SoftBank Makes First Saudi Deal Together With Wealth Fund’s Unit

SoftBank Group Corp. has made its first investment in a company based in Saudi Arabia, partnering with a unit of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund to lead a $125 million financing for customer communication platform Unifonic.

Proceeds will be used to fund growth in the Middle East and expansion into Asia and Africa, Unifonic co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Hamdan said in an interview. The company will also look at acquisitions in those regions to help it expand faster, he said.

The Unifonic deal is funded through SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, and follows on from July’s $415 million fundraising by Dubai-based cloud kitchen startup Kitopi, which was SoftBank’s first in a business based in the United Arab Emirates and took that company’s valuation past $1 billion. Last month, it also co-led a financing round for Turkish e-commerce company Trendyol.

SoftBank’s foray in the Middle East comes with a growing number of so-called unicorn businesses worth at least $1 billion. More investors from outside are looking to bet on a shift to online services that has lagged other regions.

Read more on SoftBank’s deals in Middle East and Africa:

Swvl, a Dubai-based provider of mass transit solutions, said in July it expects to list on Nasdaq in a combination with special-purpose acquisition company Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, with an implied equity value of about $1.5 billion.

Unifonic provides cloud-based software to send automated messages. As the pandemic spread, businesses turned to these services to send one-time passwords or shipping updates to customers. The company processed 10 billion transactions last year, charging a small fee for every message it sends to customers.

Hamdan declined to comment on the latest valuation, but said the company is forecasting sales for the year of more than $100 million and will start planning a listing on a global exchange in the next three years.

“Being able to attract one of the top international funds to invest in Saudi Arabia is a big milestone that will encourage more foreign direct investment to come into the digital and technology space,” Hamdan said. “We will optimize to list on a global market that can provide the best valuation.”

STV, Sanabil

Founded by Ahmed and his brother Hassan Hamdan in 2006, Unifonic was largely self-funded for the first decade. It raised $21 million in 2018 led by STV, a $500 million venture fund established by Saudi Telecom Co.

Sanabil, a unit of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, was also an investor in the company. The PIF, as the wealth fund is known, put $45 billion into the first Vision Fund, which backed many of the largest technology startups including Uber Technologies Inc., Opendoor Technologies Inc. and DoorDash Inc.

“Over the next five years, we see the business growing by 10 times,” Hamdan said. “So we could process 100 billion transactions, impact 400 million people, and potentially be working with 50,000 companies.”

The valuation of Twilio Inc., which operates a similar business and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has more than tripled to almost $60 billion since the pandemic forced more transactions to move online.

By:

Source: http://bloomberg.com

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The Future of Travel in the Covid-19 Era

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After being shut down for nearly a year and a half, international travel has started to pick up again, with countries in the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe paving the way. The reopening of borders has been far from straightforward as the world negotiates inequities in Covid-19 containment, vaccine access, and economic recovery. And everything can change in an instant.

For airlines, airports, cruise lines, and hotels, the new normal is increasingly looking like the old normal; While advanced cleaning protocols are (happily) here to stay, social distancing and even mask requirements have started to peel away. A lack of cohesive guidelines from governing authorities mean that protocols are being patched together by individual properties and companies, leaving consumers to wade through fine print and determine what fits their risk thresholds.

If the wealthiest initially set the tone for the future of nonessential travel, the masses are now unleashing a storm of pent-up demand that has caused prices to multiply and availability to evaporate. Compounding those issues are labor shortages in many popular vacation destinations, already slim inventory gobbled up by last year’s cancelations, and a hampered import market that’s making it impossible to get a rental car or wrap up that hotel renovation. Consumers may feel safe traveling again, but it’s going to be a bumpy rebound.

Those of us who remain stuck in place can still daydream. According to the National Institutes of Health, simply planning a trip can spark immeasurable joy—and there’s high hope that the ongoing challenges of availability and border restrictions will iron themselves out by 2022. Getting into an adventurous frame of mind can remind us of the power of travel—not only in the billions of dollars in daily economic activity but also to forge cross-cultural connections and bring us closer to those we love.

By The Numbers

  • $150 million The amount of cash U.S.-based airlines were losing on a daily basis as of March 2021.
  • 1.2 million Average increase of daily travelers passing through TSA checkpoints in June 2021, compared to June 2020. The number still represents roughly a 30% decline from 2019 figures.
  • 67 Percentage of people who would feel confident traveling once vaccinated.

Why It Matters

It’s not just your vacation or business trip that’s on the line. The travel industry customarily accounts for 10% of the global economy, rippling to the remotest corners of the world. Each trip a person takes sets off a domino effect of consumption that directs dollars to airlines, hoteliers, restaurateurs, taxi drivers, artisans, tour guides, and shopkeepers, to name a few. In all, the tourism industry employs 300 million people. Especially in developing countries, these jobs can present pathways out of poverty and opportunities for cultural preservation.

In 2020, the pandemic put a third of all tourism jobs at risk, and airlines around the world said they needed as much as $200 billion in bailouts. By December, the World Tourism Organization had tallied $935 billion in global losses from the tourism standstill, and was estimating that the ripple effects would result in a total economic decline exceeding $2 trillion. Even with international tourism now cautiously reopening, the organization expects that the world will not return to 2019 tourism levels until 2023.

According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, every 1% increase in international arrivals adds $7.23 billion to the world’s cumulative gross domestic product. Any improvement in this sector is significant—and it’s just beginning.

Americans, who have easy access to vaccines and command an overwhelming share of the international travel market, are back on the road; two-thirds intend to take a trip in 2021. In the U.S., flight capacity has climbed back to 84% of 2019 levels. The questions are what it will take for the rest of the world to catch up and how the industry must evolve to be flexible at handling future Covid-19 variants so travelers will feel safe and willing to spend.

Grounded for many months, airlines are beefing up their summer schedules—though the number of flights will be a fraction of their pre-pandemic frequency. Airports are still mostly ghost towns (some have even been taken over by wildlife), and international long-distance travel is all but dead. Around the globe, the collapse of the tourist economy has bankrupted hotels, restaurants, bus operators, and car rental agencies—and thrown an estimated 100 million people out of work.

With uncertainty and fear hanging over traveling, no one knows how quickly tourism and business travel will recover, whether we will still fly as much, and what the travel experience will look like once new health security measures are in place. One thing is certain: Until then, there will be many more canceled vacations, business trips, weekend getaways, and family reunions.

Travel will normalize more quickly in safe zones that coped well with COVID-19, such as between South Korea and China, or between Germany and Greece. But in poorer developing countries struggling to manage the pandemic, such as India or Indonesia, any recovery will be painfully slow.

All this will change the structure of future global travel. Many will opt not to move around at all, especially the elderly. Tourists who experiment with new locations in their safe zones or home countries will stick to new habits. Countries with strong pandemic records will deploy them as tourism marketing strategies—discover Taiwan! Much the same will be true for business, where ease of travel and a new sense of common destiny within each safe zone will restructure investment along epidemiological lines.

With the support of IATA and others, the International Civil Aviation Organization developed a global restart plan to keep people safe when traveling. Restart measures will be bearable for those who need to travel, with universal implementation the priority. It will give governments and travelers the confidence that the system has strong biosafety protections. And it should give regulators the confidence to remove or adjust measures in real time as risk levels change and technology advances.

Contributors: Nikki Ekstein

Source: The Future of Travel in the Covid-19 Era – Bloomberg

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Critics:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the tourism industry due to the resulting travel restrictions as well as slump in demand among travelers. The tourism industry has been massively affected by the spread of coronavirus, as many countries have introduced travel restrictions in an attempt to contain its spread. The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that global international tourist arrivals might decrease by 58% to 78% in 2020, leading to a potential loss of US$0.9–1.2 trillion in international tourism receipts.

In many of the world’s cities, planned travel went down by 80–90%.Conflicting and unilateral travel restrictions occurred regionally and many tourist attractions around the world, such as museums, amusement parks, and sports venues closed. UNWTO reported a 65% drop in international tourist arrivals in the first six months of 2020. Air passenger travel showed a similar decline. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development released a report in June 2021 stating that the global economy could lose over US$4 trillion as a result of the pandemic.

References

Delta Coronavirus Variant: Scientists Brace For Impact

When the first cases of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant were detected in the United Kingdom in mid-April, the nation was getting ready to open up. COVID-19 case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths were plummeting, thanks to months of lockdown and one of the world’s fastest vaccination programmes. Two months later, the variant, which was first detected in India, has catalysed a third UK wave and forced the government to delay the full reopening of society it had originally slated for 21 June.

After observing the startlingly swift rise of the Delta variant in the United Kingdom, other countries are bracing for the variant’s impact — if they aren’t feeling it already. Nations with ample access to vaccines, such as those in Europe and North America, are hopeful that the shots can dampen the inevitable rise of Delta. But in countries without large vaccine stocks, particularly in Africa, some scientists worry that the variant could be devastating.

“In my mind, it will be really hard to keep out this variant,” says Tom Wenseleers, an evolutionary biologist and biostatistician at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. “It’s very likely it will take over altogether on a worldwide basis.”

Delta, also known as B.1.617.2, belongs to a viral lineage first identified in India during a ferocious wave of infections there in April and May. The lineage grew rapidly in some parts of the country, and showed signs of partial resistance to vaccines. But it was difficult for researchers to disentangle these intrinsic properties of the variant from other factors driving India’s confirmed cases past 400,000 per day, such as mass gatherings.

Delta data

The Delta variant has been linked to a resurgence of COVID-19 in Nepal, southeast Asia and elsewhere, but its UK spread has given scientists a clear picture of the threat it poses. Delta seems to be around 60% more transmissible than the already highly infectious Alpha variant (also called B.1.1.7) identified in the United Kingdom in late 2020.

Delta is moderately resistant to vaccines, particularly in people who have received just a single dose. A Public Health England study published on 22 May found that a single dose of either AstraZeneca’s or Pfizer’s vaccine reduced a person’s risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms caused by the Delta variant by 33%, compared to 50% for the Alpha variant. A second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine boosted protection against Delta to 60% (compared to 66% against Alpha), while two doses of Pfizer’s jab were 88% effective (compared to 93% against Alpha).

Preliminary evidence from England and Scotland suggests that people infected with Delta are about twice as likely to end up in hospital, compared with those infected with Alpha.

“The data coming out of the UK is so good, that we have a really good idea about how the Delta variant is behaving,” says Mads Albertsen, a bioinformatician at Aalborg University in Denmark. “That’s been an eye-opener.”

Denmark, which, like the United Kingdom, is a world leader in genomic surveillance, has also seen a steady rise in cases caused by the Delta variant — although far fewer than most other European countries. It is only a matter of time before the variant becomes dominant in Denmark, says Albertsen, but the hope is that its expansion can be slowed through vaccination, surveillance and enhanced contact tracing. “It’s going to take over,” he says, but “hopefully in a few months and not too soon.”

Meanwhile, the Danish government is easing restrictions, not re-imposing them: restaurants and bars have been open for months to individuals who have been vaccinated or received a recent negative test, and, as of 14 June, masks are no longer required in most indoor settings. “It is looking good now in Denmark, and we are keeping a close eye on the Delta variant,” says Albertsen. “It can change quite fast, as it has done in the UK.”

Cases of the Delta variant in the United Kingdom are doubling roughly every 11 days. But countries with ample vaccine stocks should be reassured by the slower uptick in hospital admissions, says Wenseleers. A recent Public Health England study1 found that people who have had one vaccine dose are 75% less likely to be hospitalized, compared with unvaccinated individuals, and those who are fully protected are 94% less likely to be hospitalized.

US spread

Delta is also on the rise in the United States, particularly in the Midwest and southeast. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it a variant of concern on 15 June. But patchy surveillance means the picture there is less clear. According to nationwide sampling conducted by the genomics company Helix in San Mateo, California, Delta is rising fast. Using a rapid genotyping test, the company has found that the proportion of cases caused by Alpha fell from more than 70% in late April to around 42% as of mid-June, with the rise of Delta driving much of the shift2.

Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health in Shreveport, expects Delta to eventually become dominant in the United States, “but to be somewhat blunted by vaccination”. However, vast disparities in vaccination rates could lead to regional and local variation in cases and hospitalizations caused by Delta, says Jennifer Surtees, a biochemist at the University at Buffalo, New York, who is conducting regional surveillance.

She notes that 70% of eligible New Yorkers have received at least one dose of vaccine — a milestone that triggered the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions last week — but that figure is below 40% in some parts of the state. Communities with high proportions of African American and Hispanic individuals, where vaccination rates tend to be low, could be especially hard hit by Delta. “These are populations that are really at risk of a localized outbreak from Delta, so I think it’s really important to still keep tracking and watch this as much as possible,” Surtees says.

Data from Helix2 on nearly 20,000 samples sequenced since April suggest that the Delta variant is spreading faster in US counties where less than 30% of residents have been fully vaccinated, compared to the counties with vaccination rates above that threshold.

Africa at risk

Delta poses the biggest risk, scientists say, to countries that have limited access to vaccines, particularly those in Africa, where most nations have vaccinated less than 5% of their populations. “The vaccines will never come in time,” says Wenseleers. “If these kinds of new variant arrive, it can be very devastating.”

Surveillance in African countries is extremely limited, but there are hints that the variant is already causing cases there to surge. Several sequences of the variant have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where an outbreak in the capital city of Kinshasa has filled hospitals. The variant has also been detected in Malawi, Uganda and South Africa.

Countries that have close economic links to India, such as those in East Africa, are probably at the greatest risk of seeing a surge in cases caused by Delta, says Tulio de Oliveira, a bioinformatician and director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform in Durban, South Africa. In his country, all of the Delta cases have been detected in shipping crews at commercial ports, with no signs yet of spread in the general community.

De Oliveira expects it to stay this way. South Africa is in the middle of a third wave of infections caused by the Beta variant (also known as B.1.351) identified there last year. This, combined with a lack travel from countries affected by Delta, should make it harder for a new variant to take hold.

Similar factors could be keeping Delta at bay in Brazil, which is battling another immune-evading variant called P.1, or Gamma, says Gonzalo Bello, a virologist at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro, who is part of a team conducting national surveillance. So far, Brazil has sequenced just four cases of the Delta variant in the country.

While countries gird themselves against the Delta variant — or hope that it passes them by — researchers say we need to watch for even greater threats. “What most people are concerned about are the next variants — if we start to see variants that can really challenge the vaccines,” says Albertsen.

By: Ewen Callaway

Source: Delta coronavirus variant: scientists brace for impact

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Critics:

Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2, is a variant of lineage B.1.617 of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It was first detected in India in late 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) named it the Delta variant on 31 May 2021.

It has mutations in the gene encoding the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein causing the substitutions T478K, P681R and L452R, which are known to affect transmissibility of the virus as well as whether it can be neutralised by antibodies for previously circulating variants of the COVID-19 virus. Public Health England (PHE) in May 2021 observed secondary attack rates to be 51–67% higher than the alpha variant.

On 7 May 2021, PHE changed their classification of lineage B.1.617.2 from a variant under investigation (VUI) to a variant of concern (VOC) based on an assessment of transmissibility being at least equivalent to B.1.1.7 (Alpha variant), first identified in the UK (as the Kent variant). Subsequently on 11 May 2021, the WHO also classified this lineage VOC, and said that it showed evidence of higher transmissibility and reduced neutralisation. The variant is thought to be partly responsible for India’s second wave of the pandemic beginning in February 2021.

See also

How This Entrepreneur Raised $1 Million and Is Leading an Energy Revolution Before Age 30

The path of the entrepreneur is a bold one. At every stage of the journey, you continually make bold decisions and take bold risks.

This has certainly been the case in my journey as a founder. We started a smart home company (in 2013) when everyone said we were crazy. We saw the vision and moved toward it in the face of uncertainty and risk.

When I was starting, I identified other leaders who were making bold decisions. It helped to feel like I was not alone along the path. I followed entrepreneurs accomplished their goals, and other young leaders blazing a new trail. I recently encountered an inspiring story that demonstrates just how bold we can be.​

Ugwem Eneyo is the co-founder and CEO of Shyft Power Solutions, an energy technology company that’s working to enable an energy revolution for underserved consumers in emerging markets. Eneyo, a graduate student at Stanford University, and a member of Forbes 30 under 30, has secured more than $1 million in funding from investors and participated in the 2019 Ameren Accelerator program. GreenBiz named her a 2019 VERGE Vanguard honoree to recognize her dedication to helping advance Nigeria’s energy infrastructure.

Personally, I feel inspired by Eneyo’s bold ambitions to create solutions in an emerging market with a nascent entrepreneurial system – especially in an industry as demanding as energy. I interviewed her to learn more about her role in energy, Shyft’s path to raising money and how accelerators can be a beneficial platform for entrepreneur success.

1. How did you get interested in energy technology?

Ugwem Eneyo: My family is from the Niger Delta, a region that suffered negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts as a result of the extractive industries. After directly seeing the challenges and how they affected my family and communities in the region, I became keenly interested in the nexus of energy, environment and development.

I actually spent years working as an environmental and regulatory advisor in the oil and gas sector, trying to mitigate the impacts and drive change from within the organizations. I eventually left to pursue my M.S. and Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, still focused on the theme. Shyft Power Solutions is a byproduct of my work at Stanford.

2. How was your experience in your industry different as a Nigerian-American?

Eneyo: There’s an increasing interest within the industry around solving energy challenges in Nigeria and, more broadly, emerging markets. The local knowledge is often an overlooked critical asset in doing so.

My previous work in the industry, and in emerging markets, shows that it’s often non-technical issues that cause projects to be delayed or fail. The intimate local knowledge allows for an understanding of people’s values, culture and thought processes, and that can better inform how we solve problems and how we deliver solutions. This has certainly been the case with Shyft Power Solutions.

3. What approach did you take when raising money for your business?

Eneyo: In the early stage, I leveraged grants and non-dilutive capital, given the longer and more capital-intensive development timeline for building industrial-grade hardware. We also raised traditional venture capital, as well as funding from strategic corporate investors.

The corporate venture capitalists played a key role in our fundraising strategy, as they often had more market knowledge and connections, which complemented the primarily U.S.-based traditional venture capital. And Shyft Power Solutions received $100,000 in seed capital through our participation in the Ameren Accelerator this year.​

4. How did your experience with the 2019 Ameren Accelerator program advance/benefit your business? What’s your relationship with Ameren and the accelerator now that the program has ended?

Eneyo: The Ameren Accelerator, alongside the Ameren employees who served on champion teams as mentors, provided important technical and business development expertise that offered valuable and unique insight into how Shyft’s platform can add value to utilities at scale. Part of our longer-term planning required Shyft to have better insight into utilities, and we were able to leverage Ameren in the process.

Although the accelerator has ended, my team and I have remained in contact with many of our technical champions, who still provide advice and references. Additionally, the accelerator program team has remained supportive, still introducing us to valuable startup resources.​

5. How do you see the energy technology industry changing? What changes would you like to make?

Eneyo: In emerging markets, there will be a leapfrog over traditional central energy infrastructures; instead, we will see digitization and decentralization of energy infrastructure that may work alongside whatever central grid is available. The flexible and intelligent use of distributed energy resources will be necessary to make this possible, and Shyft is developing the technology to do so.

I want to see clean, reliable, and affordable energy for all — urban and rural — and want to see energy demands being met by rapidly growing emerging markets. I’m excited to be leading an organization that’s at the forefront of this energy transition in markets like Nigeria.

By Andrew ThomasFounder, Skybell Video Doorbell

261 subscribers

Source: How This Entrepreneur Raised $1 Million and Is Leading an Energy Revolution Before Age 30

The Key To Unlocking Africa’s Economic Potential Lies In Its Power Supply

If one had to name a single resource key to unlocking Africa’s economic potential, including job creation, access to knowledge, agriculture and industrial transformation, the power supply would have to be high up on that list.

According to a 2016 study, approximately 43 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa – up to 600 million people – live without access to electricity. While most of that population lives in rural regions, city dwellers also face access challenges; in fact, electricity only reaches a third of the urban sub-Saharan population. And this lack of power is stifling economic growth, as well as hindering improvements in health and education.

Connecting African cities, towns and villages is the next step to enabling development on a larger scale. Supporting the power infrastructure that would create this environment, however, creates significant challenges, with inadequate infrastructure making the expansion of grid networks financially and logistically infeasible for many countries. When your roads are nothing more than dirt tracks, how do you build and supply what is needed for a power grid?

Although national, centralized grids may be too costly an option for some governments, projections see electrification across the entire continent rising to a rate of 70 percent by 2040, bringing electricity and power to 800 million more people. Connection to a grid will change daily life for hundreds of millions.

So, what technologies will achieve this level of electrification? For maximized impact, the future of power generation technology in Africa lies in a mix of traditional power plants, some small-scale kits for individual households in remote areas and mini grids which operate at the village level. What’s more, they’ll all operate at different scales. Combining central plants and local grids will keep this demand going – and help people access the power they need.

Creating Reliable Grids

The majority of power generated in Africa still relies upon fossil fuels, alongside hydro-electric power from dams, to scale up energy generation. As urbanization across the continent increases and industry outputs continue to grow, it is likely that residents will see greater access to on-grid power. But even where grid power exists, service can often be unreliable, and daily outages are the norm.

In fact, about five out of nine countries in Africa experience regular power shortages and blackouts, costing their economies on average two percent of their GDP, according to the Africa Progress Panel. And a recent report by the Center for Global Development (CGD), which studied energy demand in 12 African countries, found that among those with access to grid electricity, at least half of the population suffer electricity outages at least once a day.

When the central grid is unreliable, it means that off-grid and mini grid solutions, such as generator sets, become the essential technologies enabling people to meet their basic needs. Even in urbanized areas, where grid networks are usually at their most developed, the mini and off-grid options are integral to everyday life. For example, in Nigeria, the CGD study showed that on-grid users in urban areas rely on generators more heavily than those with grid power in rural areas (51 percent versus 43 percent).

To meet Africa’s growing energy needs, these solutions, which are cheap and quick to install, are already filling the gaps left behind by on-grid systems.

Getting Off-The-Grid Power In Rural Communities

In many parts of rural Africa, kerosene is the most common energy source for cooking and electricity. But that fuel gives off toxic smoke that is harmful to human health and the environment. It also produces poor lighting, is expensive to buy and can be a major cause of fires.

Luckily, there are now modern, high-quality off-grid lighting and energy products on the market that offer real, sustainable alternatives to kerosene – mini grids and solar home systems.

Solar home kits typically include solar panels and a battery that supports power sockets, mobile phone adapters, and light bulbs. As the name suggests, home kits operate at a household scale and are very affordable.

Investments in solar kits have begun to boom, providing a simple way for companies to enter the market in Africa with limited risk. Initiatives such as Beyond the Grid, from the United States Agency for International Development’s Power Africa program, are part of this wave, with the organization encouraging development of future power access.

This growth effort creates positive results; according to a 2018 report by Reuters, at least 11 power companies providing solar home kits have moved into West Africa, with most making a noticeable impact since 2016. Speaking of development, off-grid providers have even been labeled “the new development banks”, as they give customers small loans to connect their households to the new systems. The provider can use the repayment records of each customer to create individual credit scores, allowing them access to power upgrades and further loan options for other household or business appliances. In other words, getting households connected now plugs them into the world for the foreseeable future.

Mini Grids – Another Decentralization Tactic

Off-grid solutions are on the rise, but with increasing demand for energy-intensive appliances, especially televisions and refrigerators, the small size of off-grid products cannot serve every need.

That means there is an emerging role for mini grids, which use a mix of renewable resources such as solar, biomass or onshore wind turbines, as well as udiesel generators. Mini grids are built at a village scale and require less capital investment. Importantly, though, they provide more power than off-grid systems, allowing rural areas to use machinery and equipment that enhance their own productivity.

Compared to expansions of a national grid, mini grid options are a much faster and cheaper option. They can also bolster national grids without eliminating them, instead providing continuity of power during interruptions.

Resilience In A Pinch, Dependability For Years

In 2015, two of Algeria’s main generating plants suffered power outages during the holy month of Ramadan. It was crucial to restore electricity to the population as quickly as possible. The Algerian state energy company turned to PW Power Systems, part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group, for an emergency solution.

Four mobile gas turbine units, providing 30 MW each, were completed, commissioned and brought online in less than three weeks, and they are still running to this day. Using natural gas as its fuel, these mobile gas turbines also produce significantly fewer emissions than diesel generator set solutions, pushing power generation closer toward the needed energy transition of the coming decades.

This example from Algeria shows how mini grids can be used to increase the resilience of existing electricity systems. When power cuts hit, businesses and households of all sizes can be affected, and restoring services quickly is not always easy. Mini grids, like the one installed in Algeria, ensure consumers have continuous access to power.

Future Expansions

The flexibility of power provided by mini grids will be crucial to expanding power access. Most mini grids in Africa are powered by diesel or hydropower systems. No system is perfect; diesel systems are at the mercy of fuel-supply disruptions and cost fluctuations; renewable energy generation still depend on weather and seasonal patterns, since consistent storage solutions are still in early stages. To remain as reliable as possible, mini grids can be built as hybrid systems, combining diesel with solar or wind power to mitigate these risks.

While significant investment is pouring into small off-grid systems such as solar home kits, the reality is that both grid electricity and off-grid solutions are currently inadequate to meet many African consumers’ modern energy demands. Mini grids ultimately fill that gap as helpers, rather than competitors, to off-grid solutions.

Ultimately, the emergence of mini grids shows that both on- and off-grid electricity can bring power-related social and economic benefits to millions of people across the continent in the coming years. By combining technology across different infrastructure platforms, the future for power generation in Africa looks bright.

A leading industrial firm, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group (40 billion USD annual revenue) is finding new, simpler and sustainable ways to power cities

Source: The Key To Unlocking Africa’s Economic Potential Lies In Its Power Supply

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