To improve Africa’s chances and ensure the safe storage of Covid-19 vaccines, Zeynep Harezi, and Karpowership based in Istanbul are working on innovative power generation solutions.
There is still a strong debate about Africa’s chances of receiving the Covid-19 vaccines when they become available in 2021: how will the continent store it?
Although organizations like GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, are closely working with global pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and AstraZeneca to ensure that Africa does not get left behind, there are other important considerations the continent needs to consider when it comes to receiving inoculation.
One such factor is the availability of consistent power to keep the vaccines refrigerated in order to remain potent and safe. According to a Reuters report, most vaccines require cooling of between two and eight degrees Celsius with the Phase 1 trials of the Covid-19 vaccine requiring storage in an environment as low as -80 degrees Celsius.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 50% of all vaccines are destroyed due to issues like temperature control. To improve Africa’s chances and ensure the safe storage and implementation of the vaccines, Zeynep Harezi and her Karpowership organization is hoping to introduce innovative power generation solutions that will enable Africa to succeed in not only the fight against Covid-19 but also power infrastructure development.
The 32-year-old Turkish-born managing director of Karpowership has a background in philosophy and economics, having graduated with a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. Harezi once dreamed of becoming the president of Turkey when she was a child, a choice that was greatly influenced by the country’s first female prime minister at the time. But it was her uncle who would set her sights on helping Africa improve its power infrastructure.
“When I was six years old, my uncle would tell me that he was going to build power plants inside ships and send them to countries all over the world. But he would also tell me about the mermaids in Atlantis so I was never sure where the line of reality was and where it was just story-telling,” recalls Harezi.
But her uncle’s stories were not tall tales after all. In 1996, the family-owned business entered the energy sector in Turkey when there was privatization of it. At the time, Karpowership was the first company to have an export licence and began exporting electricity from Turkey to Iraq.
“Then, many mining companies in Africa approached us and said ‘can we please build land-based power plants for them’ because they could not get reliable electricity and we told them instead of building land-based power plants in remote locations, we could build them inside ships or on barges much faster and with a better design to have increased efficiency and we can deliver them much faster than land-based power plants,” avers Harezi.
“The long-term vision is to eradicate non-access to electricity. Everyone in the world should have access to electricity; it is a basic human right and we have the technology to deliver it.”
So, the organization began building floating power plants for mining projects in Africa. But before they could sell them to the continent, the Iraqi minister of energy requested an energy power plant for their southern city that had access to the sea. Harezi had just the right floating power ship to send. The next two power ships were subsequently supplied to Lebanon before finally their first supply was delivered to Ghana in 2014.
“The long-term vision is to eradicate non-access to electricity. Everyone in the world should have access to electricity; it is a basic human right and we have the technology to deliver it. As Karpowership, we can deliver baseload utility scale floating power plants to the remotest countries in the world with the highest risk of execution and construction, and we can deliver in less than 30 days. So, there is no excuse for anyone in the world to have no access to electricity and we can do it at a very low cost,” says Harezi.
Africa’s population growth is higher than other regions, hence the demand for electricity surpasses the planned increase of power supply. This means there is always a gap between supply and demand. This is a natural fit for Karpowership. Harezi says it can deliver between 25% to 80% of a country’s total electricity on one ship in less than 30 days. And there are “other advantages too” of this model.
“The regular infrastructure-related challenges of Africa are usually to do with project finance, construction risks, execution risks and the timeline. So, a project is usually promised to be operational in three years where as the project finance only lasts for two years and the actual construction takes another three to five years. So, the project that was promised for three years ends up not being finished for another eight years,” says Harezi.
Such solutions could give Africa a fighting chance in the Covid-19 vaccine race. With the company currently providing most of the national electricity in Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Senegal, it seems poised to disrupt the African energy sector in a pandemic era.