Honourable Mention: Abdirizak Atosh

Abdirizak Atosh has been working in the media industry in the region for over 16 years. As a social media guru, Atosh has one of the largest Facebook followings among Somali media personalities. He is also well known as the leading presenter with BBC East Africa Bureau as the Senior Multimedia Broadcast Journalist with special focus on Somalia.

Investment in solar energy using water and solar power is the best way Somalia can recover

‘In late 2011, I visited Somalia’s Capital Mogadishu to personally experience and see for myself the impact of the war in the capital. However, the mental picture I had was completely different from the reality on the ground, safe for the instability and struggling governance’

Those were the words ofthe engineer and founder ofthe SolarGen Company, Aboubakar Aidurus Abdikarim. He added

‘Since I am an electrician, I was surprised how keen some of the business people as well as non- state actors were to know more about solar power. This was one of the most important amenities badly needed at the time in the city, because solar power could drastically reduce the cost of electricity for homes and business centers’’ said the engineer

He continued,

‘Since I have graduated from University of Nairobi with Electrical Engineering, I knew that Somalia will be the biggest market for my field. I witnessed as Kenya tried to establish the use of solar power. So, in 2012, I went back to Mogadishu and I established the Company SolarGen Technologies

The engineer continued by saying

To set up our company, we have done everything possible during our first few days and in order to attract customers, we have established in Mogadishu our first center. The other important thing was that we brought high quality equipment, suitable for people who wanted to benefit from the project’’

‘As SolarGen, we view it as an honor for us to be part of the efforts to towards rebuilding the Somali economy. I remember, one of our first projects was to put up 79 solar powered street lights along some of the streets in the capital. This has played a big role in securing the city. It has also helped businesses to continue operating until late hours of the night’’

‘We have lightened up the main markets in Mogadishu. At the same time, we have put up 17 kilowatt power generating equipment at the water wells for people who fled to Mogadishu

An Engineer from SolarGen Company putting up structures for solar power equipment (SolarGen Technologies)

At the beginning, the International donors started such energy projects, but in less than two years, as it always happens, Somali business people courageously embarked on similar projects by investing on their own on solar energy

While narrating the history ofthe company, Engineer Abourbakar noted

‘In 2014, I have established on the outskirts of Afgooye town, which a very significant agricultural area, and which is 30km the capital, a big part of irrigation scheme. The scheme is still operational and it produces about 2,800 cubic meters of water on daily basis. The water is used for irrigating farms which produce Oranges and Bananas’

At the beginning, we started by working with business people who were investing in farming and were using water drawn from wells using engines that ran on oil. Then, we moved and explained the prospect of solar energy to the business people who were operating the wells. They realized that the solar energy was by far reducing the cost they incurred when they used diesel to generate power to draw water from the wells. Then, they were supported in investing in the solar energy. They instantly made profit and the farmers are continuously producing while they have drastically reduced the cost of production’

Speaking on their cooperation with other solar companies, the engineer said

‘Instantly, solar companies operating in Somalia have made big achievements. I am glad that we have played a big role in ensuring Mogadishu today has a number of companies to choose from, depending on the economic abilities of the residents. This week, we will be discussing with the Somali Federal Government, the UN, International Aid Agencies, and Private companies how to improve on the provision of solar energy and its role in developing the economy and building the nation’

Despite these efforts, Somalia is one of the countries that pay lots of money for electricity in the world. Most people in Somalia do not have access to electricity, and those who have access, pay more than 10 times what people in the neighboring countries like Kenya and Ethiopia pay for electricity. And it will not be easy to reduce the tariff until we get the best equipment that will help in producing solar power that can reach many people’

After five years of growth, the SolarGen Company is now ready to play its role. Here is Engineer Aboubakar once again

‘We have now grown. We have employed 40 people, and we are working on projects we intend to support the public and the country. In 2017 alone, we have supported and offered our services to more than 30 water wells. I am very grateful to the employees who helped in this and as a result, today, the biggest livestock company in Kismayo relies on our services which they use in providing water to the livestock. Very soon, we will build on the outskirts of Mogadishu a big water cooler tank that will use solar energy’

The founder of SolarGen, also spoke about the future

‘Our vision is to provide portable solar energy gadgets for the benefits of millions who live in rural areas. In the past we have provided such gadgets in Kenya, and they can be used in providing enough light, charging and can also be used in generating water in wells. Such gadgets can reduce the cost of generating electricity for people in rural areas by up to 50 to 75 per cent.

I believe this plan we are about to embark on, will help Somalia in economic recovery and also to be part of the 21st century