GreenWish targets Nigeria, others in $800m investment in telecom

PHOTO: Aera Group

GreenWish Partners, a renewable energy company run by a former Morgan Stanley executive, is planning to invest $800 million on solar-powered telecommunications towers across Africa.

The project could fuel economic growth by providing power for essential services. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rates of energy access in the world and is home to about half of the world’s 1.2 billion people without reliable electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

The problem extends to businesses as well as households, cutting into productivity and growth.

“We reduce the total cost of power by 30 percent,” said Charlotte Aubin-Kalaidjian, the founder and chief executive officer of GreenWish, who was formerly a managing director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. “Smaller towers can run entirely on solar and battery and larger ones reduce their diesel use by at least 60 percent.”

Aubin-Kalaidjian is in discussions with other telecommunication companies in Africa. Greenwish expects to extend its partnership with Orange beyond the DRC, moving into other markets such as Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and Ivory Coast.

Africa has more than 240,000 telecom towers, which convey signals to and from mobile phones. Most of them are powered by diesel generators because they’re often attached to unreliable grids or in remote areas without power network access. The hybrid systems developed by GreenWish combine a solar panel, a battery and a diesel generator to provide complete off-grid reliability.

Africa’s telecom industry has exploded in recent years, leapfrogging traditional fixed-line infrastructure and moving straight into mobile phones and Internet services. Services have becoming increasingly competitive with local companies taking market share, setting off price wars and squeezing profit margins.

Mauritius-based Greenwish has partnered with Orange SA and will begin with 250 towers in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year. It’s aiming to reach 3,000 towers across several countries by 2018 and 10,000 by 2020, Aubin-Kalaidjian said.



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