Energizing Voices — Camille André-Bataille, CEO of ANKA Madagascar
Camille leads ANKA Madagascar, a mini-grid developer successfully operating 12 solar PV-powered mini-grids since 2013. ANKA has contributed more than 800 direct connections in a country where approximately 76% of the rural population has no access to electricity.
“I dream of seeing rural villages connected to the world around them, with smart, sustainable and rewarding economic activities, in which renewable energies play a catalytic and leveraging role. It is important to me that access to energy is given a new meaning: it must not be an end in itself, but the starting point for sustainable and reasoned development.” Camille André-BATAILLE describes her vision for Madagascar.
The off-grid energy sector in Madagascar has its challenges. These are primarily related to the political and regulatory framework, and access to loan financing and grant support. Despite these challenges, in 2018 ANKA won a national tender to build and operate mini-grids for more than 50 villages in southern Madagascar. Project construction is expected to begin in December 2019, where ANKA aims to produce, distribute and sell electricity to rural communities. Focus will be on productive uses, especially agricultural processing activities and small industry, in order to create added value at the local level and thus boost the increase in purchasing power. As a result, an estimated 11,000 household connections are expected in the next seven years, impacting the lives of over 52,000 people.
Q. What led you to your position of CEO of a Malagasy mini-grid developer?
A. I grew up in the suburbs of Paris and studied at world renowned institutions. When I first started working in larger companies, I quickly realized that I didn’t really fit in. I wanted to test myself, to push my limits; but above all, I wanted to make myself useful. I wanted to prove that you can be a woman as well as a scientist and entrepreneur and all that in an unknown environment, outside your comfort zone. I wanted to contribute to a vision for the future, where equality is not a dream but a reality, where local potential can be amplified and replicated, and where sustainability prevails over short-term illusions. It may seem like a naive vision, but it’s a reality in which you can choose to live if you see yourself in it. I’m not changing the world, but I’m contributing my share. ANKA is an expression of all that. I arrived in Madagascar in 2013, and here I’ve been able to unlock opportunities and potentials, even at the most local level. Every day I try to make sure my team is aware of the significance of everyone’s role, the challenges of preserving our planet and the importance of valuing local heritage.
Q. What should people know about ANKA?
A. ANKA is the result of the merger of two start-ups: EOSOL Madagascar and MAJIKA. Both companies have always shared the same vision for rural development and the role of renewable energies in this path; two stories, two highly motivated teams, and now one single identity. The company name comes from “Angovo ntiska” which means “Our energy” in Malagasy. The meaning of “our” is very strong and inclusive; it basically means “our energy, by us, for us.”
ANKA is going further in innovating its rural electrification model by pairing access to electricity with local agricultural sectors. The model is called Agrigrid and refers to what we call “mini-grids 3.0”. While mini-grids 1.0 delivered electrons in a straightforward manner and mini-grids 2.0 offered technological innovations to increase efficiency and project performance, mini-grids 3.0 looks at electricity access as a pathway to socio-economic development.
Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges within the off-grid energy sector in Madagascar?
A. Overall, the sector desperately needs a roadmap. Without an action plan and a clear vision from decision-makers, it’s very difficult to position oneself in the market and provide appropriate solutions, particularly in off-grid areas. From a financing perspective, mini-grid developers need subsidies to structure sustainable business cases, especially given the public nature of the service they provide and the low purchasing power of rural communities. Unfortunately, Madagascar still does not attract many donors.
Q. What are ANKA’s goals for the next three years?
A. ANKA intends to deliver its projects and to consolidate its presence in Madagascar by developing new rural electrification projects, by innovating its business model and especially the productive use of electricity and the increase of income for local population. We also foresee opportunities to expand our activities beyond Madagascar and penetrate markets that are still under-exploited on the African continent, particularly in French-speaking countries.
Q. How do you see the role of women in the energy sector?
A. I recognize that women’s presence in the energy sector is too low, and not only in Africa. The sector is historically male dominated and has a vision in which women have no place because of technical work, engineering skills, etc. As someone who works with many women on a daily basis, both in academic and field positions, I think that women are capable of anything, precisely because they are told otherwise! It is important that they believe in themselves and dare to enter this sector to bring their skills, creativity, rigor and inspiration. We all have a role to play!
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