Following the great interview we had with Samaila Zubairu, CEO of African Finance Corporation, we are continuing this week with another exclusive and wide-ranging interview with World Class CEO, Ricardo Machado of Aenergy. See below points we have discussed:
- Ricardo Machado, the man
- Aenergy fast growth
- Local Capital Mobilisation
- Baseload and green energy
- The importance of R&D
- Fair tariffs
- ISO 37001: Anti-bribery Certificate
- Universal access by 2030.
- Message for young African entrepreneurs
Want to listen to the Live Interview? Click HERE
Good morning and hope you’re doing fantastic! This is Tony to you from Renewables in Africa, your African clean energy champion. Today, we are going to talk to a very inspirational CEO of Africa that we met at the Africa Energy Forum. We covered a range of topics with him about himself, the company and what he sees for Africa. So, listen carefully to this interview and Enjoy!
RiA (Q1):Good morning, Ricardo! It’s a pleasure talking to you today. You are a very important personality for myself and my company, Renewables in Africa. It is a clean energy consultancy as well as a media platform. Today, we’ll go through a range of questions to know more about your company and its vision. So, first of all, could you briefly introduce yourself?
RM (A1): I’m Ricardo Machado. I’m the founder and owner of this company. I’m 39 years old. I’ve lived in Angola for the past 15 years working on climate change which is the basis of the company. I believe that climate change efficiency is the basis of everything around us. I created this company about 5 years ago predominantly for projects that deal with reduction of CO2 emissions. That is the purpose of this company; that it should be environmentally efficient. Efficiency is climate change friendly. If I can speak about myself, I try to be efficient in everything I do because we cannot waste time. Time is one of the few things we cannot buy and if you lose one second, it’s gone. We must use time properly and that is more or less the image of myself and the company. We are using our time, no matter how long, to do our best work. That’s why Aenergy has been doing well for the past 5 years because we believe it is possible. We work in Africa, for Africa and are not trying to expand to another continent. We want to use experiences from other continents, but we want to build and grow in Africa because we are Africans. We are not a company born from a rock and investing in Africa; we are proudly African. We are one of the few energy companies that have this DNA and it is unique. We really feel like we can make a difference in Africa. Climate change and efficiency is always in our projects.
RiA (Q2): That’s certainly very interesting for me running my own company but also for the industry. Aenergy was only born in 2012, how were you able to grow so fast in Africa?
RM (A2): End of 2012. To be honest it was really simple because we give everything we can to the projects and clients. Sometimes the clients don’t know what they need because they have so many other problems. The big companies usually think they know everything, but they don’t know the clients and I think the reason we grow so fast is because we know the clients and live with them. We are not far from them and that’s why the company was built from the DNA of Africa. We really know their needs. We had complaints that we didn’t have much renewables in our portfolio. Before, in other to make the baseload, we did gas and diesel. In Europe, they have coal. So, in Africa, we didn’t have to only use solar previously. This was where we needed to start up from to then go “green”. We understood the dynamics and that’s why we made a difference. We understood that we need the energy today but energy that is always available and efficient. We always want to deliver the best products to our clients even if sometimes it might not be the best economical solution.
RiA (Q3): You mentioned that we need to have baseload to make sure that we can provide the basic power to the population and then move into green energy. Being an engineer, I was saying to myself where do we set the limit to baseload and move into green energy?
RM(A3): We never really limit. Africa is too dynamic and powerful to set a limit for power. It depends on the dynamic of the city. Mainly, we need to have a balance between renewables and the baseload which could be gas or diesel. We need to set up a mix that works together and find solutions. We always need to provide the best solutions to the clients. We cannot be radical and depend solely on renewables; it’s not possible right now. We need to adjust to the need of the clients. We provide the most efficient solution; if we need to provide solar with thermal, we do.
RiA (Q4): That’s so important and I absolutely agree with this message. You’re talking about the most efficient solutions so I imagine that Research and Development (R&D) would be an important component for that for the company and Africa as well. I was wondering what your take is on R&D in the fight to achieve universal access and what specifically is Aenergy doing in the R&D space?
RM(A4): That’s a good question. It depends what is inside of R&D. For me, it provides solutions for the clients like lower cost; it’s our kind of research and development. We are investing a lot in it. We are not a technology company. We try to work with all the big labs and try to mix for the most efficient solution. We are using the natural capital from the clients to finance energy projects. We have projects turned into pilots and more than 10 countries are trying to use the pilots. We invest in this kind of R&D focusing on natural capital like trees, CO2 for solutions. We can go to clients and say that we can offer them X million dollars with our research and work which you can invest in efficient energy. This is the kind of R&D we’ve been doing with results. The financers need to buy natural capital and need to invest in specific projects that help the population. You need to have a good plan for them to invest.
RiA (Q5): That’s the kind of information we would be happy to display on our media platform. I want us to talk more about your business. You mentioned in one of your previous interviews that there was no point talking about cost reflective tariff if the tariff is not fair to the population. What is fair? Do you have a figure or a range?
RM (A5): Fair is fair to be honest. Fair is a price the client can pay to have the energy. It’s a decision from the politicians. The fair price is the lowest price you can generate power. I can increase the price by 20% for the first 3 years but after 2 years, the government or client would start having problems paying and we don’t want that to happen. I prefer having the lowest possible price from the first day and then reflect that on the tariff. However, the logistics in generating power is so huge that nobody would do that. What we want is long term solutions which is the fair solution. The problem is even when they need fast power, we try to produce the most efficient solutions and we provide it 2-3 years maximum. We have solar, thermal and gas. All these affect the tariff .
RiA(Q6): I wanted to talk about something you achieved that was significant to me. You’re the first African business that has been awarded with the ISO 37001 which is the anti-bribery certificate. I wanted to know how significant this is for your company and for Africa?
RM(A6): I think that was one of the biggest goals we’d achieved. A few clients asked why we were trying to achieve this rather than the ISO 14001 which is an environmental certification. I said we are already doing all we can in the environmental aspect, so I don’t really need an ISO for that. We needed to show that internally we have a system that works, and we were growing so fast and wanted to ensure that our DNA stayed in place. This is important because it shows our clients that from the top to the bottom of the company, we are working well. We have regular check-ins of how things are done. This kind of practice is a problem in Africa and everywhere, so the certificate shows that we are following all the rules in providing the best solutions for our clients. The client is the end consumer. It is really important that we follow all the rules even if it takes a longer time. We want to provide a fair solution. Yesterday, I saw my team fighting for a cause that provided for a client. I wasn’t with them, but I saw them and was very proud. That was very rewarding.
RiA (Q7): From your gestures, it shows that you’re a firm believer in Africa. Do you think we can achieve universal access by 2030?
RM (A7): Everyone likes to have big numbers. We have 54 countries in Africa; many languages, dialects and needs. We have countries like South Africa and others that are not so developed. The needs are so different. It is not a question of if we can achieve it or not. However, I’m not guaranteed that we will by 2030. We need power while some people don’t but definitely access. The main thing to achieve in the next couple of years is to realize that we are doing all we can. I’m doing everything I can to achieve the goal step by step.
RiA(Q8): You’re a very young CEO and you’re already achieving great success. Do you have a message for the youth of Africa especially the young entrepreneurs?
RM (A8): The message is I believe I can do it. I believe in my skills to do it. The point is even if I don’t have the skills, I fight, and I work for it. The problem we have today with the young entrepreneurs is they think they have a place because they are young and work well with laptops and that is a challenge we have to face. When I started, nobody believed it was possible to achieve what we’ve done today. As long as you’re doing all you can to provide solutions, everything becomes easier. You need to love what you do, be passionate and don’t work just for the money. Work for the main goals and purpose because when you achieve that, everyone recognizes what you can do. It’s like a marathon, the main thing is if you ran it to the end. You need to work hard. Train your brain and your skills. I wasn’t an energy expert, I studied. As soon as there is an opportunity, work towards it. Don’t give up! Find the right partners to grow with to have the best solutions.
RiA(Q9): Ricardo Machado, it was a pleasure talking to you today. All I can say is keep going and Obrigado!
RM (A9): Thank you!
Listen to the interview HERE