Meet the GES Delegate: Jonathan Shaw
Country of Origin: American born in Kenya, lives and works in DR Congo
Organization Name: Kivu Green Energy
Organization Website: www.kivugreenenergy.com
Brief Description of Organization: Kivu Green Energy is a renewable energy startup company based in the town of Beni, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Our vision is to provide affordable, stable, renewable energy to the people of eastern Congo. Our focus is on solar micro-grid development and sustainably sourced biofuels.
What inspired you to start this organization? Congo has been at or near the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index for over 15 years. Eastern Congo’s people reel from years of war and endemic poverty. Without an electrical grid, the vast majority of North Kivu’s residents have no access to stable power. Clean, affordable energy is an essential ingredient for growth in every sector of society — from health care to education. Kivu Green Energy’s founders realized that most people access power via small, expensive, unreliable, inefficient, community-owned diesel generators. We are developing a model to replace these diesel generators with multiple small solar systems. Scaling from the bottom up we seek to leapfrog older models of massive energy, state-driven projects and use cutting edge technology to cleanly power Eastern Congo’s future.
What is the next big step you hope to help your organization reach? Kivu Green Energy is ready to replace our own diesel generators with 195 kVa of solar power. This will improve quality of power, reduce costs, and increase stability for our 259 existing households and business clients. We also seek to roll out prepaid metering to stabilize our cash flow and empower our clients to manage their own usage more effectively.
What has been your biggest obstacle as an entrepreneur? Political uncertainty and security challenges make eastern Congo a complex place to do business. The opportunities presented by our context also provide obstacles to growth. Doing business in a region with devastated educational institutions and poor to non-existent road infrastructure adds to the challenge. Nonetheless, the sense that we can lay the groundwork for a completely renewable energy infrastructure in eastern Congo is exciting and motivating.
What advice would you give other emerging entrepreneurs? There will always be good reasons to give up, try something easier, or follow a more established path. The core of your vision must be strong and robust enough to withstand the seasons of frustration and failure that are inevitable. Refine your focus, stay passionate about your core values, and don’t give up.