Zimbabwe feels the heat
SegenSolar PTY discusses the pressure of no long receiving electricity from South Africa and how solar power could be the answer.
With Zimbabwe no longer receiving electricity from South Africa due to its inability to meet funding requirements, the country is in darkness during the peak hours of 5 am to 10 am and 5 pm to 10 pm. These scheduled blackouts are known as periods of “load shedding”.
The lack of power comes at a difficult time as the Kariba Dam is suffering from rainfall shortages. Levels of power generation from the hydro-plant have plummeted from 1,050 MW to 277 MW due to the shallow water levels. The Zimbabwean government is attempting to manage the total gap of 400 MW with load shedding. However, with such little rain, the Kariba Dam is at risk of being shut down permanently.
The country’s catastrophic energy shortages at peak times of the day mean many families are unable to keep food cool without working refrigerators, and small companies are in the dark during their busiest business hours. Energy prices are also continuing to soar as the demand for the limited supply of power is at an all-time high.
A powerless economy?
It is estimated that Zimbabwe’s local economy has lost more than US$1.5 billion since the beginning of May 2019 due to these extended power cuts.
As it stands, the daily “peak power demand” in Zimbabwe is 1,800 MW, yet less than 1,000 MW is generated from local power sources. The government has set a target to get at least 1,575 MW of power from solar by 2030, yet this does not appear to be viable.
Eskom, South Africa’s power supplier, provided some relief in the middle of August, yet this was conditional. Eskom had said it would only assist Zimbabwe if South Africa itself were not experiencing any load shedding. As South Africa is facing power supply issues too, the only periods when surplus power is available are during off-peak hours.
Is solar the solution to load shedding?
Both Zimbabwe and South Africa urgently need to turn to alternative sources of renewable energy before it is too late, and SegenSolar believes solar power is undoubtedly the answer.
With more than 3,000 hours of sunlight each year in Zimbabwe, the country has the potential to produce 10,000 GWh of electricity through solar power. Unfortunately, Zimbabweans are reluctant to make this switch due to high levels of poverty, lack of public awareness and general lack of financial or technical support from the government.
Additionally, the renewable energy industry does not have a good reputation in the country. People who choose to invest in products are often met with fake equipment as product quality is largely unmonitored. The population is encountering products with no warranty and equipment that is not durable or user-friendly.
The lack of accredited technicians may also be holding back solar adoption, as inadequate training has resulted in the installation of temporary and potentially dangerous PV systems nationwide. Therefore, getting Zimbabweans to trust the solar industry remains a challenge.
SegenSolar offers certified, reliable and high-quality products from a broad range of reputable manufacturers and wishes to change the population’s perception of the solar industry. Solar has the potential to alter energy consumption in Zimbabwe and take households and small businesses off the grid — allowing for much-needed energy independence.
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.