BY ETOP EKANEM
Necessityis the mother of invention”, so the saying goes. The expediency and truism in this age-long witty saying came into full meaning a fortnight ago when MTN Nigeria in collaboration with Nova Lumos, GSMA and Schneider Electric addressed a press conference on the MTN Mobile Electricity, an affordable solar electricity solution that can power light bulbs, cellphones, fans, PCs or laptops, radios and other small electronic devices, all at once, every day.
Over the last three decades, the perennial energy crisis confronting Nigeria has become a source of worry to the country’s leadership, regime after regime. At a little over 4,000 megawatts at the best of times and about 3,600 (as in the last six months), power generation, distribution and transmission keep ebbing. Not even the recent unbundling of the PHCN into GENCOs, DISCOs and TRANSCOs has any inkling of hope for the desired succor. At a dismal 4,000 megawatts for 160 million people, Nigeria may as well still be in the dark ages when compared to South Africa’s 45,000 megawatts for 52.98million people.
It is no longer news that a few years back, some multinationals closed their shops, pulled out of Nigeria, and took their businesses to other countries in the sub-region with more reliable power supply. This was necessitated largely because of the high energy cost which made their goods and services expensive, therefore, uncompetitive.
On the domestic front, shortage of light, in some cases non-existent, has affected the quality of life. The attendant consequence of lack of power can be felt all around us: a largely irritant and discomfited population for whom most of the electrical appliances in their homes have become part of the house furniture.
According to Mr. Marcel Hochet, Country President, Schneider Electric, of the over 1.3 billion people in the world who live without electricity, 600 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa and of Nigeria’s 160 million population, about half are not connected to the national grid. These statistics are mind boggling!
Enter Nova Lumos. For as little as N200.00 per week, households particularly in rural Nigeria can enjoy continuous 24/7 electricity to power basic domestic appliances. It is the near-perfect solution to replace candles and flashlight in homes across the country.
On the rationale for preferring MTN as a partner on the project, Davidi Vortman, CEO, Nova Lomus was quick to point to MTN’s innovative and continental leadership role in the ICT sector.
Lumos is technologically and financially backed by Schneider, a world leader in energy technology as well as the GSM association (GSMA) a global trade union for mobile operators. The management infrastructure for the service will ride on MTN’s telecoms network to reach its subscriber base which is in excess of 55 million in Nigeria.
At the official unveiling and memorandum signing ceremony of the partnership, Mary Roach, the GSMA Programme Operations Manager, said: “Nova Lumos in partnership with MTN Nigeria received funding from the GSMA’s Mobile Enabled Community Services (MECS) Innovation Grant Fund with the support of the UK Government.”
This grant, she said, is awarded to organisations developing innovations that improve access to energy and water among undeserved communities by leveraging mobile technology and infrastructure. The MECS Innovation Fund has helped to highlight the demand for mobile-enabled services and the role that mobile can play in supporting access to basic utility services across rural and urban markets.
For MTN and its partners, beyond business, this is a creative yet altruistic step in bridging the gap as government continues to look at ways of finding a lasting solution to the power crisis. The result of this synergy is a “win-win” for all parties concerned including the end users. In terms of value and in deference to preserving the environment, the mobile electricity solution (MES) is both sustainable and renewable. In addition, unlike other alternative energy platforms that still require connection to other forms of energy for charging, the MES is maintenance-free because it is a service not a product.
The benefits of the service include easy installation and competitive pricing-cost of acquisition is between N5,000 and N10,000 and the fact that it uses the ubiquitous GSM technology to recharge. At the end of the day, the MTN–Lumos synergy will bring a little succor to Nigerians.
In the words of Henry Okoede, MTN’s Senior Manager, Business Development, this new partnership is in furtherance of MTN’s bold new digital world vision which finds full expression in using mobile telephony and technology in impacting lives positively, while reducing exclusion and social disparity. Just like Nigeria has been able to find a solution to its communication problem, with a bit of creativity and difference in approach, it should be able to solve the energy problem although this may take a whil