Rafiki Power wants to provide reliable energy access for people in developing countries
Please introduce yourself (Daniel Becker, CEO) and your start-up Rafiki Power to our readers!
Daniel Becker is the Managing Director of E.ON Off Grid Solutions GmbH. He has more than ten years of experience in finance and investments, media, and renewable energy. He studied international business, finance and investments as well as renewable energy management. In July 2013, he founded E. ON Off Grid Solutions as the first start-up within E.ON’s start-up program :agile accelerator. Under the brand name Rafiki Power (Swahili for “Friendly Power”) the company operates as a mini-grid developer in East Africa with offices in Düsseldorf, Germany and Arusha, Tanzania. To date, Rafiki Power has successfully installed eight mini-grid solutions (solar PV & battery) serving more than 900 households with clean, renewable, sustainable, and reliable electricity.
How did you get the idea to Rafiki Power?
Daniel: “By coincidence – I was having a coffee when someone told me that there are 1.2 billion people who don’t have reliable access to energy. I figured that overcoming this energy access deficiency wasn’t only a challenge but also a promising market. So I was really excited to start a project within the E.ON :agile accelerator incubator programme and to realize my ideas.”
How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?
“We had and still have to face a myriad of obstacles. Even though every setback is frustrating, we learned a lot about how the business works in Tanzania, so every obstacle is also an opportunity to grow as an organization. Today, we have overcome most of them but the biggest one is affecting us quite regularly as it concerns policy and regulation. Central open questions are tariff settings, grid standards, subsidies, what happens when the grid arrives, permit requirements, and the like. These uncertainties drive costs and most importantly create doubts in regards to financing, which makes scaling up very difficult. We are currently working closely with the government and donors to clarify these open questions and hope that Tanzania and other African countries realize the need for reliable energy and eventually adjust their policies.”
Who is your target audience?
We want to be the first choice energy provider for off grid solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, we want to convince villagers as well as business people living and working in rural and remote areas of our off grid solutions. For our efforts to be successful, however, we also rely on the help of potential partners and investors who want to support our project.
What is the USP of your startup?
The use of mini-grids spares expensive transmission lines as they are being used for expanding the national grid, and it also prevents electrical losses since the energy is being produced on-site. Compared to smaller solar PV systems which are usually installed on a customer’s rooftop, mini-grids allow a higher electrical performance as well as the use of electrical appliances, and thereby provide an urgently needed infrastructure in villages in rural areas, which then again serves as the basis for economic development.
After three years and eight pilot projects, we have finally managed to develop a technology platform which is specially customized for mini-grids. Our technology platform underpins the services we provide to our customers, our customer team, our engineers, and management. It unifies a set of vendor-agnostic components to provide a standardized set of functionality across all of our sites, and can be deployed across national and regional boundaries. It comprises the following core components:
1) Site communications link
2) Smart metering systems
3) Mobile money payments
4) The AMMP software platform (Advanced Mini-grid Management Platform)
With the above technologies, we enable innovative customer management and business model opportunities, as well as unparalleled remote access and management capabilities that allow the cost-effective operation of grids in remote, physically challenging locations.
Can you describe a typical workday of you?
Daniel: I think the best part about my job is that no workday is like the other. Sure, there are always e-mails to check and meetings to attend, but what’s special is that I learn something new every day. We are permanently working on our strategic development, so I do lots of research, read articles, and review my findings with colleagues. The resulting discussions are not only helpful, but also very inspirational as I get to adopt different insights and new points of views. This is what I appreciate most about my daily experiences at work.
Where do you see yourself and your start-up Rafiki Power in five years?
Rafiki Power wants to provide reliable energy access for people in developing countries to improve their quality of life in the long run. Our plan is to rapidly scale up over the next years in order to bring electricity to thousands of households in rural Tanzania as well as to replicate this in other countries. Our vision of the future shows a world where everyone has access to reliable energy from clean, affordable, and sustainable sources.
What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
1. Always think one step ahead: Our initial plan was to just provide energy in rural villages so that the villagers could make use of it. For some reason, we did not realize that people without energy access do not necessarily own electronic devices. That’s why we decided to modify our original business plan to offer productive-use products as well.
2. Don’t want too much too soon. We have probably built too many mini grids in the beginning. Proceeding more slowly with more iteration loops would have been a good idea.
3. Set up a team that you want to work with permanently. Thereby, you do not only avoid handovers but also give the team the chance to grow jointly.
More information you will find here
Thank you Daniel Becker for the Interview
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.