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A chat with Babatunde Fashola and Tope Shonubi of Sahara Group - CNN International learns about the energy sector in Nigeria

By Olubukola Afolabi

On Marketplace Africa, CNN International travels to the largest power plant in Nigeria to see how the energy sector is adapting to meet the demands on the country. Presenter Eleni Giokos speaks to the co-founder and Executive Director of the Sahara Group, Temitope Shonubi, to learn more about the energy company’s plan for the future and Babatunde Fahola, Nigeria’s Minister for power, works and housing.

In Nigeria not enough energy is produced to meet demand which prevents the economy and jobs from growing which in turn limits the quality of life as explained by Babatunde Fashola, Nigeria’s Minister of power, works and housing: “Available capacity is 7000 megawatts but the actual distributed capacity that reaches the end user is hovering between 4000 - 5000 because of distribution inefficiency.”

Nigeria is moving towards privatisation which will double energy capacity in five years. Fifteen generation and distribution firms were sold to private investors but transmission remains in the Government’s hands. Fashola says to CNN: “When this administration took over we had all sorts of issues to deal with from regulatory to financial to infrastructure to governors to energy theft - the entire value chain just needed to be reformed… The generation side is doing well, the transmission side is doing well… we need the uptake on distribution as well.”

Electricity theft in Nigeria is a widespread problem due to poor infrastructure and illegal connections aren’t always easy to identify as explained by Kola Adesina, Chairman of the Sahara Group. Adesina believes his expansion plans can help solve the problem by providing sufficient energy for the country, he explains: “Well the vision we have from the outset when we made the investment was not only to double the capacity but equally to go beyond Nigeria and establish footprint across Africa --- we still believe it can be done if the model behind electricity is made right.”

During the programme, Eleni Giokos also speaks to the co-founder and Executive Director of Sahara Group, Temitope Shonubi, about how the company has grown and its aims for the future. Shonubi tells Marketplace Africa: “In the past, it was about size. It was about finance. But today's changed, it's now more about your corporate social responsibility. It's now about corporate governance. In Sahara, what we're looking at is adding more volume. Putting more on the table being aware of the environment.”

Shonubi describes where the company saw success: “The big turning point was when we realized that what we were selling actually had value, integrity, service, sustainability, and once we saw that it was a niche market. A lot of companies have come in and not delivered what they promised to deliver and for us once we could achieve this we realize, hang on.”

Technology has also helped Sahara Group grow as Shonubi says: “It has reduced costs. It has brought in efficiency, transparency, and it's also ensured sustainability of a lot of things we do. We see technology mostly as that system that makes things better. Makes it easier, more customer focused, customer delivery efficiency, and obviously effectively.”

On the future goals of Sahara Group, Shonubi explains: “We're working on refining, revamping certain refineries… We started to expand in terms of storage. We're working on power. Alternative energy, clean energy. We're working on environmental transactions, in terms of saving the environment. And what we see is where we can be a technology based company delivering energy efficiently.