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Exclusive interview with Christina Wittek

Christina Wittek is the Head of Division for the ‘German Energy Solutions Initiative’ at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and with organisers of the German Pavilion, returns to African Utility Week in Cape Town in May 2017.

What kind of activities are you involved in Africa?
In Africa, the whole range of the 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. 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 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 17 activities related to the African continent. These activities include ten AHK trade missions from Germany to various African countries, two fact-finding missions to Germany, two information events on African energy markets which are taking place in Germany and one technology showcase presenting best practice projects that have been implemented in South Africa. We will also be presenting at a further trade fair in Egypt.

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 29 May to 2 June 2017 and will focus on the topic of ‘Industrial Energy Efficiency and Solar Thermal’. On the conference day in Johannesburg on 30 May, the delegation of German companies will present their products and services to the audience from South Africa.

Further to this, South African companies will have the opportunity to take part in a Technology Showcase during the third quarter of this year. Projects realised in South Africa using German technologies and expertise are presented at these events. African participants can meet all of the companies involved in the implementation of the projects. The event is followed up by workshops which provide a forum for discussing technical questions with experts. The evening reception provides the opportunity to network.

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 eight German companies at our stand. All of these companies are energy solution providers: we have manufacturers of battery storage solutions and digital measurement equipment, as well as providers of systems for producing, measuring, testing and calibrating electrical quantities, a provider of services for wind, solar and biogas applications, and solar companies.

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 the African market?
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. We see the African markets gaining even more importance for German suppliers of renewable energy technologies and services in the future.

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. One possible business model is the PV renting approach which I mentioned before. PV renting means that one entity invests in a PV system (system owner) and rents the system to a second entity (system operator). The system operator uses the electricity and pays a monthly rental fee to the system owner. Furthermore, the system owner then gets the option to buy the system after 10-15 years (similar to car leasing).

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 last year at 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 2017.

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.