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Sub-Saharan Africa: Schneider to expand operations to meet demand for smart energy management

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Wednesday, 1 September 2021 18:00

The logo of Schneider Electric is seen at the company's headquarters in Rueil-Malmaison, France, August 17, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Schneider Electric plans to expand its operations in sub-Saharan Africa as urbanisation drives demand for smart solutions in business and household energy management.

Senegal, Mozambique, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are countries where the company wants to strengthen its existing presence, Amel Chadli, vice president for strategy and digital energy for Middle East and Africa, tells The Africa Report.

The company will be hiring employees and looking for more local partners in the four countries, Chadli says in Dubai. Schneider hasn’t yet decided how many will be hired, as a strategic plan is now under review. The expansion, which was delayed by Covid-19, will start in 2022, she adds. “We will continue to reinforce our presence in Africa.”

  • Chadli, who was already responsible for development and strategy in the Middle East and Africa, added digital energy to her role in August.

Long-term urbanisation means that Schneider sees “real potential for growth” in Africa, and the company will make “significant investment” in expansion on the continent, Chadli says. The company will target sub-Saharan Africa as urbanisation will be fastest there, she adds.

The expansion will target power grids where monitoring solutions can reduce wastage and increase efficient use.

  • According to research by Amos Kalua of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, about 75% of businesses in sub-Saharan Africa suffer major losses every year due to power outages.
  • Angola, the study says, is the country that is hardest hit, with 18.3% of sales lost. Zambia is second (9.5%), followed by Malawi (7.9%).

Schneider is also focusing on heat management in buildings. Chadli says buildings account for up to 30% of carbon emissions.

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris says global direct and indirect emissions from heat used in buildings rose in 2019, to the highest level ever recorded.

Energy transition

Energy management is the French company’s fastest-growing sector. In the second quarter, energy management revenue climbed 26%, beating industrial automation and software & services.  In June, Schneider partnered with West African renewable energy company SolarX to provide technology to industrial clients in Francophone Africa.

Energy production in Africa will have to increase even as carbon reductions are reduced. According to the UK’s CDC, average electricity consumption per person in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, is 500 kilowatt hours (kWh), compared with 13,000 kWh in the US and 6,500 kWh in Europe. Chadli points to the fact that 600m Africans still lack energy.

  • The CDC says power delivered over national grids will need to be several times higher than it is now, for African countries to meet economic development targets.
  • It’s not possible to leapfrog immediately to 100% variable renewable energy generation on the grid, it says.

Schneider will seek business in the food and beverage industries, which will grow as the population increases, Chadli says. It will also target data centres, and water and waste-water management. Companies can track the energy efficiency of their suppliers using Schneider’s solutions, she adds.

Bottom line

Schneider sees sub-Saharan urbanisation as driving an irreversible increase in demand for smart energy management.

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