BY JUDY OGUTU
More than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity. That is a huge chunk for a population of 936.1 million, according to World Bank figures. Somalia is not an exception. Its situation is, however, compounded by 24 years of civil war, which destroyed much of its infrastructure, including power systems. In the absence of government participation in power generation and distribution in Somalia, the service is largely in the hands of the private sector. Tekno Power Somalia Limited, which deals in diesel powered generators, set up shop in the country with the aim of supplying electricity. The firm has operated in Somalia for more than two years now. The group chief executive officer, Mr Mohamed Dahir, says: “We have run business effectively over the last two years. War had slowed down our operations.” Mr Dahir explains that the investment in Somalia was driven by the aspiration to take part in the reconstruction of the country. “There was a major gap and we wanted to fill it, especially in the power generation,” he states.
The Tekno Power CEO is of the opinion that the country has a long way to go in the energy sector, and it needs heavy investment to meet demand and achieve economic growth. Once the energy sector is developed, other sectors will automatically grow, he says. The cost for electricity in Somalia is high due to limited investments. Dahir reveals that one Kilowatt costs $0.8. “Somalia is one of the countries in the world where power is very expensive. If you compare it to Djibouti, Ethiopia or even Kenya, the cost is almost five times higher.” Yet the demand for electricity in Somalia is high. In Mogadishu, where there is demand for about 150 megawatts by the nearly two million population, only 30 megawatts are generated. Thus, there is a deficit of 120 megawatts. “Tekno Power is just one unit of many, but we want to do our best and fill the gap,” Dahir says.
The CEO says there is a need to adopt other sources of energy, such as water, sun and wind. “The wind speed in Somalia is staggering at 180km/h,” Dahir says. The country can therefore explore using wind to produce energy. Dahir however wonders if the Somali government is exploring this as an option. Wind turbines can be built on land or offshore. There are different sizes wind turbines. They range from 100 kilowatts to as large as several megawatts. Larger winds turbines are more cost effective and are grouped together into wind farms, whose power generation can be fused into the national electricity grid. Dahir, who has a Bachelors degree in development studies from University of Nairobi, says they are keen on ensuring that their generators are environmentally friendly.
“Our generators are made according to European standards. They do not emit smoke and they also come with silencers, so that they do not make noise either. We sell open sets and enclosed (sound proof) sets,” he explains. Tekno Power is fully operational in Somalia with a staff of 12. “We give priority to Somalis (when hiring) but we outsource technical expertise.” He further acknowledges that the cost of doing business (in Somalia) depends on one’s capacity, capability and capital. “We have invested millions of US dollars to serve this market,” he declares. Tekno Power is registered by the Ministry of Commerce. It supplies power generation equipment.
The company sells different sets of generators, including heavy horse power or mega horse power. The latter ranges from 500 Kilowatts to 800 Kilowatts. The company also sells smaller generators, which are used in small industries. Tekno Power generators are mainly diesel-based. Dahir says their clients are embassies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government institutions, hotels, factories, banks, universities, power generating companies and individuals running small businesses. But it has not been a bed of roses for Tekno Power. Competition exists, and it is stiff. Still, he points to the positive mind-set of Somalis as a big asset in the country’s desire to rebuild.
“There is a lot of hope for Somalia. The Turkish government’s contribution in the country’s development has changed the situation. They have improved infrastructure in the country building of roads and beautification of Mogadishu, and provision of education and health services. With this momentum, there is a lot of hope,” he adds. Further, according to Dahir, the presence of international organisations and staff in the country is an endorsement to the positive changes that have occurred in the last few years. “Thousands of international staff and experts are now in Somalia. A lot has changed and there are lots of hopes,” he asserts.