Renewables in Africa
Lucia Wamala, MD of Bakulu Power (Photo credit: Planet Earth Institute)

From outsider to insider, Ugandan free-thinker Lucia breaks the (green)code!

Summary

Faces of Clean Energy Africa – After the fantastic Chib, this week, Entrepreneur and Managing Director of Bakulu Power, Lucia Wamala shares her insights about the renewables industry in Uganda. Named by Forbes as one of 2017’s most promising entrepreneurs, Lucia is definitely one to watch for the ambitious RiA-ders looking to follow in her footsteps

 

Interview

What type of business is Bakulu Power and why did you choose to start this adventure? 

Bakulu Power is a Ugandan renewable energy services provider. Our mission is to provide modern, affordable, reliable energy products and services that will contribute to environmental protection, sustainable economy and social development in these communities.  We provide custom solutions such as mini-grids, solar water pumping units, biogas digesters, biomass briquetting units etc. I started the company because I saw a need and my life was redirecting me.

 

What are your goals on the short/medium and long term?

Right now we’re focused on our integrated development project in Buvuma district. We’re developing 3 solar mini-grids on islands (Namite, Kiregi and Lubya) with a few ancillary services as well. It’s such an exciting project because it’s transformative. We look forward to growing with the communities and seeing how electricity will enable industry and improve lives. We believe that we’ve created a sustainable model for rural electrification and plan to replicate it in the medium term. My long term goal is to start operations in other EAC (East African Community) countries, starting with Rwanda.

Bakulus Power
Figure 1: Bakulu Power’s data collections team, during a social economic study (2017)

 

What are the challenges a business like Bakulu Power encounters on a daily basis?

Personally, time management can be tough. It’s a challenge that pretty much all of us face. The good thing is that with experience you start to learn how to prioritize and delegate. My brother often talks about “busy idiots” and I never want to be that!

 

What would you say sets you apart from the competition or what is unique about you and Bakulu power?

I’m unique in that I’m really myself. When I was incorporating someone suggested that I give myself the title of “managing director” and I felt that people would read that and expect a super serious person in a pinstrip suit, haha. Not to say that I’m not serious (because I am!) but I’m creative and free spirited. I think I have a different vantage point from most energy executives. It used to make me a little insecure at first but it’s one of my biggest strengths.

Lucia: “I’m creative and free spirited”

Bakulu Power is unique in that we don’t create solutions in a silo. The team is very diverse in thought and we challenge each other. We aren’t a hierarchical group because everyone is an expert in his/her area.

Lucia Wamala
Figure 2: Managing Director Lucia Wamala, lecturing at Yale University

 

Being from a different background, what can you say you have learned from your experience in the industry so far both personally and professionally?

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what industry you are in, people are people. No matter what you’re trying to do in life you need to assemble a team to accomplish the goal. When I worked in fashion/entertainment I would have to assemble talent, hair, make up, photographer etc. It’s all about recognizing what kind of people you need, bringing them into the fold and stepping back to let them do their respective things. Interesting that you mention personal vs professional life because as an entrepreneur they are pretty much the same thing. Building a company is so consuming that the line blurs.

This is one of my favourite quotes:The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both” – James A. Michener

My favourite quote: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always Doing both” – James A. Michener

 

Can you please tell us about your proudest achievement so far?

I’m most proud of the team I’m assembling. Everyone is so amazing and a pleasure to work with. It’s exciting for me to be a part of their personal and professional development. I would love for us to be like the PayPal mafia.

Mr Fred
Figure 3: Mr. Fred Tuhairwe (Bakulu’s Director of Regulatory Affairs) and Mr. Aggrey Muramira (Chief Administrative Officer, Buvuma District), finalising an agreement for land lease and a profit sharing with the district

 

How do you see the future of renewable energy in Africa in general and especially in Uganda? Do you have any plans across the borders?

Renewables are the future of energy in Africa. Uganda’s in a great circle! Its geographical location at the equator uniquely endows it with abundant sunshine and high temperatures year round, making it a consistent and reliable solar resource.

Yes, we do have plans across the borders. Regional integration in the EAC (East African Community) allows us to operate in member states.

 

Last year you have been listed by Forbes among the 30 most promising entrepreneurs in Africa, can you please tell us about that? How did you feel?

I’ll never forget calling my dear friend Laudia and screaming for like 30 minutes. My daughter was jumping around with excitement too

I’ll forever be thankful. I do my best every day to live up to the honour and told my daughter that one day mommy will be on the cover!

Lucia Wamala
Figure 4: Managing Director Lucia Wamala’s keynote at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2018 (Photo credit: DENA)

According to you, what is the best way to raise Awareness about Clean Energy in Africa?

I think the best way to raise awareness is to make the issue relatable to people. I spoke at an event once and kind of joked that we weren’t going to talk about energy at all and that we would talk about life. The organizer looked very uncomfortable, haha. I wasn’t really joking though. I’m not an engineer so I don’t look at the issues through that lens. I even joke that I’m in the people business, not the energy business.

Lucia: “I’m in the people business, not the energy business”.

Do you have any advice for other young women entrepreneurs getting started in the industry?

Try. Just try! Talk about your vision and seek out people who can be a part of it.

Thank you very much Lucia for your time. It has been a great honour to be talking to you. We want to remind our RiA-ders that they can reach out to you by writing at info@bakulupower.com. Keep making us proud Lucia. RiA loves you!!!!

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