Most people in the energy and power sector would agree that being the CEO of a power utility on the African continent cannot be an easy job by any means. The challenges are well-known while the growing demand for access to electricity keeps increasing the pressure on utility leaders.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 5-2019.
Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here

Enter the Utility CEO Forums that since 2012 have been providing a safe space for C-level executives of Africa’s leading utilities to get together and discuss their challenges, receive leadership training and share best practice. It has evolved into a year-round exclusive network of African Utility CEOs within the power sector.

Event director Marie Sachet says: “Over the years it has become clear that CEOs across the continent share similar concerns and require continuous support as leaders as they: adapt their business models to the evolving market; strengthen customer-centric approaches; build skills to manage change; and efficiently collaborate with the private sector. This is why in 2019, as part of our vision to serve the utility leadership better, we proposed a mix of technical industry expertise and leadership coaching.

Combining minds and experiences creates endless potential; and the results of these meetings are published in a confidential post-event report in which quite a few actionable and concrete ideas stand out.”

The Utility CEO Forum Wall of Fame at the 2019 African Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

Trust and confidentiality

The forum organises five gatherings per year (Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa, and soon to launch Southern Africa) and engages with CEOs throughout the year to support them in their daily responsibilities with leadership and industry expertise through post-forum reports, monthly newsletters, tailored content via Whatsapp and LinkedIn. A first for the Utility CEO Forum was a West African (francophone countries only) edition at European Utility Week in Paris in November last year.

“Trust and confidentiality are very important factors in the ongoing success of these exclusive closed-door meetings,” says Sachet. “Participants appreciate the fact that at our forums, they are not being judged in any way and they are exposed to new tools. They also appreciate getting advice from people that experience the same daily problems and the same legacy issues. They do an incredibly difficult job and often are not recognised for it. At our 2019 Pan-African Forum at African Utility Week in Cape Town in May, we celebrated their successes on the Wall of Fame and it was an honour to contribute to a change in the – too often negative – narrative.”

 A-Z of African utilities

Since inception, some 64 utilities from 27 countries around the continent have been represented at the Utility CEO Forum discussions, some of which have also included a special focus on the water utility segment. The utilities attending include the Electricity Company of Ghana, Abuja Electricity, Ethiopian Electric Utility, UMEME and the Botswana Power Corporation.

Some of the feedback from CEOs who have benefited from being part of the Utility CEO Forum over the years:

• “It was one of the best forums I have ever attended. The networking and resource presentations were just fantastic.” William Liabunya, CEO, EGENCO, Malawi

• “Thank you for being so awesome, great meetings and new contacts. Well done.” Adeoye Fadeyibi, CEO, EKO Disco, Nigeria

• “This forum offers an opportunity to meet the utility leaders in the region which is very rare.” Thierry Bendima CEO, ENERCA

• “The forum is beneficial because it raises awareness of the issues faced by utility CEOs. It was a great forum.” Joel Kontchou, CEO, ENEO, Cameroon

• “This is a community of professionals discussing data and information which can be leveraged upon for the growth of the power sector.” Amina Imam, General Manager, Supply Chain Management, Abuja Electricity

• “It opens your mind on leadership approaches and gives you access to other CEOs with more than 40 years of experience in the room.” Mamadou Fanta Traore, General Manager, Homologous, Electricite de Guinee

Exclusive membership, knowledge partners

The Utility CEO Forum is only open to CEOs, their executive representative, and a few strategic partners or facilitators. Ten companies a year are selected to be expert partners. This selection is based on the relevance of the company’s philosophy and offering in relation to the CEOs’ current challenges.

• “Excellent platform to meet utility decision-makers from all over Africa. Great confidential insights.” Seydou Kane, Managing Director, Eaton

• “Really great exchanges and opportunities to meet CEOs and main players.” Eric Amoussouga, Sales Director, General Electric Several utilities including South Africa’s Eskom, Senegal’s Senelec, Nigeria’s Eko and IKEJA, Kenya Power and ENEO in Cameroon have hosted the various regional CEO Forums over the years while the ALSF (African Legal Support Facility) and the Edison Institute have been strategic partners for the gatherings. Expert partners so far have included Standard Bank, KPMG, Oracle, Steinmüller, Conlog, Eaton, Nyamezela, Eskom Rotek, Vodacom, Générale du Solaire, General Electric and Lucy Electric. ESI

How to get involved?

The next Utility CEO Forum will take place during African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa in Cape Town from on 12–14 May 2020. Visit or for attendance and partnership opportunities.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 5-2019.
Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here