Siw Heggedal Longvastøl is the Commercial Counsellor at the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Director of Innovation Norway, South Africa.
Q: Let’s start with a question about the Norwegian utility product and services industry – it is a vast and impressive one. What does it offer Africa?
A: We like to refer to this sector in Norway as the Energy & Environment sector / Green Innovation and this is a sector where the most promising opportunities can be found. There are a number of companies with international experience and technology who could provide some solutions in Africa. For example, we see possibilities in water and sludge management, small scale hydropower and solar power generation. Furthermore, Norway has also developed a lot of expertise from the petroleum sector’s technology and expertise relating to the production and transportation of energy and this can also be accessed and used on the African continent.
Q: Any exciting projects that Norwegian expertise is currently involved with in Africa that you particularly want to highlight?
A: It is the view of the CEO of Scatec Solar that South Africa has some of the best conditions for solar power in the world. Scatec Solar is an integrated independent power producer, which develops, builds, owns and operates solar plants. The company that has been successful in winning tenders in South Africa (Kalkbult, Linde and Dreunberg) and Rwanda. In August 2014, Scatec Solar signed a partnership agreement with Norfund to jointly invest in solar power projects to be developed in all countries within Norfund’s mandate. In 2015, Innovation Norway signed a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) with the Mayor of eThekwini Municipality whereby our organisation will collaborate with the municipality to introduce new technologies into the region (the launch of the MoU is on 8 May 2015, to coincide with African Utility Week). There is quite a strong focus on water in this region and there are currently a few pilot projects which are being conducted with three Norwegian companies.
Q: Which particular geographical areas in Africa are the Norwegian companies interested in? And which sectors?
A: These would be countries where risk is taken into account and using Norfund as a “yard stick” as in the case of Scatec Solar may be a good way to approach the African market. Norwegian companies also don’t know enough about Africa and working with Innovation Norway’s offices in South Africa and Kenya (Uganda, Tanzania included) are countries which could be approached because we have a presence there and access to a number of programmes through our system in Norway. It also does depend on the opportunity and sector of focus of the Norwegian company. Sectors of interest include oil & gas, energy & environment (water, hydro, solar, wind, power generation & transmission), maritime & marine and ICT.
Q: What does the Norwegian business community see as the main challenges of doing business in Africa?
A: Understanding the business and social culture is important, language spoken in some African countries is not always English and could be a barrier in some cases, ease of doing business and the business environment – we often get comments as to how sophisticated the infrastructure is in South Africa, networking skills in terms of knowing who is reliable to speak to and give reliable information, decision making, getting projects going can take time and sometimes take longer than expected.
Q: Do you have a vision for this industry?
A: With focus on Climate change and Norway`s need for a shift from oil economy to sustainable economy with environmental friendly technology – Green growth Industry is high on the agenda – all of us need Clean Water, Clean Air, Food and more Clean Energy.
Q: What are the lessons that Africa can learn from the Norwegian utility industry?
A: Norway is strong in developing new technologies and solutions to make it easier to solve their challenges. Norway is a country with a small population (about 5 million people) and labour costs are very high. Norwegians therefore have to be very innovative in the way they approach problems and challenges in order to streamline and simplify processes. Africans are also very innovative and have had to develop new solutions to respond to challenges in the African market (for example development of Mpesa / mobile banking). I believe Norwegians and Africans should meet each other halfway to share skills and competence which are of mutual benefit to their markets.
Q: Why the decision to have a Norwegian pavilion at African Utility Week?
A: The Clean tech sector is an important sector for Norway and we are currently strategizing on how best to develop this and attract more Norwegian companies to the African continent.
Q: What/who are you bringing to the event – what will be your message?
A: We have six companies participating – all from various sectors, namely solar, hydro and water. Our message is that Norwegian competence can add value to the African continent.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week in Cape Town?
A: We want to see that the Norwegian companies develop the networking opportunities and contacts and how Innovation Norway can further assist by developing concrete projects and assignments.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: Norway is famous and highly connected to Ocean Industries like Fisheries, Maritime, Aquaculture and Oil & Gas. We also have strict regulations to environment – many of the Norwegian solutions that have been made, can also be used in other industries and areas.