According to Webb Meko, business development director, sub-Saharan Africa, Black & Veatch, the next generation of energy infrastructure is being spurred by new technology that places energy solutions directly into the hands of consumers and businesses.
Growth in distributed energy resources (DERs) like wind, solar, geothermal and battery storage is drastically shifting the way that electricty is generated, transmitted and consumed by customers around the world. For most power utilities, including many across Africa, DERs create opportunities and challenges as they seek alternative ways of addressing potential shifts in power demand growth, while working to ensure electricity grid modernisation. In other areas, DERs also offer new possibilities to deliver baseload generation and presents an opportunity to expand baseload capacity that will be required in the future.
“While big, bulk power generation plants remain in demand, the critical need for distributed energy assets to drive electrification expediently and meet the needs of anticipated business growth and consumer demands is mounting,” says Meko.
Modern energy dynamics
These solutions are often challenged by the lack of power capacity, as well as generation and transmission infrastructure to enable local distribution access. Often modern energy dynamics can prove to be difficult from a financing perspective, pushing the case for the traditional power business model to evolve and support more sustainable operations.
Private public partnerships (PPPs) are increasingly recognised as a solution to municipalities lacking the capital to fund and modernise their energy initiatives. The private sector, which is able to absorb risk and offset costs for the municipality, can also be assured of generating return on investment. In turn, municipalities are able to fulfil their promise of reliable and efficient energy infrastructure to citizens and businesses.
The same principle applies where the private sector partners with technology vendors and absorbs the risks associated with new projects. This trend is being seen in the smart city movement where PPPs are reaping success in the US. These partnerships may also prove advantageous in the energy sector where alternative financing can address funding gaps.
“In the case of municipalities where there is a drive for energy modernisation, PPPs can help supplement power utility efforts and their balance sheets, and gear plans into action towards execution and completion,” says Meko.
Powering remote locations
Distributed generation together with the increasing availability of renewable energy such as solar, wind generation and battery storage, opens a new pathway for innovative power generation and transmission solutions. These DERs, when implemented, can complement ongoing traditional power generation projects and bring much-needed power to remote locations, support critical facilities, and help the African continent to create low carbon energy solutions.
Access to electricity can be furthered with the integration of microgrids. These small-scale electrical power grids have their own power generation systems that are connected to the load and in close proximity to the power generation site. Microgrids can operate independently or while connected to the national grid.
“Microgrids are generally small in scale compared to fossil fuel power plants but can be increasingly cost competitive – and do not hold requirements such as having to extend transmission grids. Microgrid designs can also eliminate the need for studies such as environmental assessments that can prove to be costly and delay access to power,” explains Meko.
Costs are also reduced by the localised power generation that is generally in close proximity to the load. Furthermore, unlike large scale projects, microgrids can take as little as 36-70 months to complete.
According to Meko, microgrids offer an opportunity to provide easy access to electricity – however, there is yet to be a business model that is embraced by power utilities. Current models are usually driven by independent producer programmes that can then enter into a PPA where electricity is sold to government.
“The opportunity to expand these energy innovations into Africa is immense,” says Meko. He adds: “The cost and schedule advantages of small DER systems are beneficial for regions requiring capital and experiencing project delivery and schedule delays.”
Waxed: Revolutionising Africa’s Transport Industry
Waxd Group CEO, Anthony Stewart (Image & Article: Waxd)
An estimated 70% of Africa’s urban population live in informal settlement housing. They rely on privately-owned minibus taxis and public bus transport systems to travel to work, send their children to school, and live out their day-to-day lives. The need for digital payment and cashless fare collection solutions – that provide a secure and seamless way for people to access the routes they use every single day – is critical.
Digital payment systems for the transport industry will remove the need for physical tickets and cash payments, and speed up transactions and transport times. With public transport spending accounting for up to 10% of consumer income in Africa, the implications for the transport industry are vast. South Africa alone has over 200,000 minibus taxis transporting more than 15 million commuters daily.
The Waxd story started when Waxd patented a method for processing app payments through EFT rails, cutting merchant fees from 2-3.5% to 0.4%. Although the idea was good, it needed the co-operation of the banks. This was not very forthcoming as the solution would cost the banks in transaction revenues. After months of frustration, Waxd decided to look at areas of innovation where the banks had failed.
Waxd provides an accessible payment solution that enables public transport drivers to accept different payment methods from passengers, including biometric and prepaid cards which can be recharged by commuters to pay for their rides. Transport operators, owners and drivers can also track their revenue in real-time and manage their fleet with improved efficiency and transparency.
An informal, unregulated transport industry leads to many challenges being faced by all stakeholders. A digital payment system leads to a simpler, safer payment solution for all – from commuters and drivers, to owners and government.
The Africa transport revolution is happening at a rapid rate, and Waxd is at the forefront of developments – committed to providing technologically-advanced payment solutions and to enabling financial inclusion for everyone.
The State of AI in Africa: 2022 Report
The State of AI in Africa Report launch was held on the 14th June at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Pretoria, South Africa and co-hosted by the World Economic Forum Centre for the 4IR South Africa and City of Tshwane. This 32-page report will appeal to analysts, enterprises, channel managers, governments, VCs or investors, NGOs, Embassies, trade missions and regional promotion agencies who are seeking deeper insights about the dynamics of this rapidly growing frontier tech market.
A key finding was just how cross cutting this technology is, with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya dominating this sector and AI impacting at least 120+ separate market segments across Africa. Privately owned SMMEs or Micro businesses make up 75% of this sector, 40% of which were founded in the last 5 years, showing the importance nation states need to place on supporting their local tech ecosystems.
It’s also attracting serious capital, with Tunisian AI start-up InstaDeep receiving $100m USD Series A funding earlier in 2022. The global AI market is also projected to grow from $387 Bn USD in 2022 to $1,394 Bn by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 20%. Bradshaw concluded, “It’s a positive sign that this technology and the growing regional AI start-up ecosystems can win big across Africa if these trends continue.”
A copy of the report can be obtained online here.
The AI Media Group is a South African based industry analysis, publishing & business events consultancy specializing in the 4IR or smart tech sector in Africa. They are curators of AI Expo Africa, the continent’s largest B2B/B2G Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade show and publishers of Synapse, the first quarterly trade magazine charting Africa’s 4IR innovation journey. The group also runs AI TV which hosts discussions on trends in AI and 4IR technologies with local, regional and global thought leaders.
Digital Asset Marketplace in a Web3 Economy with Chains CEO
The digital asset landscape has been evolving over the past decade since blockchain technology made it possible to exchange value digitally. This was not previously possible before the launch of the Bitcoin network by Satoshi Nakamoto due to the double-spend problem.
A crypto exchange is effectively a marketplace where people buy and sell cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The first well-known example of such a platform was Mt Gox which appeared in 2010, created by Jed McCaleb who is also co-founder and the Chief Technology Officer of Stellar – a payment network blockchain ecosystem focused on enabling low-cost cross-border transactions. The exchange imploded when it got hacked for hundreds of thousands of bitcoins and following that, many other exchanges started popping up, promising better security and liquidity.
The industry has evolved since then. Now there are hundreds of crypto exchanges – centralised and decentralised, custodial and non-custodial, from peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Paxful to order-book based exchanges such as Binance. These digital asset marketplaces also offer different services from spot to futures trading, savings products, NFT marketplaces and so much more.
Chains.com hopes to become one of the new market leaders by introducing a comprehensive offering that amalgamates all the different crypto products and services into an all-in-one platform. In this interview, Anderson Mccutcheon, CEO of Chains.com gives insights into the future of crypto marketplaces. Excerpts below:
BAO: How would you best describe Chains?
Anderson: Chains is a MetaFi platform, aimed at the next generation of web3 users. A single account, connected to multiple products, that are connected to multiple blockchains. Our goal is to cater to users that want to utilise cryptocurrency and NFT products, without having to learn the underlying technology.
BAO: There are already many crypto projects offering launchpads, exchanges and marketplaces. Why does space need a platform like Chains?
Anderson: For the same reason the world needs an Apple and a Samsung. A Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Variety and competition breed excellence and better results for users. We see what happens in markets where few players dominate – innovation slows down and users get locked into mediocre products.
BAO: Is Chains an open-source project and are you building on or integrating with any public blockchains?
Anderson: We are integrating with multiple blockchains that are open to various degrees. We natively support ETH, Polygon, BSC and TRON, with our generation-1 products. We will definitely be introducing more support for more blockchains and products in the immediate future.
BAO: What are the components of the Chains blockchain ecosystem? Can you share some key insights into your technology stack?
Anderson: Chains is not a technology company. Just like Coinbase isn’t. We are a product company that uses hundreds of technologies at any given time. We are part of the Amazon Activate program and our centralised services are mostly AWS-powered.
BAO: Are you looking to bring NFTs to your ecosystem in the future? In what ways will NFTs be used within your ecosystem?
Anderson: NFTs are an integral part of our ecosystem. We are conducting one of the biggest NFT allocations in the world with the Deep Space Society GEN-0 drop. 1 million NFTs allocated on Polygon.
BAO: What is a CHA token and can you describe its utility or tokenomics?
Anderson: It’s a utility token that is the backbone of our product ecosystem. Not using CHA and using Chains would mean paying more fees, not having access to certain stages of token sales and advanced marketplace features.
BAO: When can people expect the token sale?
Anderson: We are currently in the pre-sale phase, an opportunity that hasn’t presented itself in years where those who believe in the project can buy into a blue-chip ICO. It’s been a long time since a CeFi/MetaFi platform has conducted a token sale in this way for early adopters.
BAO: Is the sale subject to any regulatory oversight and will you be accepting accredited investors?
Anderson: Yes. We have successfully completed SEC 506c compliance, meaning we are not only compliant, but we can market openly to accredited investors from the US.
BAO: Currently you have one of the most popular whitelists in the entire crypto space, what do you think makes a good crypto project?
Anderson: A strong team, a financial model that has been tested and proven to be working, a multi-year roadmap and a track record of delivering.
BAO: What is vCHA and how can people earn or acquire some?
Anderson: vCHA is a non-currency issued to our early adopters. You can accumulate it by registering, filling out your profile and inviting others to the platform. vCHA is converted into a permanent discount on the platform (which includes the upcoming CHA token sale) , which is the equivalent of staking $5000.
BAO: What can the community expect next from your roadmap?
Anderson: Launchpad comes first. Our goal is to showcase our ability to deliver world class products that can serve hundreds of thousands of users. Prism, our Analytics product, will also be launching this year, and will set a new standard for what a portfolio and asset tracking system should look like.