HomeRegional NewsAfricaAfrican Utility Week takes a bow after two decades…

African Utility Week takes a bow after two decades…

What’s your favourite memory?

African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa has welcomed thousands of delegates, exhibitors and visitors over the last 20 years.

African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa conference and exhibition rebranded last week and launched its slick and bright yellow and black new look and Enlit Africa officially took to the stage of energy events.

One might almost be forgiven to think that it was just part of the “BIG CHANGE” that 2020 happened upon all of our lives and most industries out there.

However, as much as we have embraced change and upskilled to pivot from live events to digital, we should not be scared to look back on history and celebrate how far we have come. It’s always good to reflect and see how much things have changed but at the same time realise how certain values and challenges remain timeless.

We celebrate African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa that was for many years a trusted brand and an institution and just part and parcel of the annual energy event calendar.

Event organisers Clarion Events Africa were also able to add “multi-award winning” to its description after walking away with top honours in the top trade show and best show overall categories for four times at the AAXO ROAR Awards in recent years.

Small and intimate

“The first conference that would grow to become the huge platform that African Utility Week became was actually called South African Prepayment Week,” says Claire Volkwyn, contributing editor of our sister publication Smart Energy International, and for many years the content and event producer of African Utility Week.

She says the first edition of what grew into a 12,000+m² conference and exhibition that has hosted tens of thousands of delegates and visitors from around the world was “actually a small and very intimate affair with about 100 people attending, mostly meter suppliers such as Landis+Gyr (still a partner to this day) and Eskom staff. It took place at Eskom’s training centre in Midrand.”

It was no coincidence that the event started as a prepayment focused meeting, as South Africa has become widely known as a pioneer in this specialised sector. However, says Volkwyn, the growth of the event has mirrored the way the sector has expanded to encompass so much more than just the metering side of the business.

Already working on the new Enlit Africa programme for 2021, Volkwyn says the new brand and vision represents “the consolidation of a journey that African Utility Week started, a truer reflection of the integrated nature of the sector the way it is now. We used to kind of think things operate in isolation and increasingly we realise that that is not the case and that the knock-on effects are felt all over.”

SEI editor and Enlit Africa programme producer Claire Volkwyn and ESI Editor Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl have become seasoned broadcasters over the years, skills that came in handy when the events sector went digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trailblazing event

Independent energy expert Ted Blom has been a regular featured speaker at the event over the years: “African Utility Week has established a trailblazer path over the past 20 years and has proven uniquely useful to established players in the industry, and more so for new entrants.”

He remembers as a particular highlight being part of a discussion on the future of the power sector: “I was fortunate to deliver a view of future energy configurations, which predicted a diminishing role for a major backbone grid, into microgrids. In less than three years later, this is now becoming reality. I feel very privileged to have been a small contributor to the success of this first chapter leading to massive future investments into Africa.”

Ted Blom addresses the media at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The magnitude of African Utility Week (AUW)

While the organising team (and clients alike!) have thoroughly missed being live and onsite at the CTICC this year, there is one member of the team who was particularly disappointed. For Clarion Events Africa’s HR manager Liezel Killingbeck, manning the info desk at African Utility Week has become an absolute annual labour of love and has given her a deeper understanding of the teamwork that the staff are capable of to pull off such a massive event.

“The first time the team asked me to assist I thought, I know nothing about exhibitions since I’m not in operations, how can they think that HR can man the information desk? We used almost all the space in the CTICC so, for the first time, the magnitude of AUW hit me. When we went for our first briefing I thought that this is chaos, yet the next morning when we started, everything just fell in place.”

For Clarion Events Africa’s HR manager Liezel Killingbeck (right) manning the info desk is an annual highlight.

“I think that since my first AUW experience I have seen how an exhibition allows the whole company to work as a team and how courageous this team is when faced with all the challenges thrown at them regularly. This gives you a lot of respect for the role that each person plays, no matter how big or small. I look forward to continuing my annual trek to the CTICC for Enlit Africa!” 

An inclusive guide

“In partnership with our sister media brand, ESI Africa, the event has evolved into what we are today, Enlit Africa, an inclusive guide to the continent’s energy transition for our clients, partners and all industry stakeholders,” says Chanelle Hingston, Group Director, Power & Energy for Clarion Events Africa.

“Our new brand will continue to be Africa’s premier meeting place for the entire power, energy and water value chain. We are an energy event unlike any other – because we’re more than just an energy event. We are a community that for 365 days a year will gather and engage through a blended live and digital platform called Enlit Africa Connect, to meet and inspire each other via content and connections.” 

ESI Africa’s Esther Kabeya (left) and Chanelle Hingston, Group Director, Power & Energy for Clarion Events Africa launching the new Enlit Africa brand during the recent live broadcast of Digital African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa.

Hingston adds: “Enlit Africa will also remain the home of well-known and much-loved meeting forums such as the Utility CEO Forum, Municipal Leaders Forum, Future Energy series, Women in Energy and Initiate.”

Due to COVID-19, the live edition of the event was postponed twice this year, but the organisers are committed to run the live event again at the CTICC in Cape Town from 11-13 May 2021.  

Hingston notes: “We are aligned to the industry goal of increasing access to reliable and affordable electricity and water on the African continent. Through consultation with our African partners, the event will continue to deliver a scaled continental marketplace enabling ease of business through professional learning, networking and connections.

“Whether through the live event in Cape Town bringing together 10,000+ visitors and 360+ partners or through the digital community of 88,000+ energy professionals, we have the platforms and routes to market, to share ideas and thrive in our engaging African market.”

Glamorous awards galas have always been part of the AUW experience.

Long live Enlit Africa!

A video of the new identity can be viewed on the new event website.

The full programme of the most recent event can still be viewed on-demand, register here to get access to the Swapcard platform: https://www.african-utility-week.com/digital/general-admission

Worldwide series
Enlit Africa forms part of a worldwide series of events focused on power, energy and utilities that have rebranded and are now under one unified brand, including partner events Enlit Europe, Enlit Asia and Enlit Australia. The Enlit series is part of the UK-based Clarion Events Group’s Clarion Energy Series, which runs over 40 events that cover the oil, gas, power and energy sectors, making it one of the group’s largest portfolios.

Clarion Events Africa is a multi-award-winning Cape Town-based exhibition and conference producer across the continent in the infrastructure, energy and mining sectors. Other well-known events include Nigeria Mining Week, Africa Mining Forum and DRC Mining Week.

  • Do you have a favourite memory of African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa over the years? Let us know!

Digital Energy Festival
The following sessions are still available to watch on demand as part of the Digital Energy Festival for Africa:

   – African Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa sessions, (now Enlit Africa) click here – FREE access
   – ESI Africa sessions, click here – FREE access
   – Oil & Gas Council sessionsclick here

The Digital Energy Festival for Africa in 2020 was hosted jointly by four of Clarion Events’ leading energy brands Africa Energy ForumAfrican Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa (now Enlit Africa) and the Oil & Gas Council’s Africa Assembly and the leading energy journal ESI Africa providing six weeks of compelling content.

Annemarie Roodbol
Annemarie Roodbol is a communications practitioner based in Cape Town.