Exclusive interview with Christina Wittek, Head of Division for the ‘German Energy Solutions Initiative’ at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The German Pavilion returns for the fourth time to African Utility Week in Cape Town in May 2018.
“More and more German companies are establishing offices in South Africa, not just because of the growing market for renewable energies, but as a gateway to neighbouring countries”
Let’s start with the German Energy Solutions Initiative run by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. What is the initiative all about?
The German Energy Solutions Initiative supports German SMEs tapping into foreign markets as well as transferring know-how and energy expertise. The aim is to foster smart and climate-friendly energy solutions focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grids and storage technologies.
In addition, new energy technologies like power-to-gas and fuel cells are the basis for cutting-edge energy solutions. The initiative also seeks to tie economic interests with international development. It is coordinated and financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The initiative offers market information, networking and business opportunities within and outside Germany; it showcases reference projects and facilitates capacity building abroad. I am head of the division responsible for the German Energy Solutions Initiative at the ministry.
What kind of activities are you involved in Africa?
In Africa, the whole range of activities that we offer are being carried out. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is implementing the Project Development Programme (PDP), which focuses on developing and emerging energy markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. The PDP is giving policy advice in order to help establish the necessary conditions for the implementation of smart energy solutions.
In markets that already have a German Bilateral Chamber of Commerce (AHK), we are facilitating networking opportunities between German and African SMEs, with their help, in order to foster business cooperation. Further, the initiative supports SMEs in realising reference projects designed to showcase “energy solutions – made in Germany”, as well as enabling them to exhibit at international trade fairs such as the African Utility Week. We also offer fact-finding missions to Germany for African company representatives and decision makers. Our aim is to enable them to gather first-hand information on energy solutions by visiting reference projects and demonstration sides.
This year we are organising about 30 activities related to the African continent. These activities include eleven AHK trade missions from Germany to various African countries, eight fact-finding missions to Germany, five information events on African energy markets which are taking place in Germany and two technology showcases presenting best practice projects using energy solutions “made in Germany” that have been implemented in South Africa and Kenia.
What kind of activities are taking place for and in South Africa this year?
This year, there will be a trade mission to South Africa. It will take place from 17 September to 21 September 2018 and will focus on the topic of ‘Self-supply with renewable energies in industry and municipalities’. On the conference day in Johannesburg on 22 September, the delegation of German companies will present their products and services to the South African audience.
Further to this, South African companies will have the opportunity to inform themselves about energy solutions “Made in Germany” in a Technology Showcase taking place in the second half of this year. Projects realised in South Africa using German technologies and know-how are presented at the Technology Showcase.
African participants can meet all of the companies involved in the implementation of the projects. The event is followed up by a workshop which provides a forum for discussing technical questions with experts. The evening reception provides the opportunity for further exchange between German and South African companies.
You will bring a German Pavilion to the African Utility Week in Cape Town in May. What kind of companies will be part of this stand?
We are very much looking forward to the African Utility Week. We will have seven German companies at our stand. All of these companies are energy solution providers: we have manufacturers of battery storage solutions and digital measurement equipment, providers of systems for producing, measuring, testing and calibrating electrical quantities as well as providers of cooling and air-conditioning technology. .
How important is the South African market for German suppliers of renewable energy technologies and services?
The South African market is a growing and attractive market for German suppliers of energy solutions. The German Energy Solutions Initiative has therefore been focusing on the South African market for years. Over the past few years, the importance of the market has been increasing. More and more German companies are establishing offices in South Africa not just because of the growing market for renewable energy, but also because it can be seen as a gateway to the neighbouring countries.
What about African markets in general?
Even though the energy markets are still at an early stage in some of the African countries, we see enormous potential for renewable energy, as well as the possibility to establish a sustainable energy system. This is especially the case in countries where access to energy is lacking. German companies have gained a great deal of experience and know-how in this area over the years and can provide the necessary technologies and expertise. The African markets have been gaining more and more importance within the German Energy Solutions Initiative over the past years.
In your view, what challenges does renewable energy face in Africa?
Like almost everywhere, the biggest challenge is financing, especially for small-scale installations. Therefore, it is very important to develop business models that are economically viable.
Through our Project Development Programme we support SMEs with the realisation of reference projects and joint ventures through advisory services such as project development, marketing and training activities. Policy advisory services support market development for renewables and sustainable investment in the region benefiting German and African companies alike.
Knowledge transfer and capacity building of local personnel are also very relevant: Through technical business and management training courses for African companies and business associations, we want to ensure that German and African companies both benefit from our initiative.
What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?
We are looking forward to interesting exchanges on energy solutions and are very happy to once again be part of African Utility Week.
What was your experience at last year’s African Utility Week?
The fair is a great platform for sharing insights about the latest developments in the clean energy, energy efficiency and water markets. With participants from many Sub-Saharan countries e.g. Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and The Republic of Congo, it serves as a gateway to promising markets with a rapidly increasing demand in energy.
Our German companies had many interesting discussions with African experts and companies from the clean energy sector. We appreciated the highly professional organisation of the fair and are happy to be part of it again in 2018.