When Forbes Africa announced its list of 30 Under-30 trailblazers for 2022, one name stood out from the pack. Sandra Chukwudozie is CEO of Salpha Energy, a courageous young woman on a mission to deepen access to affordable solar home solutions in Nigeria’s poorest communities.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest energy producer, with oil accounting for over 90 percent of total exports. Born into a family with significant stakes in the oil and gas industry, Sandra had a choice between sticking to the lucrative family business and pursuing a divergent vision into renewable energy. She had left a budding career at the United Nations to face a dilemma that tested her tenacity and commitment, in what she calls her “moment of rebellion”—to prove to herself that she could blaze a trail of her own initiative, rather than simply ease into the family conglomerate.
Salpha is on a mission to bring clean energy solutions to the African continent, by designing innovative solar products. With nearly half of sub-Saharan Africa’s population lacking access to electricity, compared to over 90% in the rest of the world, there is an urgent need to deepen access, sustainably and affordably.
When Sandra founded her company in 2017, the immediate challenge was to win confidence in a low-trust market. Inferior solar products from numerous unscrupulous vendors had dented the image of alternative energy solutions. Yet, Sandra and her “ALPHA Team” managed to carve a niche for themselves, with innovative solar home solutions that were designed to meet the energy needs of specific tiers of the population.
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The company has an active distributor network of over 500 sales agents, cooperatives and traders across Nigeria, plus key partnerships with payment collections enablers, such as InfiBranches, Paga and Interswitch. This has helped Salpha to extend its reach into under-served communities.
In 2021, Salpha achieved two record-breaking successes. The company qualified for the output-based grant agreement under the World Bank-funded Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP) and also secured US$1 million in funding from All-On, an impact investment company backed by Shell, to help develop its solar home systems distribution business. These milestones testify to the growing footprint and impact that Salpha is making in the Nigerian renewable energy landscape.
From humble beginnings five years ago, Sandra has now expanded her company to become a leading provider of solar home systems in Nigeria, while becoming a voice for women in the energy sector. It is no surprise that she was named to Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 class of 2022, a list of young African trailblazers, the best and brightest, who are tackling real issues that are stifling the continent’s development.
Describing the enormity of the challenge ahead, “we have 100 million Nigerians without access to electricity and 700 million across Africa”, says Sandra. “This is a huge population off the grid yearning for power and there’s no faster way to bridge that gap than with solar energy solutions, while slower investment in grid infrastructure catches up.”
Salpha Energy has bigger goals beyond solar home solutions. The company hopes to expand into industrial applications to provide net-zero carbon solutions.
The economics of African energy access is daunting, but more formidable is the yearning of young people to make a difference on the challenges plaguing the continent. “We are the next generation of Africans ushering in a fresh paradigm to the challenges of Africa”, Sandra concludes.
This is definitely one trailblazer to watch out for.