Riding High On the Rising Renewable Energy Wave
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) For a managing director of an award winning company, it is unusual that Antony Ng'eno does not like wearing suits or formal clothes, unless he really has to. "I am a die- hard casual wearer," he confesses. After all, Ng'eno notes, in business it is not just about appearance but the work you put in and the relationships that one builds that are important. And speaking of relationships, Michael Chavanga, Ng'eno's high school friend and business partner, reveals that the latter's strong character and confidence has helped him steer the business to sustained success.
The two friends are directors of Winafrique Technologies, an integrated renewable energy solutions firm. It was only formed in 2001 but has already made over 70 installations of wind, solar and diesel hybrid systems to power GSM base stations for mobile firms in the country who are its partners.
Ng'eno studied at the University of Leeds in the UK where he graduated with an information technology degree and Mathematics. He has also studied telecommunications.
Winafrique has won several awards for its efforts in promoting use of renewable energy among them 2009 Green Telecoms Award, made the list in the 2009 Kenya's Top 100 Mid Sized Firms, Best Green LTE Product / Initiative at the LTE World Summit 2010 in Amsterdam, Holland and game changer Award this year given by the Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
The firm was also a finalist in the GSMA Global Mobile Awards 2010. "In year 2001 when no one really understood what renewable energy really was, we were already into it looking to develop it," recounts Ng'eno.
The fact that talk on renewable energy then was at a budding stage was both a blessing and a curse for Winafrique. Ng'eno reveals that it not easy to start a business from scratch "when no one even knows you and you have no past projects to sell yourself." And it was a blessing because being among the first firms to venture into that business means they enjoyed market dominance once it took off.
Chavanga who says Ng'eno was "very cheeky and persistent" right from high school adds that he is never one to give up easily. "Once he starts on something he will make sure he pulls it off. He is amazingly confident and his abilities," notes Chavanga.
And it is Ng'eno's persistence that got the company going, earning the trust of important clients like Safaricom who continue to enjoy the services of Winafrique.
Now the firm even associates with renowned global firms working in the same field of renewable energy. Some of the companies that Winafrique partners with from time to time include Bergey Wind Company U.S.A, VRB-ESS from VRB Power Systems Canada, Sanyo South Africa, DC Air Co, Netherlands and B+W Electronics Germany.
Winafrique is most notably saving mobile phone firms a lot of money in maintaining their transmission base stations with the wind and solar power generation models. This way they do not have to use diesel very much to power their stations. "Telecoms are growing fast in the country and coming up with good power solutions for them is a big step towards ensuring that the growth is maintained," notes Ng'eno.
Winafrique is also working to ensure that school and community projects in rural Kenya have power to spur economic development in such areas. "There are 14 such projects coming up within the year," reveals Ng'eno. "We are also partnering with Inveneo an American company to produce low power computers and these combined with use of renewable energy brings down the cost of using these computers." He added that renewable energy use in the country is still very low and at the development stage "Kenya has barely scratched the surface." It is a very capital intensive sector but according to Ng'eno the rewards are long term and worth every shilling invested into these renewable energy projects.
The company which is doing very well at the moment because of the growing interest in renewable energy is contemplating regional expansion into countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo.
With a power team headed by the two friends, the expansion plans are as good as done because as Chavanga notes "Ng'eno is very receptive to new ideas and never gives up until something he wants gets done." Ng,eno thoughts: I am not much of a sports fanatic but I am a fan of Jason Dunford.
In my opinion Nairobi is a very lovely place but without the robbery.
It was difficult to pull off a new business idea when it was not even very common then but I was confident and I knew how big this would become.
I am very particular with details Every time the company signs a new contract I always consider it a very big achievement it does not matter the value of the contract.
The best thing about me is that I know when to stop. I do not over do things.
In another life I would have been Alexander the Great! Copyright Nairobi Star. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).