Rising the Energy Access Ladder
Sandra Dozie is the Chief Executive Officer at Salpha Energy and the mastermind behind the company’s implementation of innovative business models for delivering off-grid solar solutions to communities and micro-enterprises in Nigeria.
She’s a powerful young woman in energy. Yet, at first sight these are not credentials one would immediately assume. Until you hear her speak.
Dozie is backed up by advanced degrees from the University of Manchester and the University of Dundee Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy. Her profile includes the United Nations, where she worked as a Sustainable Development Consultant, focusing on Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency in Industrial Development for Developing Countries. Her UN experience led her to abandon the most obvious career path in her family-owned oil & gas conglomerate and follow her path: tackling the challenge of global energy poverty, starting in Nigeria.
Dozie founded Salpha Energy with a team of seven people in November 2016.
“My mission was simple. I wanted to provide solar home solutions to those at the bottom of the energy access ladder where cost was the most obvious barrier,” she said.
She hit the ground running in January 2017. Literally!
“No one understood the path I had chosen. I knew what I was up against, so I decided to focus on traders in places like Alaba Market and Idumota,” she said.
Salpha’s business model was based on the understanding that pricing and the reduction of upfront costs was the only way to capture the target customer base.
“So, I started going to the market physically and targeting wholesalers and distributors, carrying boxes of products. It was tough. No one took me seriously. These traders are running multi-million-dollar businesses didn’t have time for what they didn’t understand…But I kept going back and talking to people to understand why solar products were not fast selling,” Dozie explained.
Over time, the traders couldn’t help but admire her persistence, passion and determination and decided to listen to her. Thus, began her “market education”.
“My breakthrough came when I learned the psychology around pricing and how to drive costs down for the end users… such as combining parts that were originally sold separately…I learned to simplify, re-engineer and re-package products,” she said.
The rebranding strategy paid off. Yet, some things didn’t change. Dozie remained true to the core of Salpha’s mission: reducing energy poverty in alignment with the United Nations SDG 7 as evidenced in the printed narrative on boxes of all Salpha products.
Another breakthrough for Salpha came in 2020 when the company was announced as one of nine winners of the third edition of the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) and All On Nigeria Off-Grid Energy Challenge. The company was awarded $100,000 of Blended Finance (in both grant capital and convertible debt).
The funding enabled Salpha to purchase and distribute solar home systems in needy communities and ultimately, add thousands of connections in furtherance of the company’s goals.
Dozie says she is very proud of Salpha’s growth as a company, but the personal impact on the lives of citizens at the bottom of the access to energy ladder remains her greatest joy.
“Ms. Maria who runs a small chemist was one of my first customers. She didn’t know much about solar home systems but needed something basic to ensure her daughter could read at night with a lightbulb…Six months later, she came back to upgrade her system to enable her to power a fridge, TV, laptop and light up the entire shop,” Dozie recounted with joy.
Ms. Maria didn’t just light up her small chemist. By introducing others in her community to Dozie, Salpha Energy is helping to light up a whole community.
“…Its bigger than just lighting up communities. We want to birth the next generation of Nigerian energy enthusiasts. Youths as the agents of change and governed by the Alpha Consciousness – Authenticity, Liberalism, Passion, Heart and Audacity” she said.
What’s next for Salpha Energy?
Let’s just say there’s plenty of light bulbs popping around her, so keep watching this space…
Adaobi Oniwinde is currently the Policy & Partnerships Manager at All On,