Joan Chahenza - An African Power & Energy Elites personality

Joan Chahenza is a Renewable Energy Finance Professional with her main areas of expertise in Power Purchase Agreements development and negotiation, financial modelling, and project structuring both on a project and corporate finance basis. She has been involved in tariff setting and PPA negotiation of major renewable energy projects in Kenya whose total project cost is over $1 billion.

Joan is a Future Energy Leader at the World Energy Council, a Young African Leader Initiative (YALI) Power Africa, Women in Africa Power 2019 fellow and a fellow of the Open Africa 2020 programme.

This interview was originally published in African Power & Energy Elites 2021.

WHAT INDUSTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR ARE YOU LOOKING AT FOR INSPIRATION?

The African banking and finance sector is an interesting space that is evolving. This sector plays an important role as financial intermediary and in capital formation, which is critical to embrace innovation and change. I believe business leaders need to learn how to manage complexities and craft contingency plans.

I will single out one business challenge in the industry sector, i.e offtaker risk. Most power markets in Africa are single buyer models, where bulk electricity is sold to a single offtaker. In most cases, these offtakers are state-owned utilities often perceived as not being creditworthy, so governments are required to guarantee investments which puts pressure on African governments. An uncreditworthy offtaker situation in most African countries is further compounded by the fact that only two countries in Africa have a financially viable electricity sector, i.e. Seychelles and Uganda.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY AS A LEADER IN A TIME WHERE LEADERSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER?

I believe that business resilience and continuity has been tested during the COVID-19 pandemic. In moments of disruption, crisis and uncertainty the true spirit of a leader is tested and proven, and the foundational values of a leader are exposed. It is in these times that leaders need to be anchored on strong business fundamentals. It is during times of disruption, chaos and crisis that leadership is needed the most. I believe that leaders should clearly communicate their vision and action plans, ask for help where possible as it is not expected that a leader will have all the answers, and be positive that the situation will change. Remaining an authentic leader during this period and building confidence in teams enhances trust.

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