Exclusive interview with Dr Konrad Bauer, consultant for the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and he will be manning the German country pavilion at the upcoming African Utility Week.
Q: The German utility product and services industry is a vast and impressive one. Tell us more about this.
A: Germany is well known worldwide for its capacity to develop new and innovative technologies and products. Also in the utility product and service industry we can find a lot of innovative companies that act on a very high level. Thereby, we can find high end technology but also adapted products for local markets. Important is to know that there are not only big companies working on the world market but also small and medium-sized companies that have very specific products. Thereby German companies very often are world market leaders, especially in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency. This is very much due to favorable political framework conditions in Germany in this field. We have a lot of products and services that are innovative and new on the market. German companies and also the German people are very much concerned about environmental issues. Politics have created local conditions where we can use the new technologies to reduce environmental pollution and to increase climate protection. These technologies can also be applied in other countries.
Q: What does it offer Africa?
A: Africa is a very strong growing market and the German companies see the high potential there. German companies supply innovative new products that were developed very often together with local partners. Especially in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency German companies offer a wide variety of specific products that can be used in Africa to increase a sustainable energy supply.
Q: Any exciting projects that German expertise is currently involved in Africa that particularly want to highlight?
A: Germany is very active in the African market especially with innovative projects financed by the German government. The German Development Organization GIZ together with German and local industry partners conduct a lot of projects. Thereby, German companies give support to energy projects in the local market like for example in the field of solar or bio energy. Also the German Development bank KfW finances projects in the African market. On the other side Germany also supports local governments to develop political frameworks for a sustainable energy market.
Q: Which particular geographical areas in Africa are the German companies interested in? And which sectors?
A: Germany looks at the entire African market. However, there is a specific focus in the Northern region of Africa, especially the MENA region. This is due to the close geographical location of this area and therefore the short ways for companies, but on the other side there is also a very high potential for the use of solar energy in the desert region with a very high insulation. Furthermore, the German companies are very interested in South Africa where we see a very good market in the field of solar energy, wind energy but also bioenergy due to the very high potential in specific African areas. But we see also very good opportunities for an energy efficient electricity or energy supply.
Q: What does the German business community see as the main challenges of doing business in Africa?
A: Africa has a very high potential for the specific technologies and is therefore a very good market for the German companies. However, there are some challenges that we have to meet, for example financing capacity is not so high and very often projects cannot be developed because relevant investors cannot be found. Also the infrastructure in the country is sometimes not adequate to conduct projects and install technologies as it is in more developed countries. Also what is very important is that there are sometimes missing skilled workers to supervise or install new technologies. But all together, we think that the chances in the African market are much higher than the challenges that we meet.
Q: Do you have a vision for this industry?
A: We think that technology in the field of environmental or sustainable criteria will be needed further more in the future. Since we have a fast growing worldwide population and therefore a fast growth of the energy demand we are convinced that we need more energy-efficient technologies and we also have to increase the use of renewable energy. So we think that the German companies that work in this specific field will have very good markets in the future and therefore a strong growth.
Q: What are the lessons that Africa can learn from the German utility industry?
A: We think from our experience in Germany that the political frameworks for the utility industry have to be well defined and transparent for all local partners. With this, the companies have security on their investments and their activities. The local energy market has to be open for different market players, so that best products at best price can find their way into the market. For this it is good to have an open market that is not strongly regulated by the government. However, there have to be political framework conditions that allow companies to have good access to specific market sections, so that they can offer their products and services at a good price. On the other side, the local government should create the conditions for cooperation between local and foreign companies to adapt the technology and services to the local demand.
Q: Why the decision to have a German pavilion at African Utility Week?
A: The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy has a very high interest in bringing German technology to foreign markets. So a worldwide analysis is made to find the best markets with the highest potential for future cooperation. We think that South Africa is one of the countries in the world that has a very high potential and that we have to be there to show German technology. On the other side the German government wants to support a sustainable development in the country. For these reasons the German government decided to bring a pavilion to the African Utility Week fair.
Q: What are you bringing to the event – what will be your message?
A: At the African Utility Week we want to bring information about new and sustainable technology in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy. We also have German companies with us that would like to enter the market and would like to cooperate with local companies, multipliers and decision makers. So our massage is that we want to be in your market, we are open for cooperation, and we would like to contribute to develop the local utility market to have a safe and sustainable energy supply for the future in South Africa.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week in Cape Town?
A: I am personally coming to South Africa for the first time and I am looking forward to meeting the local people to get an impression about the requirements of the local market. We would like to have good business talks with local companies, with politics, associations, and multipliers. So that we can discuss together what the South African energy utility market requires and find solutions how we can develop the market together. I am also looking forward to seeing Cape Town, especially because I heard about the beauty of the countryside so I am very excited to come here.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: Once again I would like to thank you that we have the possibility to be here with a German pavilion in your country. We hope that we can welcome a lot of visitors at our booth that are interested in German technology and services. Final goal is to initiate concrete projects and cooperation between South Africa and Germany, so that both countries can improve their economic wealth. Thank you very much.