EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RURAL ELECTRIFICATION FUND | RURAL ELECTRIFICATION AGENCY (NIGERIA)

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOUR TEAM SUCCESSFUL?

Our team has a shared vision combined with a high level of professionalism and a diverse set of technical abilities and capabilities. This dynamism ensures we can manage stakeholders effectively and learn through best practice.

HOW DO YOU INCLUDE INNOVATION INTO YOUR STRATEGY AND FUTURE OUTLOOKS?

My team has a deep understanding of the local environment and the energy situation of the country. Additionally, we keep tabs on international markets. This allows us to adapt to technologies and business models, which creates a platform for us to leapfrog into modern technologies and innovation to do our jobs successfully. We have the opportunity to implement innovative solutions that are already in practice in different parts of the world that have demonstrated feasibility, and we take advantage of this.

HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME?

We strongly believe in innovation and creativity. Our team is young and diverse; I don’t assume that we know it all, but I encourage them to always learn and try something new.

WHAT ARE YOUR TEAM’S GREATEST BLIND SPOTS?

In Nigeria, things tend to move slowly. With a young team that is very charismatic and likes to get things done quickly, we have learnt to put the best plans in place and have contingencies in case bureaucracy and the very slow nature of the government gets in the way.

HOW WOULD YOU SHIFT THAT LEARNING TO ADVICE FOR OTHERS IN THIS INDUSTRY?

By continuously sharing our experiences. Through our collaborations with various technical partners, we organise training sessions regularly with stakeholders who are actively working in the Nigerian energy sector. We train them around government policies, regulatory frameworks and best practices, to help them navigate more easily for investments in the country. For you to really succeed in a developing country like Nigeria, you have to understand the government structure, the barriers and the role of the various stakeholders. With our international partners, it’s been a joint learning process.

HOW DO YOU SELECT WHO TO PARTNER WITH?

We work with teams that have experience in the aspects we need for effective collaboration. For instance, if we need someone to build a mini-grid, we will select a team that has the most capacity and experience, which is a critical criterion set by our Public Procurement Act. In terms of international partnerships, we look at people that are constantly evolving in terms of innovation and ideas. For example, if you are looking at simulation systems for mini-grids you look at Europe, USA or Asia. We like to go with those that have experience in what they do and have a credible track record.

WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP?

There are two: speaking truth to power and patience.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?

That governance and public administration is a lot different from private-sector leadership. There are a lot of uncertainties about the future. Learning from the past to deliver value for today. Ensuring systems are put in place for the future. To know that you are not going to be there forever; every day is very important, so you have to make it count. You can’t be too relaxed as you need to do as much as you can. That tends to put a lot of pressure on you but also brings out the best in you.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

During a time when I was fortunate enough to have a pool of opportunities to choose from, I decided to obtain an energy-focused education when everyone at the time was in oil and gas. Oil was booming then and everyone wanted to go into the oil industry. I moved towards the energy sector and rural electrification, which people considered would have fewer pay offs than oil and gas: I have no regrets. A second risk I took was to leave my international development job to take up a role in government. I felt we had a lot to do in government and there were plenty of opportunities if I took the risk.

WHAT IS YOUR ‘SECRET SAUCE’ FOR FOCUSING ON THE GOAL AMONGST THE NOISE?

Passion, patriotism and purpose. I believe we all have a purpose for being wherever we find ourselves. It is not by accident that I am a Nigerian, and currently playing the role I am playing. I wear my patriotism with pride, and pursue my passion and purpose of making my country better than I met it for the next generation. Day by day, I occupy myself with ideas on how to keep improving on what we have. Rather than complain or wail, I strive to equip myself with necessary resources to keep impacting my community, country and the world positively.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN THAT OTHERS DON’T?

I am very passionate about my country. I believe in Africa, I believe in Nigeria, and the good that can come from this continent. A lot of young people do not share this sentiment, especially in Nigeria. There are people leaving the country for the proverbial ‘greener pastures’ every day. This is a mindset change that many aren’t willing to make.

WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK?

There’s a lot going on in renewables and battery energy storage. It’s these areas that I love; where innovation and research are essential. Integrating battery storage into on-grid and off-grid, or improving the efficiency of what is currently available on the grid. Imagine having a longer battery life span; for example, a lithium-ion battery and the impact this will have on energy access. It is pertinent that battery storage innovation is being worked on every day in different parts of the world.

WHAT INDUSTRY CHALLENGE KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?

How do I get the funds to provide 100% access to reliable, clean and sustainable electricity to all rural Nigerians in five years? As you know, the market is divided between the larger electricity sector; that is, the grid on the one side and the renewables and rural electrification, my focus area, on the other. Within the larger sector, we are challenged by the lack of utility investments. Investors are complaining that they are not making enough profits: how do we allocate or keep the funds to ensure we get value for money? We have a few ideas on how to solve this; however, even as we gain traction, the scale of the challenge is so huge that we must consider other options to tackle this problem. We will do this until we find a way for every person in Nigeria, and Africa through our lessons, to have access to electricity.