to doing business – not just in Africa, but across the entire globe. This reality meant that the REACT SSA programme has had to reconfigure itself to deal with the emerging issues from companies that were structured in the pre-Covid market and are yet to acclimatize to the new realities of the Covid and post-Covid eras. These issues are felt not only at the local level, where companies were unable to conduct business due to the stringent restrictions on travel, gatherings and logistics to mention a few, but have also suffered the consequences of the supply chain disruptions on a global scale.
The challenges brought on by the pandemic and experienced by the REACT SSA programme in Mozambique boil down to major delays experienced with procurements from either China or South Africa that affected most business supply chains. For the sales agents of the companies promoting solar household systems (SHS), the impact was felt acutely with the downturn in their product sales due to the limitation of movement imposed on them, which consequently affected their companies’ bottom lines. The restrictions on social gathering and rallies, greatly impacted the SHS companies, hitting them squarely between the eyes as this is the strategy many of the employ to sell their products.
However, despite all these adversities, the Mozambique portfolio demonstrated significant resilience by being able to deliver impressive targets in the last two years covering the period 2020- 2021, including:
- Reaching 16,672 households with low cost, clean energy products and services
- The creation of 168 full time jobs
- Over US$3 million in grants disbursed in that period
The lessons from these experiences are invaluable. The current Covid-19 mitigation measures are part and parcel of our daily lives and business. People and companies alike, must adapt and integrate these costs and challenges into their business models and the AECF-supported companies are re-imagining themselves, identifying the impacts to their businesses and staff and reviewing how best to utilise the AECF’s technical support to overcome these challenges.
In the meantime, the AECF has ensured that collaboration and information sharing among the investees is a continuous process as they re-emerge, having identified practical solutions to the emerging challenges. The AECF has also begun to play an increasing role in the coordination of and engagement with civil society by supporting the local renewable energy association, promoting webinars with government and integrating into the energy sector working groups with other development partners. All these efforts support investees to achieve their own targets as well as Mozambique’s targets for universal electricity access by 2030.
*Ricardo Pereira is the AECF’s Relationship Manager, REACT SSA Programme in Mozambique