Kagiso Leepile - Elanga Energy Solutions
Faces of Clean Energy Africa - Kagiso Leepile from Elanga Energy Solutions

*Molo my dear RiA-der! Unjani?

Africa is full of talents from all type and being in a young industry (yes, no matter what you think Clean Energy is still young, barely at “toddler” ages) it is impressive to see how diverse background of our Heroes are!!! Don’t believe it yet? Well just look at Habiba, Adel and now our new interviewee and you’ll see from yourselves. At Faces of Clean Energy Africa (FaCEA), we love and celebrate our pioneers. AfriCAN!

 

INTERVIEW

Dear Kagiso,

It is an absolute pleasure to be talking to a Young Star of Africa. Since the first conversation I had with your co-founder Zolile, I could see there was something special about the company you are building. RiA strongly believes in inspiring the younger generation and I am sure your story will resonate with many across the continent.

 

Through the next set of questions (10), we will get to know you and your company a bit better.

1- Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Kagiso Leepile, I’m a Johannesburger born and raised. Soweto is my hometown, a creative artist, lensman and motion picture practitioner. And now I’m the Co Founder of Elanga Energy Solutions which is yet another one of my ambitious business ventures.

 

2 – What is Elanga and why did you decide to set-up this company?

Elanga is an energy solutions’ provider, we have a particular focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions for private citizens in their homes, businesses in both the public and private sector. Our country is faced with an energy crisis and we are exploring ways of fighting energy poverty and creating alternative avenues of generating, storing and distributing energy in both urban and rural South Africa. Our country also has an exquisite ecology and were hoping to use renewable energy as the enabling technology to promote the preservation and conservation of our natural resources. Assisting in diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels and alleviating the pressure on the grid while decreasing our carbon footprint in our country and the continent as a whole.

 

3- Solar market is a lot more mature in South Africa compared to other African countries so what makes Elanga special?

The solar market in our country is over two decades in the making and has evolved over the years, the energy market has for a long time been dominated by the same players and its about time that we diversified its role players. We as Elanga are attempting to unify and centralize the various sectors and create a mutually beneficial symbiotic economic growth and development strategy which is all inclusive, dynamic and sustainable. We are turning all of our competitors into partners because in unity we are able to find strength and forge a constructive force made up of all the affected players trying to make a difference in this industry.

Elanga is special because we are turning competitors into partners, in unity we are able to find strength and make a difference in this industry.

4- To build up skills and capabilities South Africa has a black empowerment policy, being a 100% black-owned organisation does it benefit in any way your company?

On paper we are compliant, we fit into all the relevant categories and have checked all the right boxes. But in reality, that is a far cry from the potential for both our growth and job security. Unfortunately the theory is in no way proportional to the practice within the energy sector. The socio economic state of our country as well as the political climate in our country doesn’t foster the right environment for the application of such policies at grass roots level where we are attempting to create a foothold.

 

5- How useful is the policy to companies wanting to work with you?

The policy is like words on paper, and the working relationships are not the problem…its the failure of the powers that be to police, and ensure that the legislation is adhered to that is letting us all down. There are also various other bodies and unions’ of all sorts that govern the building, construction, housing and energy sectors, then there are a myriad of other logistical issues such as having to register with and be active members of set organisations in order to gain access to those markets. The rise of cronyism and forms of corruption that plague the industries’ create difficulties with the securing, forming and maintenance of such relationships between ourselves and other interested parties. On the other hand, it is this very policy that made it possible for our partnership with Specialized Solar Systems and paves the way for us to be able to provide world class products and services as well as solutions that are ideal for the African market and have been tried and tested all over our country and also across our borders.

Kagiso at an Elanga partner office
Figure 1 – Kagiso at an Elanga partner’s office

6- What are your main challenges and how are you tackling them?

Operationally, we are at the mercy of the whimsical nature of our end users and their lack of knowledge on the energy sector. They are not energy wise and neither are the custodians of these municipalities’. That coupled with the nonchalance of the leadership and their unwillingness to make the difficult decisions and to take the associated risks involved with the shift to alternative energy and the logistical and administrative burden of managing this transition has prevented the rapid rise and expansion of renewable energy. Energy efficiency education and training is non existent from the powers that be and it seems like everyone loves the idea but nobody is willing to take up the challenge. Either that or we’re going to all the wrong places and knocking on all the wrong doors. The purchase and installation of solar systems has a high capital expenditure burden and most people are looking at the bottom line in the short term as opposed to looking at the long term benefits associated with saving energy.

For the purchase and installation of solar systems,most people are looking at the bottom line in the short term as opposed to looking at the long term benefits associated with saving energy

We are in talks with many different organizations about creating partnerships’ and working agreement’s going forward, but it seems like our inability to secure appointment’s with the decision makers is being perpetuated by their gate keepers. By the time the information gets to its intended recipient it has been filtered and watered down resulting in our message being lost in translation. The shift in power in our country and within the corridors of power creates more challenges than solutions. I could go on about how were in the center of Johannesburg and our core markets are spread out far and wide across the country and that creates a challenge for us to be able to commute to them, present to them our solutions and secure their business or their interest in procuring and implementing our solutions within their respective areas. I mean if we had about half a million Rands just for us to go out there and aggressively market and promote our products and services, show and tell them all over the country…we would be able to secure the signatures and buy in for all of our solutions.

 

7- You are a strong advocate for using technologies to address specific needs of remote and rural communities, could you explain how you are reaching out to these populations?

We have a detailed and comprehensive website, we are pussing our .co.za on all available social media platforms. We have taken to print media and are exploring the medium of television but that too is a costly exercise, we have done radio interviews and have entered local and international competitions. We have approached the power utilities and requested that they enlighten us as to the areas where we can best service the people without creating undue competition with them and have as yet been sent from pillar to post. We are sending requests to all municipalities across the country but have as yet failed to secure or generate the interest in our solutions from the municipal managers albeit we are getting requests from private citizens’ for our products and services.

Kagiso following his green energy track
Figure 2 – Kagiso following his green energy track

8- I know you have developed a very good proposal for schools in South Africa. What regions are you targeting? Are you planning to roll this out later to other African countries (SADC and beyond)?

We have targeted every region, we don’t discriminate when it comes to schools and education. Wherever there is a school, we want to be there… Schools have been earmarked as the front lines in the fight against energy poverty and we would love nothing more than to see all of Africa adopting our technology and the implementation of our various technologies across the continent. We used to joke that we want to meet up with Akon somewhere in the middle of the continent with our solar energy drives.

 

9- You are coming from a completely different background, from the photography and film industry, what can Clean Energy from your original industry in Africa?

The television industry is run on battery power and uses vast amounts of fossil fuels with their use of generators. Cameras are run on batteries and there is a shift towards the use of led lighting on set’s…therefore clean energy can be the preferred power provider for those industries’. Although as a film maker we are not electricians we have to be clued up about the energy sector and aware of the amounts of energy we need to generate and utilise in the pursuit of excellence in our craft.

 

10 – What advice would you give to other young South Africans for them to own the development of the industry in the country and contribute to the wider continent?

Don’t give up, we have hit a million and one hiccups and speed bumps along the way and instead of giving up, we went back to the drawing board and reinvented ourselves as well as recreated our position in the market. We were forced to adapt in order to survive. Even though were at the mercy of the world, we know we are ready, willing and able to tackle any and every challenge that could be thrown at us.

Kagiso on top of his game
Figure 3 – Kagiso on top of his game

I would like to close by asking this. “if NASA uses solar power to power satellites in space, space stations and rovers on mars…then why aren’t we all using it to empower ourselves?”

if NASA uses solar power to power satellites in space, space stations and rovers on mars…then why aren’t we all using it to empower ourselves?

Thank you for the time and for speaking to RiA. We will remind our RiA-ders that your company website is: www.elangasolutions.co.za and they can reach out to you by writing to .
info@elangasolutions.co.za.

**Enkosi: “Thank you”

 

 

*Molo, unjani : “Hello, how are you” 

**Enkosi: “Thank you”

Xhosa is a Bantu language with click consonants and one of the official languages of South Africa. It is spoken by about 18% of the South African population (approximately 10 million people). It is spoken mainly in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Free State and Northern Cape in South Africa and also in Lesotho.

Xhosa was the mother tongue of the GREAT GREAT Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

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