We asked Zeray Abraham, the founder, and CEO of Aptech Africa Ltd about the success of his startup and how he plans to scale it in African countries with the lowest electrification rates and water access rates, so it’s having a huge impact within the sector.
ptech Africa is an engineering, procurement, and construction company that works in solar energy and water pumping projects across Africa. Its mission is to provide access to clean electricity and water in order to improve people’s livelihood in Africa.
Q: How did you get to know about Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition, and what did you do differently to be selected among the Top 10 oustanding African entrepreneurs this year?
I learned about the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa’s Business Heroes through Linkedin. I think I was selected for the top ten because Aptech has an inspiring business story of resilience and an inspiring mission to improve the lives of people across Africa. Aptech Africa is unique in that it operates in some of the countries with the lowest electrification rates and water access rates, so it’s having a huge impact within the sector.
Q: What lessons have you learned from the ABH program?
The ABH program has really been amazing. I was matched with a team of mentors who spent time helping me to pitch our story better and really emphasize the points that make Aptech Africa unique. I never would have made it to the top ten without their guidance and support. The ABH program has also given me the opportunity to network with some incredible entrepreneurs across the continent. It’s really inspiring to learn about the great work people are doing.
Q: How do you plan to use the experience and lessons from the program, to impact local business in Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Liberia, DRC, and Niger?
The ABH program has taught me that it’s really important to share our stories. There is an entire cohort of people across the continent that are working to create a better future for Africa. This program has taught me to be bold and dream big. Positive change is possible and we need to continue to work hard to create business solutions that will address the challenges faced across Africa.
Q: The ABH initiative is ongoing for another 7 years, who is eligible to apply and what tips can other startups take note of to enable them to participate next year and in the other upcoming editions?
For people who are applying, I would advise them to take some time to learn about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and to see how their business is contributing to these goals. I would also advise them to really articulate what makes their business unique. All of us have something that makes our business story special, but we might not yet know how to clearly articulate it in a way that others can easily understand.
Q: How do you plan to use your share of the money you will be getting in November this year from the ABH?
Aptech Africa has worked to create an innovative digital solution called PAY-N-PUMP that makes solar water pumping and irrigation accessible to small-scale farmers in Uganda. I plan on investing the prize money into the PAY-N-PUMP program so that we can scale and make these systems available to more farmers across Uganda.
Q: What problem is your business solving in Africa, especially in communities across Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Liberia, DRC, and Niger?
In Africa, 592 million people lack access to electricity and 320 million people lack access to clean water. Aptech Africa operates in countries with some of the lowest electrification and water access rates on the continent. Aptech Africa is using renewable energy to provide access to electricity and water for people living in these countries.
Q: Do you think this is the right time for your startup to solve the problem?
Access to electricity and water is essential to build communities with higher socioeconomic levels. This is the right time to be providing these solutions as Africa’s economies are growing towards their economic potential.
Q: Does your solution fit in the market? (Do people want it)?
The market demand for electricity and water is huge as these are considered essential services. Some countries in Africa have electrification rates as low as 1%. People both want and need our services.
Q: Tell us more about your team, why are you the best to solve this problem?
The strengths of Aptech’s team include their experience and diversity. Aptech’s team is made up of engineers, technicians, and support staff with lots of experience in the renewable energy industry. Our team is made up of individuals from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds. They are all working together to help Aptech achieve its mission of providing access to clean electricity and water to improve people’s lives.
Q: How innovative is your startup? (technological/social innovation).
Aptech’s solution PAY-N-PUMP is both innovative and essential. Through its experience, Aptech noticed that farmers’ crops were being affected by changing rain patterns as a result of climate change. We also realized that most small-scale farmers didn’t have the money to make the down payment traditionally needed to access solar water pumping and irrigation equipment. PAY-N-PUMP addresses these challenges using smart solutions such as remote monitoring and mobile money, so farmers are easily able to operate the system, and benefit from increased land productivity and yields.
Q: What is the social impact of your startup and what makes you different in the market?
Aptech Africa has had a big impact across the continent, addressing several of the UN’s SDGs. Across the continent, Aptech has given access to water to over 640,000 people, and access to electricity for over 104,000 people. Its solar systems mean that CO2 emissions are being reduced, making it a player in addressing climate change. Aptech is different from other players in the market because it is specifically operating in countries with the lowest electrification rates and water access rates, and also some of the most difficult to operate countries.
Q: How are you scaling up the startup and how do you measure your success?
Aptech is expanding its services to additional frontier markets across the continent. It measures its success by its impact, namely the number of people who gain access to electricity and water through its services.
Q: What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs and new startups in Uganda and Africa at large, across all countries of your operations?
Uganda is the hub in East Africa for entrepreneurs and has the geographic advantage of being strategically located in the middle of its East African neighbors. There has been huge support on the national level to improve the investment environment and to encourage local manufacturing and the start-up of local businesses. I would advise start-up companies and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the current business opportunities, make sure to integrate digital solutions into their business models, and always remember that Africa is the future.
Website: www.aptechafrica.com and www.paynpump.com
Phone Number: +256391002689