Africa remains one of the most difficult markets to penetrate, riddled by bankability issues and a distinct lack of the right kind of strategic partnerships. To expedite and support solar investment on the continent, SolarPower Europe and the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme (RECP) have teamed up to facilitate business cooperation between African and European stakeholders.
The RECP is a development programme funded by the European Commission and several EU member states including Austria, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Pooling resources of market information and specific project opportunities, SolarPower Europe and the RECP will conduct targeted match-making activities; connecting projects and local partners with the right financiers seeking investment opportunities.
“We wanted to explore some emerging markets, for several reasons,” said Bruce Douglas, chief operating officer at SolarPower Europe. “One is to pass over our knowledge and experience that was gained in Europe – and that’s over 100GW of installed capacity in Europe so far – in new and emerging markets to help them develop.
“Secondly, for our members: we have over 150 companies represented, and a lot of them are looking for new opportunities and new markets, so this should help facilitate their expansion into those markets. Thirdly, to develop the solar power in those new regions; especially in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America.”
Focusing on Africa specifically, the RECP proved the perfect partner for this venture; with its primary focus on sub-Saharan Africa, an interesting market with huge potential for solar power development. However, it is also a challenging market in terms of investment risk, logistics and resources. The goal in collaborating with the RECP is to increase the development of projects in Sub-Saharan Africa over the coming years.
Now is a particularly strategic time for the partnership, according to Douglas, with growth in the major European markets such as the UK and Germany beginning to slow down. “There is a lot of interest now in going to new and emerging markets and specifically those which present large growth opportunities, such as Africa. We are really looking at bringing help and experience to those markets that most need it,” he added.
To close the gap between European companies seeking investment opportunities, and local African partners on the ground, SolarPower Europe can divert RECPs services to its members; giving them support and advice on entering the African solar market through tailored events and the identification of funding opportunities. SolarPower Europe will also be incorporating the objectives of its Solar Bankability Project into the RECP events, through presentations, webinars and reports.
“The way we will try to facilitate this is to organise events or small workshops with maybe 100, 200 people and combine with an info session, with resources, knowledge and experience on development of solar power,” said Douglas. “This could be on financing, permitting, or development generally. Then we also have a match-making event with a professional match-making service that organises face-to-face meetings between the European companies and the African counterparts. It's a very formal, well-organised business meeting to try and accelerate that process of making partnerships, setting up projects and identifying funding.”
SolarPower Europe is hosting an African solar investment forum – an informational and networking session at Solar Media’s Clean Energy Live event in October. Details of this and other programme events can be viewed on the Clean Energy Live website here.