‘Nigeria’s power sector needs huge investment to provide regular electricity’
Walid Sheta as the new Country President of Schneider Electric Nigeria. He has over 18 years work experience within the Schneider Electric group, serving in various top management capacities. Walid took over from Marcel Hochet who has served as Country President for the past 10 years. He spoke with journalists recently on the company’s plan for the country’s power sector. ROSELINE OKERE was there. Excerpts
SCHNEIDER Electric has been involved in providing energy solutions in Nigeria. What is the company’s contribution to access to energy in Nigeria?
You might have heard about access to energy. That gives you an idea of how Schneider Electric wants energy to be accessible to everybody. Our ambition is to have 10 million people per year having access to clean energy around the world. This initiative was implemented in Nigeria ahead of many other countries.
We also have a solution called ‘Water of the Sun’ where you just have to put a black box on a pump or on a borehole and it can generate clean water without being connected to any generator. The initiative we implemented in Nigeria about three years ago is now being improved and exported to other countries. We brought to Nigeria state of the art innovation.
Like in Durumi, and the 10 villages in Ogun State, we have done a lot already. We are going to continue to make sure that most villages have access to electricity without being connected to the grid. It may be difficult to connect villages to the national grid in the short term. The solar solution is one of the key solutions we have implemented. The pilot is working very well not only in Durumi but also in 10 more villages.
As a big player in the energy market, what do you think could be done to provide regular electricity in the country?
The privatization of distribution companies is extremely important. It is a governance decision. It is a decision related to the well being of the people, because in this case, you are empowering people. This is why there are many distribution companies. It is better to have small entities that are flexible, adapting to give the best service.
So as a tactical move, it is really what is being done in most countries to provide better services.
Of course, we do have renowned experts worldwide that are working with utilities around the world. In Abu Dhabi, we have contributed to the design of the smart grid. So it’s a vast industry where there are many specialists, our specialty is managing these energy flows.
To answer the question about solar, Schneider Electric’s solutions are not limited to street lighting. It starts from massive solar farms; the biggest one we have done is in the US. It is 150 megawatts. This is huge for solar energy. The only drawback of solar energy is the space. You need a lot of space to generate 100 watts. You need 1 square meter approximately. 100 watts is nothing because a house needs at least three kilowatts. You need 330 square meters on the roof of your house to be able to give electricity to your house and for storage.
Nigeria has a metering gap of over eight million. What is Schneider doing in the area of providing metering solution in the country?
We are proud to say that more than half of the prepaid meters in Nigeria are from Schneider Electric. We are interested in that market. We are meeting officials in the Federal Ministry of Power to make sure that the right meters are provided to the Nigerian market. We are definitely going to improve and add to the value we are creating on meters and this market is key for us and we plan to be strong on it. We are already assembling our panels in Nigeria and are already having a platform of assembly so it is not about investing even more, it is about protecting our employees that are currently working in this facility that could also be replicated by many other local players.
Today, the regulation is neutral to the companies who are manufacturing locally. I believe that the Nigerian Content Policy should encourage more manufacturing.This is important to Schneider Electric because we are investing in Nigeria, employing Nigerians in Nigeria and they are producing in Nigeria.
You said Schneider will be 10 years in Nigeria, what would you say Schneider has done in respect to Corporate Social Responsibity?
In 10 years, Schneider Electric is mostly proud to be recognized by government and the customers believed that we are reliable, credible and solutions specialists. This is the utmost level of achievement – customer recognition. When you give a job or award a contract to Schneider Electric, you are sure it will be completed, commissioned and will work. So Schneider Electric’s image is the most distinguishing factor. If you ask Schneider to do an installation for you, the image we have is that this installation will be delivered, commissioned, started up and will work. Many of our customers call us because they know that Schneider Electric will deliver, they know they can rely on us.
You just resumed as the Country President of Schneider Electric in Nigeria. What are your plans for the company?
I am proud to be part of this team and this new adventure that is starting here in Nigeria.
I am a citizen of both France and Egypt. I was born in Alexandria, while I studied in France. With my Electrical Engineering background, I have worked in Schneider Electric since 1995, about 20 years now. I am married and have two children. I joined Schneider Electric Nigeria in September 2014 as the Country President, which is basically the Managing Director of the entity of Schneider Electric covering Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Liberia.
Schneider Electric is part of those improving electrical distribution and energy efficiency around the world, and we are going to continue being major players in the industry.
We have re-injected capital in Schneider Electric Nigeria. We have increased our asset base in the country in December and our presence in Nigeria is also being increased.
We are committed to this biggest economy in Africa without any doubt. My main focus is to take Schneider Electric Nigeria to greater heights. We are proud to have ninety-six (96%) of our team including the management team as Nigerians. We are very proud to ensure that part of the leadership of Africans in Africa is a key element of our strategy. We are making our African colleagues rotate in and outside the zone, before they return to assume leadership positions in their home countries, which is an important part of our strategy. It is important that I mention that people are key in our organization. I believe that the difference between organizations is the quality of service and the quality of the people who are interacting with the customers.
About our operations, we are known in the power world as an excellent provider of energy systems, especially from the utility angle, distribution companies and generation companies.
And of course, our access to energy and renewable energy programs, which most of you know through initiatives like Durumi, the 10 villages in Ogun State, and Edo state, among others.