Standard Chartered backs biomass producer AfriRen
Takoradi Renewable Energy Limited, a subsidiary of biomass producer and trader Africa Renewables Ltd (AfriRen) has secured a credit facility of $5 million from Standard Chartered Bank in Ghana to support its first biomass energy project in Africa.
After deals with GREL and Verdo Energy, the loan finalises AfriRen’s Ghana distribution chain and should see the company double total biomass exports from Africa to Europe by 2016.
Founded in 2010, AfriRen will invest a total of $8m in its biomass extraction chain in Ghana and will seek further funding of up to $30m in order to replicate the project across the West African region, benefiting from the upswing in European demand for biomass.
AfriRen harvests redundant rubber trees that are cut in order to prepare for replanting, and processes them into woodchips, helping displace the burning of coal and assisting Europe meet its renewable energy policy target.
The $5m credit facility is split between two components. Firstly a capital expenditure loan of $3m, which will be spent on a variety of new assets including development of their existing land near the port of Takoradi into a factory workshop and storage space for the woodchips. The second component is a working capital facility of $2m for operational expenses.
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On being awarded the credit facility, Chief Operating Officer at AfriRen, Sonia Medina, said:
“Standard Chartered has the credibility, reach and reputation we want. They are the leading bank in West Africa. Most importantly they have been extremely enthusiastic about our project and future plans from day one. The credit facility gives us firm foundations while allowing us the freedom to expand quickly elsewhere in West Africa.
The socio-economic advantages for both continents are unparalleled with Europe receiving a secure, long-term supply of biomass and Africa developing a sustainable green economy.”
Commenting on the facility, Managing Director, Origination and Client Coverage, Standard Chartered Ghana, Ahmad Pirzada said:
“AfriRen approached us with a robust business plan and an enthusiasm for sustainability and growth. This is a perfect fit with our sustainable finance approach and the opportunities presented by renewable energy. These will certainly enable us to continue to build a sustainable business, simultaneously creating value for our shareholders, supporting our customers and contributing to the communities in which we live and work”.
In October 2011 AfriRen signed an exclusive five year supply agreement with Danish utility company Verdo for the entire woodchip production of their first Africa project. AfriRen estimates the total biomass to be delivered over the contract period will be 750,000 metric tonnes, effectively doubling biomass exports from Africa to Europe. Denmark has a 30% renewable energy target by 2020, compared to 20% for the overall European Union.
The project is facilitated by an eight-year partnership with Ghana Rubber Estates Ltd (GREL), a subsidiary of SIFCA, the no. 1 West African agro-industrial group with a €600 million turnover.
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5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.