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FOCUS ON Seychelles: Pioneers In Protecting The Beating Blue Heart Of The Planet

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“Our ocean is our most precious resource. We recognise not just its vast potential, but also the fragility of its ecosystems and the need to preserve it for future generations. The ocean is the beating blue heart of our planet.”

President Danny Faure

            The Republic of Seychelles is endowed with extremely rich biodiversity both on land and in its oceans. After tourism, the fisheries sector employs 17% of the Seychelles population, making it the country’s most important industry. As a result, the country has become a pioneer in Blue Economy by recognising the immense importance of protecting earth’s greatest asset.

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This year, President Danny Faure of Seychelles gave an opening speech at the Blue Economy conference in Mozambique. As a guest of honour, President Faure focused on the benefits and importance of the world’s nations coming together to achieve a collective and sustainable plan to conserve the ocean and protect the future of the earth. President Faure said, “Our ocean is our most precious resource. We recognise not just its vast potential, but also the fragility of its ecosystems and the need to preserve it for future generations. The ocean is the beating blue heart of our planet.” Currently, the Blue Economy is backed by 36 countries and growing.

            Blue Economy is an economic initiative that focuses on best practices for business while ensuring that sectors promote safe and sustainable utilisation of ocean and marine resources. The result is economic growth, job creation and improved living conditions while simultaneously protecting the health of the ocean and all relative marine ecosystems. Blue Economy permeates every sector in Seychelles, creating an entire economy that is dedicated toward protecting the ocean. This isn’t just a relevant problem for an island country like Seychelles, this initiative has inspired countries all over the world to implement better practices that have positive effects for the environment. Amb. Barry J.J. Faure, Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs and of the Blue Economy, states, “Blue Economy is the key: not only for island states and coastal states but for states that have waterways.”

In their goal to conserve the environment, Seychelles has introduced a new financial tool to raise capital from impact investors to finance marine and ocean-based projects that have positive environmental, economic and climate benefits: the blue bond. Vice President of Seychelles, Vincent Meriton, says, “The blue bond is one of the world’s most innovative financial instruments in recent years. The bond, which raised USD$15 million from international investors, demonstrates the potential for countries to harness capital markets for financing the Blue Economy.” The blue bond has helped the Seychelles’ government save over USD$8 million in interest charges over the next ten years. Meriton continues, “Mobilising private finance is a major achievement, one that could be replicated in other African nations, allowing them to protect their environment while restructuring and transforming their economy.”
            Blue Economy has an impact on almost every sector: fisheries, agriculture, renewable and tidal energy, pharmaceutical, petroleum and gas. In the tourism sector, maintenance of Seychelles’ oceans and beautiful beaches helps the Seychelles Tourism Board promote the country as a welcoming and exotic getaway for travellers. Construction and infrastructure sectors are adhering to Blue Economy, as well, where they implement eco-friendly practices in their projects. The financial sector has a large hand in Blue Economy with the blue bond, but also in the implementation of the Agriculture Development Fund, the Fisheries Development Fund and the Green Climate Development Fund, which work further to conserve these industries and ensure that they thrive. The message that these sectors are sending is that even the smallest sustainable efforts have impacted the country in a great way. As Johan Van Schalkwyk, Managing Director of Absa has stated, “If we start creating opportunities for us to add more value from what we reap in the ocean, it is an incredible thing for local ventures.” For example, a local business that cleans seaweed from the beaches not only keeps the shores pleasant for tourists but converts the collected seaweed into fertiliser for the agriculture industry, impacting multiple sectors at once. This is just one example of how dedication to Blue Economy can impact the economy in a positive way.

In addition, Seychelles has become an ideal place for research, not only in the sense of exploring the ocean and its riches but as an experimental market. Telecom company Airtel is one such example, arriving in Seychelles for its first geographic expansion, implementing the country’s submarine cable project. The Seychelles East Africa Submarine (SEAS) cable project consisted in the establishment of the first submarine fibre optic cable for international connections from Seychelles to the African continent. After much success in this project, Airtel is now present in several African countries.

In a small country such as Seychelles, movements toward ocean conservation and sustainable development of sectors can have quick and positive results for the economy of the country. Seychelles continues to be an island getaway for tourists from all over the world, and it is obvious that Seychelles is leading by example with Blue Economy. They have positioned themselves as pioneers of Blue Economy, demonstrating to the world that sustainable development is not just a dream–it can be a reality.

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Mainstream Energy; Powering Nigeria Through Kainji And Jebba Dams

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True Nigerian Experience Interview with Engr. Lamu Audu

1. During the 2013 Power Sector Privatisation, Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited (MESL) acquired Kainji and Jebba Hydro Power Plants. 6 years down the line, how well have you fared on this project?

It has been a very interesting journey for us since we took over the operation and management of the Kainji and Jebba Hydropower Plants (“HPPs”) through a concession agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria (“FGN”) in

November 2013.

It was incredibly challenging at the initial stages, especially at Kainji where the available capacity was at zero (0) megawatts (MW). None of the eight (8) generating units with a total installed capacity of 760 MW, was operational in November 2013. However, in the case at the Jebba HPP which has total installed capacity of 578.4 MW, five (5) of the six (6) generating units were in operation, with a total available capacity of 460 MW.

Today, we are proud to have increased the total available capacity of both plants to 922 MW, with Kainji being the major success story as it now has four (4) operating units at an available capacity of 440MW while Jebba contributes 482MW to the National Grid. This has translated to a remarkable improvement in MESL’s power generation from 2,715 gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2013 to 5,277 GWh in 2018, accounting for an average of 25% of Nigeria’s power generation.

I would say that we have done very well in optimising power generation in Nigeria and delivering on the mandate of the FGN following the decision to privatise the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (“NESI”), six (6) years ago. What we have achieved so far is vivid proof that privatisation works as it has created an avenue for private sector investments into the industry, for the benefit of the economy.

2. In 2018 financial year, MESL generated about 60 Billion Naira in revenue up from 3.7 Billion in 2013 financial year. How did you achieve this?

A whole lot of factors have contributed to the company’s growth over the last six (6) years. With a visionary and astute board of directors and committed and diligent management team, the company has put in place several programmes focused on technical and human resource capacity development to galvanise the operation and management of both power plants.

In the area of technical capacity building, MESL has a robust Capacity Recovery and Expansion Programme which we have pursued vigorously by focusing on restoring the capacity at Kainji to guarantee year-round power generation of at least 750 MW on average. The company also invested heavily in technology and state-of-the-art equipment to optimise operation and maintenance at both plants, such as the satellite-based technology, called the Inflow Forecasting System and Operational Tool Software (IFS/OPT). This aids flood management and projections of the flow of water into the Kainji reservoir and guides our operations to maximise power generation at the plants.

As you are aware, no company can thrive without the help of skilled and committed personnel, as such, we deemed it our utmost priority to focus on building a strong culture within the organisation. In the words of the renowned Peter Drucker “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, so it was important that we paid close attention to the development of the “MESL Culture”.

The Board of Directors, therefore, made a strategic decision to consolidate the management of both plants, which were under two (2) managements prior to the concession. Management, under my leadership was also given the mandate to institutionalise a strong work ethic amongst staff, establish a competitive staff welfare package, robust performance management framework and most importantly, conduct a Change Management Programme for the employees that had previously been engaged by the erstwhile Power Holding Company of Nigeria (“PHCN”).

We needed the employees, myself included, to start thinking of power generation from a profit-driven perspective. I must confess that this took some time, but we are proud of our achievements thus far in turning the plants around significantly and positioning for greater successes in the future.

Our focus on staff welfare has been integral to the growth of this company as employees now have a sense of ownership. Indeed, MESL has put in place a share trust scheme where every employee becomes a beneficial owner of the company upon assumption of duty.

I would therefore say that the effectiveness of these programmes has driven productivity amongst staff and aided the growth of the business to where it is today.

3.Your profitability also took an upward trend from a 1 Billion Naira loss position in 2013 to 26.3 Billion profit after tax in 2018. Again, how did you do this?       

A major turning point was the total repayment of the company’s acquisition loan of $170 million which enabled the company to optimise its profitability as a business.

The growth of the business from 2013 has been phenomenal, but this has not been without its challenges. We know that we could perform even better if key issues across the value chain of the NESI are addressed. For example, we have major challenges with the collection of receivables, as we are presently being paid a meagre 18-20% of our invoices, due to collection losses at the distribution end of the value chain.

“In the words of Peter Drucker, Culture eats strategy for breakfast, so it was important that we paid close attention to the development of the “MESL Culture”.

This means that as at September 2019, the company is being owed over 100 billion Naira in receivables. We are also inundated by ramp down requests due to grid instability, which also leads to revenue losses. We have lost about 17 billion Naira from 2016 till date because of this.

MESL has been able to position itself as a performance leader within the industry by proffering innovative and practical solutions to boost its capacity for the benefit of the country. It is our hope that appropriate policies are put in place by the relevant authorities to provide an enabling environment for the NESI to sustain itself through inflow of investments to finance the industry’s infrastructure requirements; coupled with a cost-reflective tariff on electricity, we believe these losses could be significantly reduced, and eliminated over time.

4. Having successfully turned around Kainji and Jebba Hydro Power Plants, are there aspirations to venture into Distribution or consolidation of your competitors?  

Our primary priority as the largest hydropower generation company is to support the stability of the National Grid, increase capacity and contribute to national development by generating power in a safe and reliable manner.

In the short- to medium-term, our focus is on the recovery and expansion of capacity at both Kainji and Jebba. We have indeed commenced the rehabilitation of Unit 1G7 at Kainji which will add 80 MW to the National Grid in 2020 and we are at the closing stages of negotiations for the rehabilitation of Unit 2G6 at Jebba which upon completion will add 96.4 MW to the Grid. In line with the expansion programme, MESL will also install additional generation units with a combined 200 MW at Kainji HPP, to expand the installed capacity of Kainji to 960 MW. 

As a member of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), MESL is also strategically positioned to support the West African regional electricity market, hence, the need to focus squarely on the expansion of capacity to achieve our mission and vision.

We are also looking to extend our coverage beyond Nigeria through strategic investments in hydro and other renewable power generation projects (brownfield and greenfield) in West Africa. Investments in solar power generation would help complement the management of our HPPs and provide off-grid solutions to support the growth and development of the Nigerian economy.

In collaboration with the Niger State Government, MESL has also committed capital towards the establishment of the Amfani Industrial Park and Free Trade Zone, strategically located at the east of the Kainji Lake and adjacent to Kainji HPP, to attract investments into the country. This development will provide an avenue for local and international companies to set up their businesses and have access to power, water, transportation networks and other ancillary utilities.

Of course, MESL seeks to make strategic Investments to support the value chain of the NESI and has recently invested in certain distribution assets, as we aim to contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria’s economy by aiding the supply of stable and safe electricity for Nigerians to power their homes and businesses.

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Mojec International: Blazing The Trail In Sub-Saharan Africa With Electricity And Innovative Power

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True Nigerian Experience Interview with Chantelle Abdul.

1. For 34 years, Mojec International holdings have gone from Power, Energy, Technology, Real Estates to mining. Kindly run us through your trajectory from 1985 to 2019.

MOJEC Group of Companies is an international holdings company headquartered in Lagos with operations in Power, oil and gas, Renewable Energy, Smart Homes, Mining and the retail sector. Its Subsidiary, Mojec Meter Company is the largest meter manufacturer in Nigeria.

Mojec international’s rich history is rooted in its provision of key products and services to the consumers. Mojec has its roots in FMCG (Fast Moving Consumers Goods), it began as a commodities company, distributing and marketing Michelin tyres, through its partnership with the French owned Michelin tyres; papers and foods to Nigerians, via its partnership with NORSE paper and WAPCO respectively.

Mojec eventually became Michelin tyres’ leading Distributor and was nominated Michelin Ambassador for West Africa in the year.

By the early 90’s the company had ventured into the Nigerian Power sector and was the first to introduce prepaid meter technology to the then NEPA (National Electric Power Authority) turned PHCN (POWER HOLDINGS COMPANY OF NIGERIA), the nationalised government parastatal which had the responsibility of  generating, transmitting and distributing power in Nigeria.

The biggest issue with the national utility was revenue protection; its inability to collect payments on bills issued to customers. A prepaid meter afforded them the opportunity to collect payments ahead of consumption. At the time there was a 90% metering gap in the country as such Nigerians were given estimated bills by the Utility which led to a distrust of the utility by customers. Mojec took on the gigantic task of helping bridge the metering gap in the country.

In 2010, MOJEC introduced smart Meters into the country and by 2013 pre-privatisation of the power sector, Mojec International built the largest meter assembly facility with an installed capacity of 1.2 million meters in the heart of the commercial capital of the country, Lagos. Today the firm is tripling its production capacity by building a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant located in its ‘’SMART ELECTRIC-CITY’’ Project, the largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.

By 2016, three years post- privatisation, Mojec had a 50% penetration into the market and by 2018 the company had footprints in over 75% of the metering market, serving 8 out of the 11 Utilities in the country. Mojec meters was the first firm in the power space to roll-out mass meters into the Nigerian market, providing multi- year financing payment options to the utilities to enable them deploy hundreds of thousands of meters to eager customers. Mojec pioneered the vendor financing of large meter contracts to utilities with minimal collateral requirement and as such Mojec Finance was born out of the necessity to provide financing options to the utilities in Nigeria. Mojec Meter company has the largest installation fleet in the country by virtue of the size of its meter production contract with the Discos.

Mojec Meter is now a leading indigenous manufacturer and contractor to power utilities in Nigeria and across the western hemisphere, and has won several awards such as West Africa Power Industry awards, in 2016. In 2019, Mojec achieved another milestone. The company got listed in the London Stock Exchange as one of the companies to inspire Africa. This accomplishment which the company is very proud of prides itself on hard work, great team of experts, innovation, great customer service and excellent service delivery.

Today, as part of its smart electric city project, Mojec is venturing into the local production of meter boxes, circuit breakers and other components that are used in metering to serve the 70% metering gap in the country which is initially estimated at between 5-10million meters.  The company has also made great strides in mining assets in the country with intent to explore and refine produce for exports. Lastly, its greatest pride is in empowering young people and building Africa of the Future and to do so, Africa needs to leverage on technology to leap sing it the 22nd century.

At Mojec, we are committed to building a world of possibilities. We are building Africa’s future and building the future in Africa.

2. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission recently introduced Meter Assets Provider Scheme to fast track the roll-out of prepaid meters to the Electricity consumers. Consequently, Mojec Meters Assets Management company signed the retail financing with 8 Nigerian Banks for electricity consumers, how well have you gone with this initiative

 The Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) introduced a new regulation called MAP (Meter Asset Provider Scheme) in May 2018. The scheme which was subsequently implemented in 2019 was designed to fast track the closure of the metering gap which extricates consumers from plight of dealing with estimated electricity bills given by the utilities. It also encouraged the development of independent and competitive meter services in the industry.

In April 2019, Mojec Meter company partnered with Eight (8) banks to provide loans to customers to enable them purchase meters. These partner banks include Zenith Bank, Polaris Bank, First Bank, Sterling Bank, Wema Bank, Unity Bank and Keystone bank. Customers can now approach these banks to get their meter purchasing loans.

Mojec Meter Asset Management Company (M3AC) is the MAP subsidiary of Mojec International. M3AC is saddled with the task of providing meter assets, installation and maintaining financing of these meters to end users for 1-10 years., It is the largest MAP in the country today.

“In 2019, Mojec achieved another milestone. The Company got listed on the London Stock Exchange as one of the companies to inspire Africa. This accomplishment, which the company is very proud of, prides itself on hard work, great team of experts, innovation, great customer service and excellence service delivery.

M3AC won the award to provide meters to 3million Nigerians over the course of 3 years, as such M3AC and Mojec Finance must develop the in-house capacity to lend money to retail customers. The opportunity for investment here is Immense because it runs into revenues in the hundreds of Millions of dollars and it entails lending to the informal sector of the country which makes up about 60% of the population.

3. Beyond Metring of homes and commercial clients, Mojec Power is said to be leading the provision of renewable energy to commercial and industrial clients. Tell us more about your venture into the clean Energy space.

In a strategic move to further tackle the challenge of uninterrupted   power supply to Africans, 2019 was tagged ‘’ THE BEYOND METERING YEAR’’.  Virtuitis Solaris  is Mojec’s Portfolio company for the provision  of renewable energy solutions and smart Energy. The company seeks to use the power of abundant Sun in Africa to power people’s homes, offices, industries and cars. During the day while they are not home, the power generated by the panels  can be stored in smart energy storage  units called V-cube or the V-container (which stores up  to 100kv  of power).

Virtutis Solaris also offers clients smart home Solutions which includes automation, Energy measurement and Energy Management. Customers are able to remotely switch on and off appliances in their homes in the bid to manage their energy consumption. Solaris intends to deploy solutions nationwide.

Solaris is also involved in building embedded mini grids for large commercial, industrial, and utility customers.

4. In your opinion, six years down the line, how well have we fared with Nigeria Power Privatisation Program of 2013.

In my opinion, we have fared very well with the Nigeria Power Privatisation Program of 2013. The Federal Government took the very bold step of privatizing the Nigerian power sector in 2013 with the sale of majority shares in the Distribution and Generation companies to private investors.

The privatization was driven by the desperate situation of the sector, which affected businesses and all aspects of Nigerian life, thereby crippling economic growth as only 4,000 megawatts of power was available to 180 million Nigerians.

One major key to our success has been the willingness to identify industry issues and tailor solutions to them and address industry issues directly. Some examples include lack of finance in the sector, we designed to address this issue with the distribution companies (discos). We were able to get and offer vendor funding which made our meters attractive to our customers and the discos. Another example is our willingness to tailor our meters to address the needs of our customers, such as enhanced resistance to tampering. This helps to ensure adoption in the market. We also ensure that at all times we are the most cost effective and reliable solution to our client’s problems.

As we look into the future, while acknowledging the great challenges ahead, we continue to see opportunity for growth in the sector and are willing and able to partner with key industry stakeholders to face and surmount the industry problems head on.

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Transforming A 91-year-Old Colonial Hotel In Northern Nigeria

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True Nigerian Experience Interview with Barrister Nasser Ahmed

1. Central Hotel Kano was privatized and handed over to Broadfields Intermediaries Limited in 2002. Kindly run us through the Post Acquisition Plan under your management?

The main theme of the Post Acquisition Plan with the Bureau for Public Enterprises was “to rebuild the hotel into being pride and income to all stakeholders concerned and cater for the business and recreational needs of corporations, individuals, diplomatic community and visitors in the Kano city area. At the end of the development, a land mark area would have been developed assuring stakeholders of quality facilities that would compete with hospitality centres in South Africa and other parts of North Africa.”

To achieve this, the hotel had to be shut down completely, Management Agreements signed initially with Intercontinental Hotel Group (to use the Holiday Inn brand) and funds initially sourced locally but later refinanced under the Construction/Tourism Linked Relay Facility Programme of the Africa Export Import Bank of Cairo. An initial sum of $15 Million USD was drawn with support from NEXIM Bank and two other local Banks.

The redevelopment of the first phase was completed in 2011. This is the position, until recently when we signed a long management Agreement with a big African brand with international support system called BON Hotels. Being the first formal hotel in Nigeria and a place the Queen of England chose to stay in 1956, we are on the road for a complete refurbishment to meet current international standards with its preferred Interior parties like Delta Interiors South Africa. This arrangement will meet our vision of making the Hotel and Kano the destination of Hospitality in Northern Nigeria.

And we believe we have the pedigree to handle the task. I was a Director at Transcorp Hilton Abuja for over 13 years and my team all have background from our Abuja hospitality Centre Protea Hotel Apo. Funding has been a challenge, especially with pressure from impatient lenders. We however cherish the support of some institutions and their people like Professor B.O. Oramah now President of the Afreximbank Bank, my all-time late hero Mr. Tayo Aderinokun Co-founder and then Managing Director Guraranty Trust Bank Plc and Nexim Bank.

2. There are plans to situate a 5-star-floor Shopping mall within the complex of the hotel. Can you tell us how far you have gone with this plan?

We have had the design completed. We had held meetings with Numetro (known for Cinemas) in South Africa and Shoprite. But their special needs in terms of space and anchor tenants meant that by 2011 we deferred the project until the main hotel was finished and properly branded and run. Therefore, by the Management with BON Hotels signed, the new international partner has both capacity as operators and anchor capacities like shopping mall.

3. The Nigerian Stock Exchange has called for public listing of privatized State-Owned Enterprises. Is there any plan to go in that direction?

Yes. We will be going to the Nigerian Stock Exchange probably by the end of 2021. This is because the rule is that you need to have been in profitable operations for at least four years before you can go to the market so that people will know your track-record. And hopefully, by the first quarter of 2022, we will be quoted on the NSE.

4. Nigeria has recently witnessed influx of Global Hospitability brands. Do you intend to partner any for efficiency and standards?

Yes. We have signed with BON Hotels. The Group has excellent people of pedigree like Mr Otto Stehlik and Mr Bernard Cassar both of whom were the brains behind the creation and growth of Protea Hotels (before the sale to Marriott International in 2014).

I have personal experience working with international brands having served as Director at Abuja Hilton for 13 years and Protea SA for 11 years. The advantages of such partnerships are tremendous and we value such collaborations for sustainable growth.

For more information please visit :

www.grandcentralhotelkano.com

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