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Harald Schützeichel

PV Magazine reports major milestones for PAYG solar in Africa - but for whom?

According to PV Magazine the two major milestones for off-grid in Africa are:

  • the industry would has raised over $600 million in financing
  • two major takeover happened (Mobisol/Lumeter - ENGIE/Fenix)

Of course, these are milestones - but for whom?

Where is the advantage for Africa if two international companies are taking over each other? Where is the advantage for Africa, if investors are investing in international companies working in Africa - and not in African companies working in Africa?

 

Obviously, one can - rightly - argue that these foreign investments and acquisitions also benefit Africa because these companies are doing business partially in Africa. And they can - like many other foreign investments - initiate local development.

But we should not lose sight, through the success of foreign companies and investors, that the real goal must be different.

 

The real major milestones

With all the joy for growing investment and profit for foreign companies, we should not forget the real steps forward: "Made in Africa" and "Made by Africans".

Therefore, it would be important if PV magazine could someday report on these major milestones:

  • $600 million invested into African companies
  • first take over between two African solar companies

Because sustainable economic development does not happen when foreign companies find investors and engage in a developing country. As long as investors don’t invest $ 600 million into African companies, it might be a big milestone for international companies, but not necessarily for Africa's economy and development.

Sustainable development only happens when local companies become strong enough to compete with international ones. This is exactly what happens in India or Bangladesh. Or in China. Don’t say Africans are not able to do what Indians do. Africans can but investors can‘t.

 

The forgotten milestone: M-Kopa's order

What PV magazine didn’t mention is another major milestone which happened last week: M-Kopa announced to order solar panels "Made in Kenya". The company has entered into an agreement with Solinc East Africa, a Kenya-based solar panel manufacturer, to supply it with the new panels. The deal will deepen the belief that local manufacturers can drive Kenya's electronics market.