the Visionary Lawyer
who believed in Renewables in Africa
*Azul fellam my dear RiA-der!!
We are jumping right into the holiday season and I guess soe of you are already enjoying a nice break somewhere in this world. Well, If i could attempt an advice, make sure you think of Africa as a destination, many great places to visit. One of them, Algeria! Do you know for example that it is the largest country in Africa? Oh yes!!! Our new interviewee for FAces of Clean Energy Africa or “FACEA” could tell you more about that.
With this series, we are getting to know OUR heroes, male and females, building up Africa Renewable Energy Industry.
We met him at the Global Solar Finance Conference in London and it was just a no-brainer to run an interview of him. A clear vionary and believer in Clean energy in Africa, he ventured into the Amazing land at a time other people were still hesitant. He is today one of the most knowledgeable entrepreneur operating in the space and one to watch. He is: Adel Baba-Aissa.
It is a real sense of privilege to be talking to an uncontested star and champion of Renewable Energy in Africa. Speaking to you at the #EmergingPV conference, it was absolutely clear our readers needed to find out more about yourself and RnE Partner.
Through the next 10 questions, we will get to know you and your company a bit better. Without further due, let’s kick off.
- 1- Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I was born in Algiers, Algeria but grew up mainly in London, UK. I studied law and I’m a qualified solicitor in England & Wales and attorney at law in New York, USA. I initially pursued a career in corporate law in London and Paris working on matters related to finance, projects, energy, and infrastructure worldwide.
- 2- What is RnE and what made you choose this type of business?
Renewable Energy Partner is a project development company and boutique advisory firm focused on emerging markets. RnE Partner was set out to help build the renewable energy industry in Africa by Africans – starting in my home country Algeria in 2013. Since then we have expanded to Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and hopefully this year Kenya.
- 3- What differentiate you in this crowded market?
Firstly, it is important to remember that when we started the market wasn’t that crowded. Most people still didn’t really believe in the continent’s potential. That wasn’t our case! Our aim has always been from day one to use the knowledge we developed outside the continent for the benefit of the continent. And we seek to ally that knowledge with local resources as much as possible.
When we started the market wasn’t that crowded. Most people still didn’t really believe in the continent’s potential. That wasn’t our case!
Our key differentiator also is our people. We have a fantastic team that has multi-GW experience in renewables (wind, solar, hydro) worldwide across advisory, development, investing, construction and operations combined with unrivalled local knowledge. Most of the team members come from the Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa and speak several of the main languages practiced on the continent such as French, Portuguese, Arabic and English.
- 4- You have been in the game for a little while and certainly in the vanguard for Algeria solar market, how has your business changed since the start?
As a business, we have had to adapt and change our business model as time has gone by. We started off as a pure-play large scale solar PV developer but over the years we expanded to the off-grid sector, the C&I sector and have expanded our consultancy to include strategic, technical and technological advisory services. Obviously as the business expands to new jurisdictions (Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and hopefully this year Kenya) we also face a new set of challenges despite the undoubted opportunity each of these markets has for us.
- 5- What challenges do you still encounter and how do you overcome them?
Like most developers, we still face the funding gap between when most of the capital is available (which is mainly at ready-to-build and/or construction stage) and when we actually need it (which is mainly during development). We have decided to overcome this by setting up an investment vehicle where we will raise third-party capital to deploy on our projects. More generally, the biggest challenge we are facing as developers is the evolution of the market globally which is directly impacting Africa – with the progressive removal of feed-in-tariffs and the shift towards a tender/auction model. This is squeezing out developers. That is also why we have taken the strategic decision to broaden our services beyond pure development as I mentioned earlier.
- 6- You strongly advocate for partnerships with local partners as opposed to big corporates when entering Africa Market could you elaborate why?
Yes we strongly believe that the continent has local resources which should be utilised. Like I said earlier, RnE Partner was set out to help build the renewable energy industry in Africa by Africans. That is why we always try to seek out partnerships with local partners.
RnE Partner was set out to help build the renewable energy industry in Africa by Africans. we always seek out partnerships with local partners.
We believe there should be room for more local players and more should be done by governments to foster and promote local champions as these companies will be the key to building local capacity, creating jobs and wealth for the continent.
- 7- You operate in Middle-East and Africa. What are the main differences between the two markets.
Thanks to strong political will and available capital, the Middle East has taken off quicker than Africa. However, despite the obvious opportunity in the Middle East, the market is much smaller than in Africa and much more crowded. For us, we have been more successful on the corporate advisory front working with both local companies looking to diversify their activities into renewables and international companies looking for projects in the region.
- 8- You have been recently named by Dii as one of the top 250 decision makers and thought leaders in the MENA region – Congratulations, truly deserved. How does it feel to be recognized?
We are pleased that our work is paying off and that we are being recognised as experts in the field through our work in North Africa. Hopefully our influence and willingness to make Africa a hub of renewable energy will continue to grow. Obviously, it is always flattering to be acknowledged by your peers; but this is not why we do this. We are driven by our passion to make a difference. To give back to our communities with each project by providing affordable and sustainable energy.
It is always flattering to be acknowledged by your peers; but we are driven by our passion to make a difference, to give back to our communities.
- 9- According to you, what is the best way to raise Awareness of Clean Energy in Africa?
I think awareness has come on leaps and bounds since we started. Stakeholders public and private are now much more aware about clean energy. However, the debate is sometimes somewhat skewed. I think more can be done both at the grassroots level, by talking to people in local communities, educating children etc…, and at the political level with governments to increase the speed of deployment of renewables on the continent.
- 10- What advice would you give to the younger African generation for them to own the development of the industry in the continent?
I think that is the KEY to unlocking the potential of the continent. Like I said more should be done to foster and promote local champions. My advice to them is believe in yourself and work hard to make it happen! We should also try to find more ways to connect and get to know each other that way we can share experiences and help each other out. Platforms like RiA should be nurtured to become a network for African REN entrepreneurs.
More should be done to foster and promote local champions. My advice to the younger African generation, believe in yourself and work hard to make it happen.
*Azul fellam : “Hello”
**tanmirt atas: “Thank you”
Kabyle is a Berber language spoken by the Kabyle people in the north and northeast of Algeria. It is spoken primarily in Kabylie (the Kabyle people region), east of the capital Algiers and in Algiers itself, but also by various other groups. According to INALCO (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales), there are about 5 million to 7 million the number worldwide, the majority being in Algeria. A very famous Kabyle is French footballer Zinedine Zidane.