Global specialist in energy management, Schneider Electric is seeing the fruition of its sustainable programme to bring safe, clean electricity to people in developing countries.
Called BipBop – an acronym standing for “Business Investment and People at the BOttom of the Pyramid” – the strategy builds upon a profitable and responsible vision and was launched in South Africa in 2008.
With the strong willingness to involve local communities and stakeholders in each country, the BipBop programme addresses three key issues to provide sustainable access to electricity:
• the lack of appropriate equipment through the development of an adequate offer; • the shortage of financial resources available for innovative entrepreneurs through funding; and
• the skills and expertise shortage through technical and business training.
According to Schneider South Africa’s country manager, Patrick Gaonach, the company is addressing these problem areas by developing and delivering solutions, particularly from the perspective of renewable energies to provide affordable and clean energy, providing funding to innovative electrical companies, SMEs and entrepreneurs to contribute to the success of local businesses, and supporting disadvantaged young people to acquire electrical competencies and develop their ability to work, through training.
In South Africa, the BipBop programme has taken a three tiered approach in terms of skills development, with the provision of funding to both electrical engineering students at local universities and technician students at universities of technology and training wiremen in electricity.
Last year, we awarded bursaries to four technician students from the Tshwane University of Technology. Two of these students are doing their experiential training with the Schneider services team in Capital Hill, while the remaining two are completing their final year, after which they will also complete their experiential training with the services team in 2010. Twenty wiremen from Thembisa, Dobsonville and Roodepoort were trained at Ekurhuleni West College and South West Gauteng College, with five individuals now employed with Clipsal contractors.
2009 has seen two BSc Engineering students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and three technician students from Durban University of Technology being awarded bursaries, as well as 60 wiremen scheduled to be trained in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng, “With regards to the business aspect of BipBop, he says that Schneider’s aim has been to work with Conlog, a specialist in the prepayment field, to provide municipalities with prepaid solutions. By doing so, it ensures that the communities within the municipalities are afforded safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
BipBop is a very important project for Schneider Electric South Africa as there is still a lot of work to be done in this part of the world to give access to safe electricity and support people in acquiring electrical competencies and developing their abilities to work and generate revenue, adds Gaonach.
“Conlog in South Africa has already been a strong contributor towards our first objective by providing prepayment solutions to more than 1.5 million new households in over ten countries and this concept is still developing today in new countries. We are also committed to accelerating our investment in the training of wiremen coming from poorer communities,” he concludes.