By Ajong Mbapndah L
We are thankful for this opportunity to share about the work we are doing, and we are glad to be a part of the narrative of the positive work happening in Africa, says Founder and Managing Director Aptech Africa Ltd and ABH 2021 top Hero Ghirmay Zeray Abraham.
It is now time for Africa and there is huge potential for growth and opportunity across the continent, says Ghirmay Zeray Abraham in summing up his experience with the 2021 ABH Prize Competition.
“I see Aptech as being a major contributor in improving the livelihood of people all across Africa by providing large-scale solutions for solar energy and water pumping and I see Africa Aptech as leading the push to provide African solutions for Africa, says Ghirmay Zeray Abraham in an interview with PAV.
Could we start with an introduction of Aptech Africa Ltd?
Aptech Africa Ltd is an EPC (Engineering, Procurement, & Construction) company that works in solar energy and water pumping projects. It is headquartered in Uganda and works across seven different countries in Africa. It is an ISO certified company for its quality, health and safety, and environmental management systems, and is working to bring clean water and electricity to people all across Africa.
May we have some background or context into the need that led to the vision to start Aptech technologies?
Aptech has the mission of bring clean electricity and water to improve people’s lives across Africa. The electrification rate across sub-Saharan Africa is 45%. In some countries, the electrification rate is as low as 2%. According to a 2021 report by RMI “Building electrification will bring cleaner air, healthier homes, good jobs, and empowered workers. It also expands access to affordable clean energy and energy efficiency to reduce monthly energy bills for pollution-burdened communities—all while helping states meet their climate goals.”
According to GIZ’s 2019 report on water and sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa:
“The situation of water and sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa is becoming increasingly precarious. Ongoing unprecedented urbanization and steady economic growth have led to soaring demand while climate change is putting a squeeze on raw water availability. The urban population is expected to increase fourfold, to 1.3 billion, by 2050. Only 56% of city-dwellers have access to piped water, down from 67% in 2003, and just 11% to a sewer connection. Failure to address the service provision challenge in the urban setting risks threatening social stability and economic development and may cause further migration within and out of Africa.”
It is because of this context that Aptech Africa is working to create access to clean water and electricity.
What progress has been made since the company was launched in Eritrea?
Since Aptech was launched in Eritrea, it has grown both geographically and with the degree of positive impact it is making across the continent. Currently headquartered in Uganda, Aptech Africa also operates in South Sudan, Central African Republic, DRC, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Niger. Regarding its impact, Aptech focuses on SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy). In 2020 alone, Aptech provided access to electricity to 13,937 people across all countries where it operates. It provided access to water for 124,638 people.
May we know how a company created in Eritrea now has operations in some seven African countries?
Aptech has expanded its operations based on the need for clean electricity and access to water. The countries where Aptech is operating has some of the lowest electrification rates on the continent. It is by working to meet the need within these countries that Aptech has managed to expand. It also has a strong reputation as a company that is able to deliver no matter the circumstances, so is the EPC company of choice in many of the markets where it operates.
What are some of the challenges the company has faced?
The COVID-19 pandemic and all of its subsequent effects has been the largest challenge Aptech has come across. Due to lockdown measures, our office was closed for months at a time. Shipping costs increased by as much as four times. Sourcing materials became more difficult and expensive. Our projects were delayed for long periods of time as the borders were shut and travel was prohibited. Despite all of these challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic brought out the resilience of Aptech’s business model and the flexibility of its team to meet a changing business environment. Aptech addressed the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by having its staff work from home and implementing standard operating procedures in its office and field sites. It re-evaluated the market to see where there would be a greater need for solar solutions and solar refrigerators for vaccine storage. Based on the market evaluation, Aptech worked on several projects that brought electricity to health centres and other institutions affected by COVID-19.
You are among those who made it into the ABH top 20 selection, how did you receive this development?
It has been such an honor to be selected for the ABH Top 20. There are so many amazing entrepreneurs and companies that are inspiring Africa, it has been humbling to be placed among them. We are thankful for this opportunity to share about the work we are doing, and we are glad to be a part of the narrative of the positive work happening in Africa.
You already came in with a lot of experiences, anything that you have learned in the course of the ABH application process?
So far, I have learned that there are so many great African entrepreneurs out there. I have also learned that it’s now time for Africa to grow economically and there is huge potential for growth and opportunity across the continent.
Should you be among the top winners, what kind of changes will Aptech see with the prize money?
If I were to be awarded this honour, I would invest the prize money in the PAY-N-PUMP project that Aptech has been working on in Uganda. Aptech’s team has created a small scale pay-as-you-go solar water pumping and irrigation solution for farmers using digital technology. This solution makes water pumping and irrigation accessible to small scale farmers, giving them the chance to improve their yields and socioeconomic status. This project requires a lot of investment from Aptech, so this award would help us move the project forward and improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in Uganda. (www.paynpump.com)
From some 12000 applicants, you made it to the top 50, and now the top 20, how confident are you about the rest of competition?
I am happy to be a part of this competition and thankful to be able to proceed to the ABH Top 20. I hope that as more people learn about the positive impact Aptech Africa is having on the continent I can continue to proceed.
And how confident are you about the future of Aptech in the medium and long term?
I am confident that we will see Aptech Africa grow as one of the leading companies in the solar energy sector in Africa. I see it developing its own energy storage factory in Uganda to increase local manufacturing, jobs, and local solutions for local energy challenges. I see Aptech as being a major contributor in improving the livelihood of people all across Africa by providing large-scale solutions for solar energy and water pumping. I see Africa Aptech as leading the push to provide African solutions for Africa.