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Rwanda Embracing Solar Energy

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Karl Boyce ARC Power

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

ARC Power, a British Startup, is currently helping Rwanda, a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with Solar Business Parks alongside its roll-out of solar mini-grids – a collection of solar-powered commercial units – the latest energy initiative to light up Rwanda.

Rwanda is increasingly adopting solar energy due to its affordability and easy accessibility to electricity for use in both urban and rural community.

ARC Power designs, develops and installs large scale, off-grid AC power generation and distribution systems (ARCs) that become the hub of the community and empower families and small businesses to thrive.

ARC Power was set up in 2016 in recognition of the increasing demand for affordable, reliable and clean power across Rwanda’s distributed population. It is currently seeking new investment and sponsorship partners to support its growth and be part of the rapidly emerging mini-grid market in Africa.

In this interview, Karl Boyce, Chief Executive Officer of ARC Power, talks about the advantages using solar power and efforts toward providing solar equipment for generating electricity for residential and industrial buildings, and the possibility to expand such technical services to the southern African region.

Here are the interview excerpts:

How did you come about the unique idea to establish Arc Power to help with electricity in Rwanda? What were some of the motivational or driving factors?

I had been working in Rwanda for many years and had seen the country really progressing, but still being held back by lack of access to power. I spent a lot of time in rural communities and there are aspirational people there, but they are limited by what they can do in terms of economic development as power is such an important factor almost all of the time.

Since its establishment, what would you say are some of the marked achievements with the project (operations) in the country?

We have built a great team in Rwanda, made up of more than 95% local staff, and throughout the Covid-19 lockdown, we managed to keep every single one employed, despite not being able to install more mini-grids for a big part of 2020.

Our first pilot cluster of villages is Murama in Bugesera District. It had little in the way of commercial operations there and was predominantly households with subsistence farmers. Since we installed power there, we have seen new houses being built, new businesses opening and now, with our first Solar Business Park, we will see even more economic improvement in the community, which is great.

Do you focus on providing solar panel system for usage at both domestic and industry? Assessing the population, how many people have access to power now?

We are certainly providing power generation from our ARCs for both domestic and industrial users. We have designed them to accommodate both types of demand and are receiving more enquiries from industrial users, looking for standalone systems, which we will be providing in parallel to our community-based mini-grids.

Currently, just over 50% of the population in Rwanda has access to electricity, but only 15% if through off-grid and mainly from Solar Home system. The government has set aside 300,000 connections (households and businesses) to have access through mini-grids and currently only about 3,000 have been connected, so there is a long way to go yet.

Rwanda government is interested in nuclear plants for generating energy. Do you think the country is ready for that, in terms of finances and experts/specialists, left alone the risk and disposal of nuclear waste?

This will take many years and such a large amount of investment. Frankly speaking, I do not see it would be feasible. The country needs power now if it is to continue on the development trajectory. Rwanda has the opportunity to develop 100% energy access with decentralised power through solar mini-grids, harnessing the power from the nuclear reactor in the sky – the Sun. It is much safer, more environmental-friendly and cost-effective way to generate power than nuclear, hence why several countries in Europe are de-nuclearising.

What are your views about the investment opportunities for investors in Rwanda and its neighbouring southern Africa countries?

I have invested in Rwanda for almost 15 years now and am a strong advocate of the country in terms of the investment climate there, particularly with the zero tolerance to corruption which makes it much easier to do business and mitigate risk. I feel there are so many investment opportunities in this region as Africa is the final frontier market and has so many opportunities to become a world leader in terms of sustainable development.

The fact that it lacks traditional infrastructure such as national grids in many countries, actually provides an advantage as those countries can leapfrog the cumbersome infrastructures with rapidly deployed, decentralised power in the same way that the mobile markets in Africa leapfrogged traditional landline, which other developed countries already had.

What advice would you offer to potential investors who are considering pursuing business, say, in southern Africa?

I think the most important thing is ensuring that you understand the specific country well as each one is quite different in terms of company law, structure and general process of operating. I know how important it is to have strong relationships in any country, especially where one invests, both at local and central government level, in addition to potential collaborative partnerships in the private sector.

What challenges still remained to overcome in your company’s operations? Is doing business in the sphere of energy competitive there?

Our biggest challenge is always the timing of funding and regulatory processes with the government. We have built a very efficient team to roll out our ARCs and mini-grids rapidly now at a highly competitive cost per connection, but our frustrations are usually centred around delays as a result of funding timescales or approvals required to install in Rwanda, as this is a relatively new sector.

Entrepreneurship is very challenging. What keeps you personally motivated working for this Arc Power? What is your future vision for Arc Power?

Entrepreneurship is certainly challenging, but seeing a personal vision develop into something tangible and particularly, the impacts of our work on local communities, keeps me motivated personally. As a team, I think everyone in ARC Power shares the same vision and feels like we are all building something sustainable, to be proud of.  The vision is to build the best pan-African clean utility business. We started in Rwanda but will be expanding to Malawi next year. We have plans to operate in, at least, four countries in East Africa by 2023.

Despite all you have said above, in what ways would you argue that the region is unique for business? Do you see the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as another factor that will attract more foreign investors to Africa?

I have always thought Africa provided the most unique and exciting investment opportunity if the resources can be managed and monetised properly, in a way which would actually benefit the population there, not just foreign owners.

In terms of our sector, Africa is perfectly located with some of the highest irradiation levels to be the global powerhouse of solar power generation. Despite the lack of infrastructure and historical lack of robust business environments in the various countries, this is improving and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area will open up even more opportunities for foreign investors. I think Africa is going to be one of the most exciting places to invest in over the next 5-10 years.

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Trump Hopes to Rival Twitter, Facebook With TRUTH Social

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donald trump TRUTH Social

By Adedapo Adesanya

Former President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump, has announced plans to launch his own social media platform, TRUTH Social.

This was disclosed in a press release on Wednesday, which stressed that the app, to be available for pre-order on Apple’s App Store, will open to invitees in November and to the public in the first quarter of 2022.

TRUTH Social will be launched by Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), a recently created company that’s aiming to go public via a merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company.

Speaking in the statement, Mr Trump said, “I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”

Mr Trump’s announcement comes after months of speculation about his plans to create his own media operation following his controversial opinions that have drawn anger from different quarters.

The former US President has come under scrutiny after every major social media platform – including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – banned or suspended him for violating their policies.

In July, Trump sued Facebook, Twitter and Google, along with their chief executives, seeking the restoration of his accounts and punitive damages.

“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American President has been silenced,” Mr Trump said.

The social media platform is the first of the three stages in the company’s plans, followed by a subscription video-on-demand service called TMTG+ that will feature entertainment, news and podcasts, and an entry to the cloud-computing space, according to the release.

Mr Trump, who was impeached by the US House of Representatives for his role in egging on rioters on January 6, but later acquitted of the charges in the then Republican-controlled US Senate, has been vocal about his desire to launch his own media platform following his presidency.

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Russia Strengthens Political, Economic Ties With Guinea-Bissau

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Russia Guinea-Bissau Economic Ties

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa have signed a memorandum on political consultations. This aims at strengthening political dialogue and promoting consistency in good cooperation at the international arena.

Russia expects trade and economic ties with Guinea-Bissau will continue developing; they must correspond to the high level of the political dialogue between the countries, Minister Lavrov said in his opening remarks with his counterpart from Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa.

“Probably, the next natural step will be to build up our trade-economic, investment cooperation in order to bring it to the level of our sound, confident political dialogue,” the Russian Minister added.

Speculation aside, the face-to-face diplomatic talks focus on effective ways for developing tangible cooperation in the most diverse areas in Guinea-Bissau. The meeting agreed to take a number of practical steps, including reciprocal visits by entrepreneurs both ways.

“We talked about more efficient ways of developing our trade and economic cooperation. We agreed to undertake a range of specific steps, including the trips of businessmen from Guinea-Bissau to Russia and then from Russia to Guinea-Bissau,” Lavrov said.

Last year, Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau Nuno Gomes Nabiam met with representatives of the Russian business community. The areas of interest mentioned in this respect included exploration of natural resources, construction of infrastructure facilities, as well as the development of agriculture and fisheries.

Guineans are keen on deepening bilateral cooperation in fishing. The five Russian fishing trawlers have recently resumed their operations in the exclusive economic zone of Guinea-Bissau.

As explained at the media conference, the topics discussed for cooperation included such spheres as natural resources tapping, infrastructure development, agriculture and fisheries

In terms of education, over 5,000 people have already entered civilian professions, and more than 3,000 people have acquired military specialities, which is important for Guinea-Bissau. In addition, a military and technical intergovernmental cooperation agreement is about to enter in force. According to reports, Russia would continue to pursue military cooperation with the country.

Both ministers reviewed the situation in Mali, the Republic of Guinea and some other African areas, with an emphasis on West Africa and the Sahara-Sahel region.

Lavrov and Carla Barbosa discussed preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit planned for 2022. With high hopes that the collective attendance will include President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo.

Guinea-Bissau, like many African states, has had political problems. In April 2020, the regional group of fifteen West African countries often referred to as ECOWAS, after months of election dispute finally recognized the victory of Umaro Sissoco Embaló of Guinea-Bissau.

Perspectives for future development are immense in the country. The marine resources and other water bodies are an integral part of the livelihood. Steps to increase agricultural production are necessary. The economy largely depends on agriculture: fish, cashew nuts and peanuts are its major exports. Its population is estimated at 1.9 million, and more than two-thirds live below the poverty line.

Sharing borders with Guinea (to the southeast), Gambia and Senegal (to the north), Guinea-Bissau attained its independence in September 1973. Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. Besides, Eсonomic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Guinea-Bissau is a member of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations.

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Empowering Women in the Changing World

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Empowering Women

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Women play an increasingly important role in resolving issues that society and the state encounter and in the modern world, they should not face the choice between family and self-fulfilment, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the third Eurasian Women’s Forum held in St. Petersburg on October 13-15.

“It is completely obvious that in modern conditions a woman should not face the choice between children and family or professional fulfilment. That is why in Russia the conditions are consistently created for a woman after childbirth to begin or resume her professional career at any moment, to become accomplished, to achieve growth in what she enjoys,” Mr Putin stressed.

The Eurasian Women’s Forum, held since 2015, is one of the largest international platforms uniting female leaders from all continents to examine and discuss the role of women in the modern world and work out new approaches to solving global problems.

The forum was organized by the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS).

Speaker of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, gave the opening speech at the plenary session. She stressed that the main goal of the global women’s community is to improve people’s quality of life as well as build mutual understanding and trust between countries and peoples in the name of peace and sustainable development.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Viktoria Abramchenko, noted in her speech that women are directly involved in implementing these tasks in Russia and on international platforms.

Vietnamese Vice President, Vo Thi Anh Xuan, made a video conference presentation. She said that the Forum is bringing together the majority of women around the world. “The role of women today is extremely important. We can make the world more just and help fight global challenges,” she said.

Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan Sahiba Ali gizi Gafarova believes that the topics discussed at the Eurasian Women’s Forum provide an opportunity to consider the most pressing issues of modern life and enhance women’s status around the world. Gafarova stated that fully unleashing women’s potential would be the foundation for building a healthy society.

Chairwoman of the Senate of Uzbekistan Tanzila Narbaeva noted that the forum once again demonstrated women’s growing role in resolving the socioeconomic issues facing their countries. The Forum demonstrates new approaches to the women’s agenda, she said.

Narbaeva stressed that Uzbekistan is ready to share its experience in various areas and is open to cooperation. She invited the participants to take part in the women’s forum during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in 2022, planned in Samarkand.

Chairwoman of the Lower Chamber of Parliament of Turkmenistan, Gulshat Mammedova, said the forum is an important platform for interaction between women and helps to harmonize efforts in addressing various issues of the changing world as well as exchange views and experience in promoting women’s rights.

Participation of African women was modest, that included for example President of the Senate of Gabon Lucie Milebou Aubusson, Liberian Dr Jewel Howard-Taylor and Zimbabwean First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa among a few others. President of the Assembly of Mozambique, Esperança Laurinda Francisco Nhiuane Bias, delivered a speech at the forum.

Zimbabwean First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, on the sidelines held a special working discussion with the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matviyenko, focusing on developing inter-parliamentary relations, women in sustainable development, education and charity.

The First Lady and the Speaker snapshotted the possibility of greater participation of Russian economic operators in the development process in the southern African region. Both women have expressed an appreciation for cooperating on common questions on international platforms. Diplomatic relations between the two marked their 40th year.

On October 15, African women took part in an exclusive discussion solely on “the Role of Women in the Integrated Development of the African Continent” at the Tauride Palace. It was attended by women from international organizations, business circles, the scientific community and non-governmental organizations.

The entire third forum was held offline using modern formats such as video conferencing and online broadcast, intended to ensure extended outreach and provide audience engagement. The physical presence was organized in strict accordance with safety measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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