By Ebele Orakpo
Nigerians can now enjoy self-powered, relocatable office/work space complete with efficient mini-split unit air conditioner, painted and insulated interior finish, stained plywood floors, interior lighting and outlets, foldable PV racking system and many more.
This new product is from the stables of SPACE Nigeria Limited, a company that provides secure and robust portable buildings fabricated from recycled, high cube shipping containers. In this chat with Vanguard in Lagos recently, Mr. Dimeji Bassir, the Executive Director of SPACE (Self-Powered Adaptive Container for Everyone) Nigeria, reveals the reason behind the creation of SPACE and challenges of doing business in Nigeria. Excerpts:
Mr. Dimeji Bassir is an experienced hand in the energy industry having worked in oil and gas service companies as well as in drilling and production of oil and gas wells for close to 20 years. In the last three – four years, he has been involved in provision of solar-enabled work space, the first of its kind in the market, using the experience he garnered from the energy industry.
Said Bassir: “With the overwhelming cost of powering offices and workspaces with fuel generators in Nigeria, SPACE presents an innovative and economical alternative to businesses having an incentive to drive down costs by utilising an eco-friendly power- generating technology package.
We are leveraging all the experiences and the know-hows of the entire oil and gas industry in the last 20 years to bring back home some of these great experiences.”
According to Bassir, the solar-enabled work space is an environment-friendly work space consisting of a “shipping container (20-foot or 40-foot), efficient mini-split unit air-conditioner, painted and insulated interior finish, stained plywood floors, interior lighting and outlets, foldable PV racking system, storefront window wall and PV electrical system (off-grid). It is portable, scalable and durable.”
Explaining further, he said: “It is portable in the sense that you can locate it in one site and then move it to the next site. It is scalable as you can increase the size of both the solar power system and the container to meet different demands. That, in a nutshell, is what the product is all about,” he stated.
He noted that SPACE solar power system has 3,500W capacity when fully charged whereas SPACE power consumption is just 1,000W (with full use of air-conditioner, lights and outlets) and the battery backup can last for up to four days if used conservatively, adding: “Due to the nature of its components, the SPACE unit is quite resistant to harsh climatic conditions. The interior is designed to maximize space and reduce wastage.”
Although the price range is between N6m and N16m depending on the configuration, Bassir, is however, happy that the response by the market has been overwhelming.
Speaking on the challenges, he said the greatest challenge so far “is what I will call the ‘copycats.’ People are already going to some of the clients we are talking to and saying ‘oh, you know we can give you the same product.’
But we have the first mover advantage so we have one in-country, the clients can see, touch and feel it and they feel comfortable with the performance so far and that is quite encouraging but the window of opportunities is very short so we have to move very quickly and rapidly if we are to make real commercial success out of it.”
On whether lack of electricity is the biggest challenge to businesses in Nigeria, he said: “I would not say it is the biggest but it is obviously a huge challenge. When you put things like the cost of generating power especially the small to medium scale businesses who literally generate their own electricity, it is a huge cost structure for them, and it becomes incrementally so for the bigger businesses who have to generate more electricity.”
Asked if the Federal Government has the capacity to meet the power needs of the nation, Bassir replied: “It is not about having the capacity, it is more about having the will. We have everything it takes to make anything in Nigeria but somehow, Nigeria lacks everything it has; it is such a paradox but it is true.
We have 37 billion barrels of oil reserves and then we turn around and import petroleum products on a permanent basis. There are many viable means of generating power adopted all over the world and these are technologies that are robust and have been proven and a lot of economies rely on them.”
He believes that the only way forward is for government to create the enabling environment whereby the private sector will be comfortable to make investments, knowing that there is a very minimal risk exposure in terms of policies that favour them and policies that will stay consistent.
“Good example is the refining situation. If a small company here is producing 1000 barrels of oil per day and they only need a small refinery to produce some diesel, most of which they consume and then sell the rest, now imagine a situation where the government creates the enablers that allow more of those refineries to spring up, think of the effect on the availability of products, on the economy in terms of utilisation of local resources and employment. The multiplier effect is very huge,” he stated.
Mr. Bassir said the product could be deployed as Retail stores for telecoms companies, E-branches for banks, computer labs, construction/field offices, triage/medical offices, emergency relief centres etc.
“We have a classic situation within the banks where the CBN says we need to go cashless, obviously that comes with infrastructure needs – IT, power, etc. So this is a product that can make it a seamless transition as people migrate from traditional banking method to electronic platform.
Two, I will give you a classic example of healthcare where interestingly, I was told that polio is only still showing up in Nigeria amongst several sub-Saharan African countries and organisations like UNAID, WHO and UNESCO still spend lots of money trying to make vaccines available and make sure that people in the hinterland have access to medicare.
Again, this solar-powered container is a product you can have in every remote area of this country, generating its own power to store vaccines safely and we think it is a great change.”