jodie“Change usually only occurs when something becomes so painful, the industry is left with no option”

Exclusive interview with Jodie Sherwin-Hill, Executive Director, Jomat Investments, South Africa. During the water utilities track at African Utility Week on Thursday 14 May, Jodie will address the delegates on: “Change Education saves time, energy and money”.

Q: Any specific project updates/success stories that you can share?

A: In Soweto, users had not paid for power previously on a social housing project. Through a pre-education process they managed to see the benefits to them of paying for electricity through a smart metering device via the mobile phone.

The regulator and other members in Nigeria appreciated and understood the importance of emotional intelligence in communication to stakeholders.

Pre-education process in Secunda, other sites in Tshwane allowed home owners to feel considered in the process and felt valued and therefore saw the benefits of the use of new technologies, smart metering solutions (gas, water and electricity).

Q: What in your view are the main challenges currently to the energy industry in Africa? 

  • Infrastructure cannot support new technologies entering the environment
  • A lack of understanding on how to get ‘buy in’ from communities, previously not used to paying for utilities
  • A lack of education, across the board
  • An attitude of avoiding issues (theft, community challenges, poor infrastructure, corruption) until the pain becomes so great that something needs to be done about, generally overly costly.

Q: What is your vision for this industry?

A: Effective and efficient delivery of ‘practical’ utility solutions that benefit all stakeholders.

Q: Tell us more about your organisation and your activities in the utility industry?

A: Jomat is extremely focused on change education and originally developed the model specifically to assist the utility industry in considering all stakeholders in the roll out of solutions or tariff changes.  Understanding people is core to any project and we love assisting organisations to pre-empt change.

Change usually only occurs when something becomes so painful, the industry is left with no option.  We rather look at what the benefits are of the change, new technology entering the environment which allows effective delivery and saves times, money and resources.  Social facilitation is where we love to be involved and believe it is paramount to the success of any industry.

Q: You are part of the conference programme at this year’s African Utility Week in May, what will be your message?

A: As Peter Drucker said ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’.  You need to be considering and understanding the entire ecosystem, every stakeholder, employee, and community member.  By understanding at the forefront via a pre-education process, rather than waiting for issues to arise places you in a strong position to ensure smooth transition, effective communication, and ‘buy-in’ for successful delivery.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?

A: I am looking forward to engaging with those involved in this space (public and private) and understanding their problems, strategic thinking via thinking outside the box, to assist them to move forward.

I love hearing the strengths of the presenters that are innovating specifically to assist the utility space to grow in Africa.