Bridging the Skills Gap through Strategic Capacity Development in Nigeria’s Solar Sector

Nigeria’s 180+ million population makes her the biggest and most attractive off-grid opportunity in Africa and arguably the best location for investments in mini-grids and solar home systems. While this is an economic advantage, the energy access gap in Nigeria over the years is crippling the country’s potential. The National grid, with potential to generate 12,522 megawatts (MW) of electric power from existing plants, only generates around 4,000 MW.

The Renewable Energy sector continues to grow and continues to project itself as an alternative solution to Nigeria’s perennial power problem. The economic contributions and opportunities within the sector have become more significant especially in the area of job creation. In 2018, for example, Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency created 5,000 skilled and unskilled jobs according to a World Economic Forum report.

A recent job survey by Power for All has disclosed that by 2023 Nigeria’s Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE) market would have created about 52,000 direct new jobs – employing 13 times more than it did in 2018. The big question, however, remains, how do we take advantage of these potential opportunities? Do we have enough skilled workers and entrepreneurs to service the sector?

All On, an independent impact investment firm seeded with funding from Shell, is playing a key role in bridging this gap. The company’s strategic mandate is to catalyse innovative and sustainable clean energy solutions to address energy poverty in Nigeria and one of its pillars is to provide an enabling environment for the sector to thrive.

In 2019, All On launched the Niger Delta Off-Grid Energy Scholarship Program in partnership with Rubitec Academy, the human capacity development arm of Rubitec Solar Nigeria. 32 entrepreneurs were trained under a 50% All On scholarship in Mini-Grid Design, Solar Photovoltaic Installation (SPVI) and Solar Photovoltaic Installation Supervision (SPVIS). Certificates of competence were awarded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to the successful trainees at the end of the program.

One of the key objectives of the program is ensuring that participants understand the emerging off-grid/ clean energy sector while improving their chances for economic independence. An objective re-inforced by Okafor Chukwujekwu, one of the beneficiaries of the All On scholarship in 2019.

“The impact of the training was very significant in both knowledge acquisition and career growth for me. Aside from acquiring the prestigious Certificate of Competency in Mini Grid Design, the theoretical knowledge and skills acquired have been helpful in my role at my new organisation. I am deeply involved in Midi Grid development, helping in project planning and leading the technical design team for all the Mini Grid projects in the company.”

“I have successfully led a team to commission three (3) PV-Diesel Hybrid Mini Grid sites since October 2019, with six more in the pipeline to be commissioned – all located in Ondo state; improving the quality of life of the people through the availability of electricity, reduction in environmental CO2, and encouraging economic growth in those communities.”

To consolidate on the success of the 2019 partnership, All On in 2020 has committed to a further 75% scholarship to train 75 indigenes from the Niger Delta states in the three different capabilities. The 2020 training is taking place in Port-Harcourt and will cater to students from the Niger Delta states. The first batch of trainings commenced on Monday, 2nd November 2020 with a total of 19 participants participating in the Mini-Grid Design training administered by facilitators from Rubitec Academy.

Established in 2004, Rubitec Solar has a mission to bridge the energy gap in Nigeria through the provision and deployment of renewable energy solutions to communities, businesses, and public institutions. Rubitec commissioned its first mini grid in Gbamu-gbamu community in Ogun State, in February 2018 and will be using this expertise to train successful candidates.