Raising next generation of power sector experts

One of the leading energy firms in Nigeria has been embarking on several society centric initiatives to enhance socio-economic development, write Ugo Aliogo, Eberechi Imo and Chinenye Nduka

Gibson Emmanuel is an engineering student from Kaduna State Polytechnic. He is a prodigy with innate abilities in the areas of electrics and renewable energy solutions. While growing up, he had showed signs of a great inventor if given the right platforms and opportunities.
As an engineering student, he was worried that most small businesses and health facilities did not have access to renewable energy solutions, which could serve as a viable option to electric power supply.

Like a divine call, he felt the desire to play a pivotal part in addressing these challenges. Emmanuel and a group of friends partnered to build Renewable Energy Advancement Project (R.E.A.P). The project was submitted alongside 28 projects from other schools at the second edition of the Sahara Light Up Nigeria Challenge in Lagos.

The initiative was aimed at providing alternative and renewable energy sources with the potential to enhance eco-friendly and sustainable electricity supply in Nigeria. The competition is an annual event organised by Sahara Group in partnership with Enactus Nigeria. It is an initiative which seeks to inspire students of tertiary institutions across the country to explore opportunities towards achieving sustainable power supply within their environment. It also serves as the Group’s contribution to the growth and development of the power sector which it has affiliates in the generation and distribution sectors through the Sahara Power Group.

The 2015 challenge involved the development of simple Power Models that can reduce production cost and encourage the broad utilisation of different energy sources to power communities and schools. At the end of the competition, the polytechnic’s Renewable Energy Advancement Project emerged as the winning entry in the competition amidst other entries.

The Polytechnic team created a self-running hydro-power system that runs solely on the kinetic energy of water. The energy produced is stored in a 75-litre enclosed water tank that houses a pump and other materials required to drive generation of electricity. The technology is made from locally modified and recycled parts to ensure that it is environment friendly. The development of this project has brought about an alternative to electricity generation for small businesses, a healthcare centre and a school within the impact area of the project.

In expressing his appreciation on behalf of the Group, Emmanuel said: “We are excited about our performance and want to thank the Sahara Group for giving us a platform to express our abilities. With more support, we believe we can contribute immensely to efforts aimed at improving power supply in Nigeria.” The Polytechnic also represented the country at the Enactus World Cup competition 2015 at Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa from October 14-16, 2015.
The Sahara Foundation’s Manager, Babatomiwa Adesida, said the company has always been delighted to provide platforms that inspire and empower youths to transform opportunities in their environment into solutions that enhance socio-economic development.

“We believe the Sahara Light Up Challenge has started a movement that will ultimately redefine the way we produce, store and consume power in Nigeria, whilst ensuring environmental protection. We are confident that the competition will ultimately light up Nigeria,” he stated.
Michael Ajayi, Country Director Enactus Nigeria, said the competition showed that the nation’s youths only need the right platforms to express their huge potential.

“The Sahara Light Up Nigeria Challenge provides the opportunity for young minds to broaden their creativity as they seek to find solutions to the challenges in the country’s power sector. Over the years, we have seen teams present incredible inventions that make us look forward to the future with great expectations,” he said.

Coming in second position was the Babcock University’s which produced the H-Power project. The project involved the use of water to power an H-Power generator. Using Ijesha Ijebu as their pilot community, the H-Power generator was used to provide electricity to give the community access to water and electricity.

Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, was placed third with the Project DTMS. The project focuses on generating electricity from bio-degradable waste materials in the pilot community. The students created a bio-digester that imitates the human digestive system. It collects waste materials from the environment and processes it into fuel used to generate electricity.
In Africa, Nigeria is seen as a one of the most viable entrepreneurship destinations. With a population of over 170 million, the country is home to millions of entrepreneurs who are captured mainly in the informal sector. There is strong emphasis on income generation, without a corresponding attention to wealth preservation and creation. Recently, Sahara Foundation adopted the extrapreneurship strategy to drive integrated economic empowerment programmes through strategic partnerships and support for innovative as well as scalable business ventures.

Over the next four years, the foundation plans to impact 12,000,000 beneficiaries directly and also create value through the identification, development and maintenance of relevant stakeholders through which beneficiaries can grow and sustain businesses. This will be achieved through skills acquisition training, mentoring and access to a network of committed stakeholders.

The Executive Director and Co-Founder, Sahara Group, Mr. Tonye Cole, explained that the core of the extrapreneurship framework is “to produce a platform that finds, creates and connects young people with business interests in emerging markets,’’ adding that this would be achieved by leveraging on the company’s key strength of bringing together various committed stakeholders and promoting cross-sectoral collaboration.

Cole said the shift in the group’s focus is modelled after its strategy, adding that Sahara has evolved from a fledgling entrepreneurial business which began 20 years ago, into a world class conglomerate with operations across the energy value chain including upstream, midstream, downstream operations. “We have leveraged our network of committed stakeholders to expand the business, embrace opportunities and grow the franchise sustainably over the past two decades,” he added.

The Group aims to drive the extrapreneurship programme through the establishment of community/academic hubs and the social media. These platforms will provide resource materials and inspire networking and collaboration on a mass scale for local, regional, national and global beneficiaries.

“You cannot even imagine the multiplier effect we are hoping to generate with the new model as young business owners are exposed to bundles of opportunities that exist within the various hubs and our dedicated web portal where leading business individuals and organisations will be available to guide and link budding extrapreneurs. We are mostly excited about the fact that this is a sustainable approach to empowering youths and engendering economic growth and development,” Cole said.

Observers believe that no nation can truly attain economic prosperity without a strong intellectual base charting a road map. Therefore, there is need to empower the education sector in Africa through the provision of requisite reading materials. In 2016, the group’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) organ, will engage in sustainable projects to improve the reading culture of children and their learning environment. One of such projects involves the quest to donate over 50,000 books and set up 10 rural libraries in selected rural communities and public schools in Benue State. This initiative is aimed at making books more accessible to children and youths. It also will be replicated in Sahara locations globally and other areas with the support of strategic partners.

To mark this year’s World Book Day, the Group is embarking on a book drive to amass books that can be sent to children in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps and other high need areas. Therefore in keeping with the Group’s policy of Personal Corporate Social Responsibility (PCSR), Sahara Group staff volunteers will give out books and make cash donations towards the purchase of books for students of Bethesda School for the Blind.

In 2014, the Group launched the ‘Read to Me’ School Project to promote a reading culture amongst children. The initiative, which was spearheaded by staff members who served as volunteers, encouraged reading for knowledge and leisure. In 2015, the Group upgraded the library at the United Mission College (UMC) Primary School, Ibadan and also provided the library with books to enrich the minds of pupils. The Group also refurbished and equipped a Guidance and Counseling Centre for Eko Akete Senior Secondary School, Lagos Island. The Centre effectively serves the academic, psycho-social, and career needs of the students.
As part of the group’s commitment to tackle cancer, it has donated N120 million towards the cause of acquiring Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC).

The MCC is a clinic on wheels with state-of-the-art facilities for screening, follow-up and treatment including surgeries for pre-cancer and early cancer cases. The centre also offers screening exercises for 10 cancer-related killer diseases, including hepatitis, diabetes, and malaria, among others, which are ultimately helping to improve life expectancy in Nigeria where at least 100,000 cancer cases occur annually.

In his remark, Cole stated that the Group expressed delight to be part of the initiative which he described as being “crucial to the success of addressing the cancer scourge sustainably.”
“Through the interventions we continue to make through the vehicle of Sahara Foundation, we remain even more convinced that it is possible to address socio-economic and health challenges globally when committed stakeholders pool resources together.

“At Sahara, we are passionate about sharing and giving to causes in line with our focus on education and capacity building, health, environment and sustainable community development, that will transform lives, communities, businesses and nations. Nothing gives us more joy than touching lives since we started bringing energy to bear in Sahara 20 years ago,” Cole noted.

Over the years, Sahara has supported several cancer programmes within and outside Nigeria to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with cancer. The aim is to enlighten the public about the disease, detect it at the early stage and promote long-term survival rates. The programmes were implemented through awareness walks, educational sessions, free screening exercise for men and women, and the provision of treatment for an agreed number of positive cases. Some of Group’s cancer awareness programmes include, annual sponsorship of prostate cancer surgeries, cancer screening and awareness programme for staff members, cancer screening for rural women across Nigeria, cancer awareness walk in Lagos and Abuja and paddle for cancer dragon boat festival, Geneva, Switzerland.