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Nigerian-South African relations: “We are brothers”

Exclusive interview with Jerry Ehanmo, Commercial Director –  North West Africa Region for Conlog.

The company recently opened its first office in Nigeria and will also be part of the South African pavilion at the upcoming Future Energy Nigeria in Lagos from 12-13 November.

Can we start with some background on Conlog – there is a proud history there.
Conlog was established in 1965 as an electronics design company. Throughout our history, we have continuously provided innovative solutions to everyday challenges. Our pioneering spirit has enabled us to retain our position of leadership in the industry and has helped us stay relevant to the market.

We are passionate about solving challenges with innovative technological solutions. Back in the 60s, our focus was predominantly in the industrial sector, we produced mainly monitoring devices and alarms. In the 70s we continued with industrial specialisation, but our focus expanded to incorporate motoring and control devices. Later on in the 80s we diversified into new industries such as lighting, automotive alarms, and cruise controls, and then made our big break into electricity prepayment towards the end of the decade. In the 90s we excelled within the automotive products and prepayment solutions. After decades of diversification, we decided to specialise in electricity prepayment solutions.

We now have the world’s largest base of smart meters and prepaid solutions. We have been specialising in prepaid solutions for over 20 years. Our footprint spans across over four continents and 20 countries. Over 70 utilities use Conlog metering solutions, and we have thousands of vending units installed around the world.

Tell us more about your business interests in Africa and in Nigeria in particular?
At Conlog, we aim to create access to energy for consumers in Africa in its most basic form through the use of technology and other market tools. Conlog has a footprint in Africa spanning more than 25 African countries. We are Nigeria’s number one meter brand for reliability and quality; we have so far, installed over 1 million meters in Nigeria.

To further strengthen our commitment in Nigeria, we recently established a subsidiary, Conlog Metering Solutions Nigeria in Lagos, which is duly licensed by NERC (Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission) as an MSP (Meter Service Provider). Our core objective is to support Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) deliver on their mandate to supply, install and manage robust metering solutions (metering hardware and software) for Nigerian Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) under recently passed MAP regulations. In furtherance of our commitment to geo-expansion and deepening our market presence in Nigeria in particular, plans are also afoot to establish a local manufacturing facility in Nigeria to facilitate the transfer of skills and techmology in the metering space across the continent.

Any particular projects that Conlog is involved in currently that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with the Discos and MAPs across Nigeria to achieve the objectives of the MAP regulations recently passed by the regulator. The main objective of these Regulations is to achieve the following:

a. Encourage the development of independent and competitive meter services in Nigerian Electric Supply Industry (NESI).
b. Eliminate estimated billing practices in NESI.
c. Attract private investment to the provision of metering services in NESI.
d. Close the metering gap through accelerated meter roll out in NESI.
e. Enhance revenue assurance in NESI.

Our partner company, CIG Metering Assets Nigeria Limited has been selected by two of Nigeria’s leading distribution companies – Ikeja Disco, and Eko Disco and allocated $60 million worth of meters in the first wave of tenders with Conlog providing the full suite of solutions to support the delivery on both projects. We expect more procurement waves going forward to fill the metering gap.

Conlog is part of a South African pavilion at the Future Energy Nigeria conference and expo in Lagos in November. What is the unique offering by Conlog for the Nigerian energy market in your view?
We specialise in providing prepayment solutions for the delivery of electricity services. Our broad product offer encompasses prepayment meters, vending, revenue management, maintenance, support, and consultation, as well as a dedicated and accredited training facility for all aspects of prepayment. This comprehensive and holistic approach enables customers to reap the full benefit of their investment and ensures sustained success into the future.

In Nigeria, Discos have not rolled out prepaid meters to the extent required by the regulator due to lack of liquidity and weak balance sheets (restricting ability to raise debt funding) which has led to huge collection lossess as electricity customers pushback against estimated billing. Our metering solutions will definitely stem the customer apathy towards electricity payment by providing assurance of fair billing and improving collection rates.

How excited are you about Nigeria as a business destination?
The opportunity for meter roll-out in Nigeria is approximately 39 million meters over the next 10 – 15 years. Estimates are that only 43% of 8.3 million registered customers are metered (3.6 million) and 50% of those meters are obsolete (1.8 million in working order), resulting in 6.5 million meters needing installation. NERC has mandated all Disco’s to meter all unmetered customers by end 2021 (three years). Out of 41 million Nigerian households, 33 million are not registered (likely need to be metered). There is an untapped market of 33 milliom households.

With our experience of operating in Nigeria for over 22 years coupled with the recent license by NERC to operate in Nigeria as a MSP, the opportunities in Nigeria are endless.

 The meeting of the South African and Nigerian presidents at the summit in South Africa recently was hailed as a big success and it was attended by many business people from both countries who already have extensive business interests in the other countries or plan to. This follows incidents of xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa earlier this year. What will Conlog’s message be at Future Energy Nigeria?
As a business, we are invested in enabling an environment and promoting a culture where love and mutual respect flourish. As a multinational business, Conlog prides itself on its rich cultural and ethnic diversity. We endeavour to maintain harmonious relations with all our stakeholders on the African continent.

We see ourselves (Nigeria and South Africa) first as brothers with a common heritage, and as the two leading economies in sub-Saharan Africa, we share a collective responsibility to catalyse growth and development across the continent. To achieve this, Conlog will continue to provide support and, or partner with other industry players in creating access to energy.

What are you most looking forward to at Future Energy Nigeria?
We look forward to interacting with customers and other stakeholders on proffering lasting solutions to the energy challenges in Nigeria.

In this digital age, how important is an exhibition still nowadays in getting your message out and meeting potential business partners?
A key focus at Conlog is continuously striving to improve our product and service offering to our customers. Exhibitions such as these, enable us to interact with our customers and other industry players to assist with understanding the broad spectrum of customer needs and better ways of meeting those needs.

Also read more here about Conlog’s new office in Ikeja, Nigeria.

Annemarie Roodbol
Annemarie Roodbol is a communications practitioner based in Cape Town.