The government of Togo, like many African governments, is working to use renewable energies to electrify its rural areas. Photovoltaic (PV) systems are particularly suitable for these settings. They are key to generating electricity in off-grid areas, because the starting conditions are excellent in many countries. Thanks to this technology, countries in Africa can take their electricity supply into their own hands. The problem is that there are too few well-trained maintenance staff. Due to improper installation and maintenance, systems fail – a circumstance that disappoints hopes and torpedoes ambitious goals.
This lack of expertise has led to the creation of Energy Generation, a non-profit-organization based in Lomé. With the project “Entrepreneurial Training of Installers and Maintenance Technicians for Photovoltaic Solar Systems”, in short “Formation Solaire”, Energy Generation has objectives to teach 60 young people how to plan, install and maintain PV systems, thus opening up a booming business field for them. Young people who successfully complete this training, if they want to start a solar company, can then apply for a one-year incubation grant with their project idea.
Founded in 2016, Energy Generation sees itself as a pan-African organisation. They are pushing the idea of qualified training for solar technicians because the founders of a previous project had learned that many ideas and projects fail due to a lack of know-how in installation and maintenance. In the meantime, Energy Generation has developed a curriculum for training in cooperation with the non-profit Schneider Electric Fondation. The organisation has also built a campus in Lomé where 200 young people can be trained each year. In 2019 alone, 61 people have already gone through the training, 50 per cent of them women. Since 2016, Energy Generation has been promoting and supporting young entrepreneurs in the field of renewable energies.
Young people from Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, the three francophone focus countries supported through Green Citizen Energy, can apply for the “Formation Solaire”. In total, the project will select 15 participants with a technical school or university degree per country. The three-month training on Energy Generation’s campus in Lomé enables participants to install and maintain photovoltaic systems and solar irrigation systems. Through practical exercises, they become capable technicians. Theoretical knowledge on renewable energies and business management will also enable them to develop their own business idea in the field of solar energy. Those who do not want to start their own business are prepared for the job market in targeted workshops. Throughout their time with the project, the learners will have access to the resources of the Energy Generation Campus. All participants receive a stipend and those who do not live in Lomé are also provided with accommodation.
At the end of the training, participants return to their countries of origin to apply what they have learned. Those who excel with their business idea will receive a one-time financial award and are accompanied by Energy Generation for a year during incubation. The budding entrepreneurs go through a multi-stage distance learning course that focuses on business strategy, product development, marketing and communication, among other things.
In regular one-to-one sessions, Energy Generation ensures that each entrepreneur progresses with the project and also provides theoretical support. The goal is to develop the start-ups into a successful, growing company.