Ifeoma Malo is the Co-Founder and CEO of Clean Technology Hub Nigeria. She is a seasoned expert with over 18 years of experience in public policy development, public sector programming and advisor, project development, program implementation and execution, energy regulations and policies, energy access, energy sustainability, energy financing, rural development, infrastructure, governance and regulatory reforms, monitoring and evaluation, human rights, investment promotion, conflict resolution, law and development, strengthening civil society, political economy, gender mainstreaming, training, capacity building, coaching.
It’s so great to have you here. So, tell us, who is Ifeoma Malo?
Ifeoma Malo is the co-founder/CEO of Clean Technology Hub which is a pioneering hybrid hub for the research, development, demonstration, and incubation of clean energy technologies in Africa. As an energy access expert, she has led several campaigns to promote Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE) in Nigeria with particular expertise on Global Policy; Project Design and Strategy and Stakeholder partnership initiatives.
You have a long-standing experience in the renewable sector, what exactly is your vision for the renewable energy sector in Nigeria?
The more I travel, the more I see the world is not what it was 10 years ago. There is rapid change and growth towards cleaner energy globally. This is impacting the utilities of the future and how global energy markets are shaping in up. In Nigeria, many of the distribution companies are tweaking their business and operational models to include mini-grid departments as part of their electrification expansion plans. The vision is, therefore, to see increased renewable energy access across Nigeria in a way that will result to positive development and impact across Nigeria – This means that we need to see a quicker uptake of investments and financing in the off-grid renewable energy sector and a proper alignment of all government policies and functionaries in the entire energy access space for optimization and coordination.
In one of my recent interviews, I gave a wish-list of what I envision for the energy sector and I would love to share this here as well:
- In the new decade, there should be an increase in the power generation capacity of the industry across the board. Africa needs to be industrialized and we can only be so if we have more generation output to meet the needs of production.
- There should be an increase in energy access distribution into the last mile communities through solar and mini-grid projects.
- That there will be more renewables in the energy mix to reduce the current global energy sources dominated by fossil fuel by 80%. I believe this can be done through several renewable energy options. The increasing adoption of solar and mini-grids across the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, is a pointer to the fact that there is a growing awareness of the place of renewables in bridging energy access gaps and mitigating climate change emissions.
- That there be an elimination of VAT and import duties exemptions on solar and other renewable energy products in order to crash prices and make them more affordable to end-users.
- There should be deliberate long-term investments into the power sector and governments should make the sector more attractive to investors by de-risking the sector and providing bold incentives.
- There should be more participation of the private sector and CSOs in energy policy formulations.
You would agree that everyone has a significant turning point in their lives. What was the most important milestone for your career and organization?
I am a legal practitioner by profession and though I schooled, lived and worked in the USA for many years, my roots are firmly in Nigeria. As a result, this is where I frequently experience electricity ‘blackout’ as a result of regular power failure, bad electricity policies and corruption in government.
My turning point was the kidnap of the Chibok girls where young girls trying to get an education and lift themselves and their families out of poverty were kidnapped. The lack of development in the region where this happened made them easy targets and the lack of electricity was the singular most notable absence of development that catalyzed into the terrorism and insurgency in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria – where women and girls like those kidnapped from Chibok became easy targets for terrorists.
That experience along with my experience with the inefficiencies in government which I juxtaposed with the smart, innovative young people I met while working in government, convinced me that the public sector alone cannot solve Nigeria’s mammoth energy problems. This gave me the drive and passion to seek sustainable ways to increase electrification across the country and led to my founding the Clean Tech Hub to grow the number of enterprises and entrepreneurs willing to advance the momentum in electrifying every nook and cranny of the African continent.
Can you describe a challenge you’ve faced in creating sustainable energy technologies and your innovative approach to finding a solution?
Starting Clean Technology Hub came as a result of my frustration in meeting several brilliant young people, with amazing energy access ideas that they couldn’t pursue or nurture due to a lack of support or structure. Nigeria’s pioneer energy innovation Hub, (Clean Technology Hub), was founded to address this glaring challenge and to provide an environment that incubates these viable clean energy business ideas from seed stage to market-ready stages.
It is evident that you are contributing towards advancing the SDGs 7 – Affordable and clean energy in Africa. Can you share the importance of providing energy solutions in a sustainable way?
Sustainability is important in building not just projects and programs but also building the human capital needed to sustain them. For sustainability to be achieved, when you build solid systems and also invest in the human resource needed to run those systems, it has very positive economic consequences on the global economy. Secondly, renewable energy as an energy source is not just cleaner, it is inexhaustible and has in recent years become increasingly cost-competitive when compared to other energy sources. The diversity and abundance of renewable energy sources, as well as their potential for use anywhere on the planet, makes them unique and very distinct from fossil fuels. More important is their capacity to reduce greenhouse gases which cause climate change.
Tell us about your ongoing projects in the energy sector.
At Clean Technology Hub, we have dedicated and experienced teams, each designing and implementing highly specialized programs that are geared towards sustainable energy access. Some of these projects include;
- Enterprise Development Program for Off-grid Energy Solutions
This project is focused on incubating a number of local home-grown solutions to accelerate energy access that is at the ideation phase. The program is important because most young entrepreneurs looking to start clean energy businesses do not know where to begin; they do not have the network and definitely not the funding. Therefore, our Enterprise Development Program supports entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to close the energy access gap that currently affects the unserved and underserved population in the regions, and is aimed at finding, incubating and funding such innovative ideas that are viable and transform them to investible and scalable businesses that will ultimately lead to job creation and skill development.
- Simplified Guides to Nigeria’s Energy Access Policies
This project is aimed at increasing knowledge and awareness among energy sector stakeholders on the key policies and regulations that govern the renewable energy sector in Nigeria. It involved a comprehensive review and condensing of 10 key energy policies and regulations to identify key provisions, identify key stakeholders and their roles and highlight areas of conflicts. The project also ensured extensive engagements with key government agencies such as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) amongst others to ensure alignment and validation of the summarized policies. The developed policy guides will provide a snapshot of the sector to potential investors and entrepreneurs alike.
- Development of the African Mini-grid Developers Association (AMDA) in Nigeria
Clean Technology Hub, was recently appointed as the country’s representative for the African Mini Grid Developers Association (AMDA). As the global industry association supporting the scaling-up of decentralized energy utility companies through mini-grid development for rural energy access, we are working to evaluate the specific needs of the sector and also layout a comprehensive strategy to support mini-grid companies in Nigeria in a way that improves access to finance that will radically scale up their operations. The main objective of the initial scope of work is to create a set of advocacy tools for AMDA to help deliver mini-grid sector needs in Nigeria, including policy, finance and technical assistance.
- Localizing Renewable Energy Policies in States in Nigeria
This project is aimed at building knowledge of the regional and local decentralized renewable energy (DRE) sector at the state and local levels all across Nigeria.
- Development of Standards for Solar PV Modules, Batteries, Inverters, Meters, and Charge Controllers in Nigeria
This project is aimed at supporting the Nigerian government through the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) to develop new standards for solar PV modules, lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries, and other components which will further create an enabling environment for solar PV technologies in the renewable energy sector.
- Development of a Framework for E-Waste Management for Stand-Alone Solar (SAS) Systems in Nigeria
Solar technologies are increasingly being adopted across Africa and Nigeria is no exception. This has the potential to lead to the accumulation of used up products that could have negative environmental effects if not properly managed or disposed of at the end of the life cycle. This project is therefore aimed at developing an E-Waste Framework for Stand-Alone Solar products in Nigeria.
- Pathway to Increased Income, Profit and Yield Using Renewable Energy – Climate-smart Agriculture and MSMEs Program
Clean Technology Hub seeks to advance the economic growth of agribusinesses by working with smallholder farmer communities and MSMEs in Nigeria. Through this program, our team educates small business owners and farmers on how to navigate the challenges of energy access and provides tools that can enable them to deploy renewable energy for productive use whilst engaging in climate-smart agricultural practices.
- E-Learning Academy
Clean Technology Hub Learning Academy provides educational resources for students, teachers, entrepreneurs and professionals on renewable energy, environmental sustainability and climate action to close the existing gap in local knowledge in these major areas. We do so through a combination of animated learning and RE course training modules for those interested in building careers in sustainability and in the renewable energy space.
Do you have mentors? Who are they and how did they inspire you in your career?
There are three women who have impacted me more than any other in my life:
Dr Chichi Aniaogolu – who gave me my first start at my professional life experience and helped me build the vision of the career I have today She met an inexperienced 21years old girl and gave her an opportunity of a lifetime. She encouraged me to take risks and supported me to achieve whatever goals I set for myself. I admired her as a boss and a professional and I still consult with her today on a number of issues. It is because of her I mentor and support younger women who are just starting off in their careers.
Ms Roni Lipton
My adopted Godmother or as I call her my Fairy Godmother who came through for me at the lowest point of my life and remains a steadying force in my life even today. She took me into her home and gave me shelter, food, and love, and nursed me back to life at two very important times. She taught me kindness and generosity, the sort that expects nothing back. She gave me structure and remains a strong anchor in my life.
Dr Oby Ezekwesili:
I have always been interested in policymaking and public service and started off six years ago approaching her as a mentor through mutual acquaintances when I was at crossroads over my career. She accepted and with her active encouragement and based on my interests and skills, I have taken on senior roles in the Nigerian government and have learned to stick to these same principles she has espoused in her public service career.
What’s the best advice that you would give to young women starting out their careers in the power and energy industry?
They must be ready to work twice as hard and twice as long. This is still relatively a male-dominated sector and even though in the renewable energy field, we see an increasing amount of women in the leadership space, there is still a long way to go to reach gender parity in terms of size, opportunities, or even pay scale. So young women must be deliberate with the choices they make when they enter the sector. They must be innovative, proactive, and resilient and must leverage on any opportunity that comes their way to grow.
You recently won the “Power Industry Leader of the Year award”. What was does this mean for you? How did you take the news?
I was notified of my nomination about six months ago and was honoured to be in the same nomination category with pretty incredible change-makers in the energy access sector. However, being elected as the winner in that category and in an award that is the most recognized regionally – was a major surprise, and I was totally honoured, humbled and yes, happy. I also know that the reward for good work is more work, so there is no relenting.
What other areas of interest do you explore? Tell us about your hobbies or extracurricular activities.
I read a lot. I am a Bibliophile. I love books. It is my escape. It often transposes me to a different world one that I never knew or imagined existed. Books make me dream of places yet to be seen, and experiences yet to be had. It teaches me new experiences or opportunities that are possible. It is why I am passionate about education and literacy, and I want every African child to get the same opportunities their peers in other more developed regions of the world have. By merely being literate, the world can become an oyster of possibilities for a kinder, innovative and impactful world.
The Leading Ladies Africa weekly interview series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
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