Meet Ayobami Adedokun, the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur Solving Energy Poverty Through Solar Inverters
How it Started
Globally, there is a call for renewable and sustainable energy sources to reduce the irreparable harm done to our environment by the use of fossil fuel and the need to create an alternate source for when fossil fuel runs out. In my country Nigeria however, the need for an alternative source of power goes deeper than that, with grid electricity being so unreliable and most fossil fuel unaffordable for a large percentage of the population.
Research shows that more than 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to grid electricity. In Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy, 50 million people despite having access to grid continually have to rely on fossil fuel as an alternative source of energy, Forty-three percent of these households connected to the grid still make use of batteries and kerosene as primary sources of lighting, while 73% of households in grid-connected areas use rechargeable lamps, kerosene and dry cell batteries as back-up, depleting natural resources – polluting the environment and contributing to climate change.
My awareness of these dangers is not just based on widely published research. I experienced these personally, same as most Nigerians, in my younger years, when I had to study with kerosene lamps and almost burnt down the house a few times because I dozed off and my book caught fire. This is in addition to the long-term damage that the smoke and the poor lighting caused my young eyes.
This inspired me to start Sinnot Technologies – a renewable energy solutions company where we look for ways of solving “energy poverty” by providing affordable renewable energy innovations through solar inverters.
My TEF Story
I learnt how to design inverters as far back as 2008 during the Industrial training period of my university education. I started designing local inverters and repairing faulty imported ones in exchange for little sums of money with which I supported my education. As I continued my studies, I also kept on improving my inverter design.
In 2016, I applied for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme and was fortunate to be selected. In addition to the technical skills I had gathered during my technical training, I learnt financial management, improved my customer acquisition and service skills and got inspired to do more to contribute to my society. The seed capital I received from the foundation helped in securing workshops in Lagos and Akure and procuring production equipment for these workshops. Currently, both Akure and Lagos workshops can produce inverters while that of Akure also doubles as a training facility.
The hurdles we are crossing
I have experienced so many challenges over the years since starting Sinnot Technologies. Some of these are caused by the infrastructural or macro-economic climate and affect several other businesses in Nigeria.
An example is the issue of affordability caused by poverty; the people who need this alternate source of energy the most are the least able to afford it because even though we produce very rugged and affordable inverters, the high cost of the imported batteries drives the total cost of the system beyond their reach. To combat this, in our own little way and through our small network, we educate people on the benefits of solar power solutions and how to reduce their cost by optimising their load usage thus reducing the number of batteries needed.
The perception of locally made products as being of inferior quality works against us, it is common knowledge that the average Nigerian has a preference for imported products. While in the last decade or so, certain industries like fashion have experienced a shift in the favor of local products, in our sector, there is still an absolute bias towards foreign-sourced products. We have thus taken product packaging more seriously and are working to make our packaging more attractive. We also use the testimonials of satisfied customers as a key component of our marketing drive.
As a technology-reliant business, we suffer from the nation-wide scarcity of top-notch technical skills: very few engineers have good practical knowledge of electronics design and we are bridging that gap by offering training as part of our business.
One of our projects (SHomeDev) won Best Project 2017 and we were the only Nigerians to qualify for the final stage at the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition organized by UNESCO in Germany.
We have also trained over 1200 youth on solar innovations since 2017 and currently have an exclusive partnership with Ondo State NYSC Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship development programme.
The next phase
We would like to increase our production capacity so that we can reduce the unit cost of production and the eventual cost to our end users.
We want to expand our training initiative beyond the 700 Ondo state Youth Corp members and the 500 engineering students of the Federal University of Technology in Akure that we have trained so far to have a full-fledged training institute.
I am committed to training others so that more tech-entrepreneurs can work together to save Africa from energy poverty.
If you or someone you know needs our services, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348068118888.