By Ephraim Oseji & FLORENCE AMAGIYA
Felix Oritseweyinmi Aganbi, managing director /CEO, Akogate Ventures, is a graduate of engineering from the University of Ibadan. He shares his experience on how he came up with a design of solar to help areas where there is no electricity, especially where water cannot be pumped without electricity .
After my service year, I did search for jobs. One or two things led me to build this great organization. When job was not forth coming, I had to think of ways I could make money in my field. We had a project in NDDC back then which was to supply goods to their directors. On supplying the goods, I ran into a document showed there were projects on water to be powered by solar.
This caught my fancy because of my background in engineering. I then made research on what solar was all about because I was still fascinated with solar itself and how it works. So, I read a lot on it and gained valuable understanding .
After a whole lot of knowledge on what solar system was all about , I noticed that the bill and design was wrong and I made a complaint to the director that the design was wrong. The director asked how I knew and I told him I was vast in the technology.
They went ahead and installed their own design which I knew was not correct and it failed. Luckily for us, Akogate had become incorporated. When we saw the internal advert that they needed people who could come with various designs to help the solar system in NDDC, we submitted our proposal. We were invited for presentation and out of the seven invited, our presentation was the best. Akogate was born eight years ago. That was how it all started.
What were the challenges you faced and has it been worthwhile?
After the presentation, we did not hear from them for a whole year, so like people who were determined to make a living, we went back and this time we went with a different proposal that if they do not believe our design, we would prove to them that we could deliver.
We took a gamble and told them we would do the job without pay and it worked. they gave us a site in Sapele and we took it up. I sourced for loan to enable us do the site and I can boldly say that project is still functioning.
That is basically the challenge I faced starting the organization and after that there were various directors who came with nothing to show for our project to go on. Luckily, somebody on the board of directors ran into our design and sent for us and asked if we deliver, that we would be paid after the job. So, we did the first five projects in Delta and another five in Bayelsa.
As we went on, we were faced with the challenge of buying inferior materials in Lagos. Some were genuine while others were not. That was a very big challenge because we had integrity and one of the reasons you can excel in solar installation is the integrity of your materials. We went to Germany to have a meeting with the manufacturers and they refused to give us because we are Nigerians. We had to go through Republic of Benin to register Akogate there.
We got our franchise from Republic of Benin as Akogate Benin; that’s how our office there was opened to procure materials from Germany. From there we brought it down to Nigeria. At that stage ,we were really choked financially, in terms of integrity and to prove ourselves back then.
Would you say Nigeria is a fertile ground for investment?
Nigeria is a place where investment is so high but the policies do not support it. It is an investment haven because, in my field, I don’t pray that we do not have power always, lack of power gives us enough room to operate. We are forming an association of solar engineers who have integrity because there are some charlatans that are also in the business like in other businesses. In our case, we decided to go for the best , be the best and do the best .
We are now in partnership with NDDC in the nine states , we also have projects with the MDGs in Nigeria , we have projects in Kenya and Liberia. From that humble beginning, Akogate has been a household name. We are franchised in Africa, for our products, we have a name.
So I can say that the humble seed that was sown years ago due to our determination has gone beyond the shores of Niger Delta, Nigeria, West Africa, and even Europe because when you go to Germany, Akogate is registered.
Why did you venture into this business instead of any other ?
Normally, when you sit down as a young man, the best challenge you see is your environment. The environment spurs you to do something meaningful there. Looking at the environment, we could not compete with mega power stations, Julius Berger; we found out that people were dying daily because they lacked good water .
We discovered a situation where we could come in with our configuration design of solar to help areas where there was no electricity, where water cannot be pumped with electricity and solar could be of great use.
Due to lack of power in our environment, we soared into solar technology and, apart from the technology, we give life through water. There are various villages we have installed our solar pumps and panels.
How far do you wish to see your business grow?
Prophetically, God has told us that this is just the beginning and they say joy comes in the morning so every morning brings a new joy for Akogate. We don’t have any limitation and neither do we fear any competition. We go everywhere and anywhere. We Marileage, when you go on CNN you see Akogate. That is my dream. And we will get there.