The last decade has seen African and world leaders emphasizing the importance of effective and affordable energy solutions for the mighty continent. In 2013 President Barack Obama traveled to Tanzania as part of his Africa tour and launched a five-year endeavor aimed to increase energy development and economic growth in the continent.
Called the Power Africa Initiative, the governments of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libera, Nigeria, and the United States, along with the African private sector and the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) have been working together to design its strategy and implementation. As part of this collective initiative, the Beyond the Grid programme is responsible for building successful partnerships with investors and turning the more than $1 billion invested into smaller off-grid projects throughout the market.
Nigeria in particular has experienced many problems in generating and distributing power throughout its modern history to a staggering population of over 185 million people. Though Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy it falls far below the continent’s average grid capacity per capita. The average Nigerian uses only three percent of the electricity the average South African uses. Only one in four Nigerians have access to the grid and when they do, it’s not for more than a few hours a day.
The role that both government and private investors play in increasing accessibility to electricity needs to greatly adapt.
The Role of the Private Sector
Nigerian entrepreneur Benedict Peters is the founder and CEO of Aiteo Group, one of the leading energy groups in Africa. Peters believes in the importance of collaborating with local communities to form joint energy strategies and projects that can translate into strong lasting relationships in the international arena. He states that the current energy crisis in Africa can be hugely minimised by microgeneration. This initiative, which consists of setting up small scale electricity-generating systems as opposed to larger projects like the Democratic Republic of Congo’s controversial hydroelectric dam, would allow electricity to be brought onto the grid at a faster pace and would benefit more remote, rural communities who are so in need.
Countries like Nigeria and the DRC have the empty land and the sunlight needed to set up a system of solar panels that can begin powering small communities. But the obstacle in obtaining and implementing these projects is not accessibility, but funding. The well-known and internationally funded initiatives tend to be larger scale, which take longer to implement and benefit the larger energy companies and population centers. Nigeria is beginning to stress the importance of microgeneration projects which benefit remote communities and are much faster to see results. It is believed that this kind of initiative can be implemented throughout many African countries and can in just a few years begin to reshape the way the continent manages their energy production.
In August of this year Alternatio Navitas company, based in Lagos, unveiled its ambitious plans for an off-grid solar home system to make use of the abundant sunlight in Nigeria and meet the needs of households across the country that lack sufficient energy from the national grid. Alternatio Navitas CEO Tayo Ogidan says his company is on track to completely redefine the country’s use of renewable energy and efficiency. The technology needed to create solar panels improves drastically each year, and similarly, the cost of these solar panels decreases each year.
This happy occurrence, paired with such an abundance of sunlight in the country creates quite the advantageous circumstance for attempting to execute lasting energy efficiency. The company’s director notes that new solar panels can last up to twelve years when used consistently for eight hours a day. The panels themselves are durable, needing only a relatively inexpensive battery replacement every few years.
Bringing Energy to Africa
Initiatives like these may seem simple to the west, where very few have to worry about being able to access power and electricity. But for the world’s most underdeveloped and least urbanised continent, collaborative efforts to bring energy efficient, environmentally beneficial, and accessible power and electricity to small communities is a major leap towards advancement.
If several such microgeneration projects are successfully executed and normalised, it can mean remote communities across Nigeria and greater Africa will experience an affordable way to receive sustained access to electricity. Additionally, the implementation of these projects can create more jobs and mobility in small towns, working to connect rural areas both physically and technologically, to larger ones.
Building Customer Relationships
Are you working in a retail environment? Explore the Wits Plus online short course in Customer Relationship Building through the DigitalCampus.
Most retail businesses agree that providing excellent customer experience is imperative for a retail store to be successful.
But what is customer experience? According to Forrester, an independent market research company, customer experience is “How customers perceive their interactions with your company”.
They explain that good customer experiences have three relevant characteristics for the customer:
- They are useful, thus deliver value and meet customer needs.
- They are usable, so the value is easy to find and engage with.
- They are enjoyable, and emotionally engaging so people want to use them.
The customer ‘interactions’ are the two-way exchanges that customers have with the company. A customer will make a judgement as to whether the company meets their needs, is easy to use and enjoyable to do business with. These judgements happen every single time the customer interacts with the company: when they navigate the company website, call the contact centre, enter the retail store, buy company products, talk to an employee, respond to an advert and so forth.
Providing excellent customer experience is challenging. The systems and processes required for excellent customer experience include understanding your customers, building a positive emotional connection with them, capturing and acting on feedback, developing and training everyone in the company and measuring the return on investment. All this is difficult enough to manage in a national company but what does it mean in this age of international and multinational companies?
Related: Customer Control For Entrepreneurs
Providing a superb customer experience is first underpinned by understanding the cultures, history, experiences and sensibilities of customers and then respecting them. Again, this is more manageable if your company is national and its cultural values are aligned with the national values and history. However, achieving this in a multi-national organisation where the historical experience and cultural values of the organisation may not be aligned with the country they are operating in, can be a real challenge. A diverse workforce is also imperative to providing an outstanding customer experience and the importance of diversity is magnified in a multinational organisation.
This is demonstrated by the infamous ‘H&M hoodie incident’ that happened early this year. In Sweden the only jungle is urban, there are no wild monkeys and the black population is relatively small. As one would expect in a Scandinavian organisation, the H&M group board has good male-female diversity, but there are few black Swedes in senior decision-making positions. Few Swedes have experienced how skin colour can provide an all-pervasive feeling of difference, of ‘us and them’, and they have little, if any, understanding of these issues on a personal level.
However, H&M is a global organisation and therefore needs to have an intimate understanding of the different cultures and sensibilities of their customers in the different countries where they have a footprint; and respect them. The simple expedient of introducing a process whereby a local executive ensures that a new product is culturally sensitive could have demonstrated some organisational understanding of this issue.
The H&M hoodie debacle is an excellent example of how not understanding the customer can negatively impact on customer experience; how it can break the emotional engagement with customers and lose their trust. This incident has made it difficult for South African customers to engage positively with H&M. The importance of diversity in the senior teams throughout a multinational can directly impact the customer experience and the bottom line. In short, one picture and a hoodie nearly undermined the reputation of the organisation in South Africa!
Are you working in a retail environment? Explore the Wits Plus online short course in Customer Relationship Building through the DigitalCampus.
Entrepreneurs Can Explore Opportunities In Growing Digital Textile And Interior Décor Markets
Those wanting to explore opportunities in digital textile printing can speak to experts at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.
According to Mark Sollman, application manager at Mimaki, ‘Digital printing technologies are revolutionising the interior décor business. Not only can these items be produced more rapidly and with less waste than with traditional manufacturing processes, digital printing offers the ability to customise – or even personalise – interior décor.’
The global printed textile market is huge, estimated at over 32 billion square metres of output annually. Print is widely used to decorate the surface appearance of furniture and surfaces. Digital textile printing is ideal for customisation – allowing consumers to print unique products for their homes or businesses.
There are also emerging niche opportunities. For example, with the wide use of online travel review sites, hotels are increasingly keen to deliver a fresh experience. A ‘TripAdvisor effect’ has been identified, with the claim it reduces the hotel renovation cycle from every seven years to every five years, consequently boosting the market for printed décor.
There are many T-shirt printers offering a web-to-shirt service, where the buyer uploads their own unique image to be printed on to a garment on demand. The printing takes a large part of the value and will be done close to the buyer. For a fashion collection, stock-outs may be avoided by printing and making popular sizes and styles locally in small quantities.
This makes higher manufacturing cost less of a problem, and internet retailers can extend this with only commissioning the product after a sale has been completed online. Increasingly, supply chains are being pressured to provide greater flexibility, which inkjet textile printing is able to provide.
Applications with interior décor include; customised wall coverings and photo wall murals; window coverings and wall decals; curtains and blinds, cushions, lampshades and bags.
Those wanting to explore opportunities in digital textile printing can speak to experts at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre. There are also a range of educational features, including:
Visit this hands-on workshop where printers can learn different techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb, who has been in the screen printing industry since 1976, and heads up Taublieb Consulting in Greenwood Village, Colorado, a company specialising in technical screen printing consulting for textile printers. This takes place from 12-14 September, in hall 1 on the Rexx Screen & Digital Supplies stand.
T-Shirt and Bag Printing Workshop
Free demonstrations by local experts on T-shirts and bags with speciality printing techniques, direct to transfer and screen printing. For more info visit http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica5
Explore Business Opportunities In Print At The Sign Africa And FESPA Africa Expo
Business opportunities will be showcased on various exhibitor stands at the upcoming Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.
|TIME||WED 12 SEP||TIME||THURS 13 SEP||TIME||FRI 14 SEP|
|09H30||Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems.||09H30||Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems||09H30||Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems|
|10H30||Midcomp hall 3: Work smarter with the HP R2000||10H30||Midcomp hall 3: Business opportunities in branding bottles and more.||10H30||Midcomp hall 3: T-shirt printing on the DCS 1800 mini Flatbed printer.
|11h30||Maizey Plastics hall 3: T-shirt graphics using Poli-flex Turboflex Heat Transfers.||11H30||Maizey Plastics hall 3: Working with Plexiglas – A variety of tools will be onsite to demonstrate correct working techniques.||11H30||Maizey Plastics hall 3: Doming using UltraDome|
|12H30||JG Electronics hall 1: Start or expand your own corporate gift branding business||12H30||JG Electronics hall 1: Investigate adding white toner T-shirt printing vs traditional printing.||12H30||JG Electronics hall 1: Investigate adding white toner T-shirt printing vs traditional printing.|
|13H30||Uprint hall 1: Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown.||13H30||Uprint hall 1: Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown.||13H30||Uprint hall 1: Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown.|
|14H30||Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb||14H30||Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb||14H30||Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb|
For more information, and to pre-register online, please visit http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica4.