The Africa Express team, led by Claire Guibert and Jeremy Debreu, is travelling across Africa by train to review sustainable energy projects as part of a study tour. GVEP’s Developing Energy Enterprises Project (DEEP) is one of the 19 projects selected by the Support Committee. The pair has reached East Africa where they will spend some time with three entrepreneurs enrolled in DEEP programme.
A year ago Claire Guibert and Jeremy Debreu created a non-profit called Africa Express which aims to promote positive initiatives in the energy sector in Africa. They want to show that effective, replicable, and energy-efficient best practices exist in developing countries.
Therefore they have launched a ten-month study tour to promote about twenty renewable energy projects on the African continent. Électricité de France (EDF), Schneider Electric Foundation and the International Union of Railways (UIC) are sponsoring this project. Last April they embarked on a 20,000km journey (~12,427 miles) to review projects in the fields of energy efficiency, rural electrification, economic development and sustainable development. These projects involve various kinds of technologies such as solar, wind and hydro power or biomass and biofuels. At the end of their journey the team will deliver a video documentary and a whitepaper to share their findings and analysis.
The Africa Express Support Committee selected 19 sustainable energy projects last February; among them is GVEP’s Developing Energy Enterprises Project (DEEP). Launched in 2008 and spanning five years, DEEP is supporting 900 micro, small and medium size enterprises that provide energy products and services to more than 1.8 million people in rural and periurban areas in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The Africa Express team arrived in East Africa in mid-October. They first went to Tanzania and will then go to Kenya and Uganda. Claire and Jeremy asked to meet 3 of the 900 small-scale entrepreneurs enrolled in DEEP programme. They will spend 2 to 3 days with each of the following entrepreneurs: Fausta Ntara (Tanzania), Patrick Mwangi (Kenya) and Margret Kisakye (Uganda). Africa Express will follow the entrepreneurs in their daily activities to learn more about their background, business and products. They will also meet their respective Business Mentors and customers. Afterwards, they will head north to finish their journey in Egypt.
Find out more about the three entrepreneurs selected by Africa Express
Fausta Ntara produces various kinds of improved cookstoves that she sells to households, wholesalers, schools and hospitals. She attended several seminars in Dar es Salaam where she learned about charcoal stoves and acquired the technical knowledge that would provide the foundations for her business. She started her business in 2003. She received further training in management, record-keeping and planning after enrolling in DEEP programme. This has enabled her to improve her customer relations and the quality of her products. As her revenue increased Fausta used the extra savings to send her daughter to school. Her business contributes to the preservation of the environment since her clients use less charcoal and firewood.
Patrick Mwangi is a trained aircraft technician who produces and sells biomass briquettes as well as briquette-producing machines. He started designing his machines seven years ago but he was facing serious technical difficulties. Patrick came across GVEP by chance while making general enquiries about renewable energy and then enrolled in DEEP programme. Thanks to the support of GVEP he benefited from training in record-keeping, marketing and business planning. His business mentor visits him monthly. Patrick’s sales have increased and he is now considering new activities such as recycling. Patrick has reinvested his extra income to buy an office and new equipment. He takes part in training workshops to share his knowledge and know-how on briquettes.
Margret Kisakye, 34, is the founder and manager of Sano Briquette Manufacturers which produces biomass briquettes. She enrolled in DEEP in 2009 and employs two part-time and two permanent employees. She gives out free samples to potential customers and also goes house-to-house to talk about her briquettes. Margret also takes advantage of local gatherings and community meetings to promote her products and business. Thanks to the support of GVEP she improved her record-keeping skills and the quality of her products. Margret has registered her business and opened up a bank account. She uses the profits to invest back into her business: since starting she has put up a store, bought new equipment and received a loan through GVEP’s Loan Guarantee Fund.
Photo of Claire and Jeremy courtesy of Africa Express.