“We need to be more deliberate on the investment front”

Interview with Munyaradzi Jani, Executive Director RenewAfrica.Biz

Photo: ARIS

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly subsides, you have decided to hold the Africa Renewables Investment Summit in Cape Town. Will it be a live or a hybrid format? What sparked this decision?

The inaugural ARIS will be a live event, but we do have plans to add a virtual component for 2023. We are now at a time where people are eager to go out there and interact in person after close to two years of living literally “virtual lives”. We are getting responses about renewable energy investors and developers excited about coming to Cape Town to explore investment opportunities in Africa’s renewable energy sector.

We decided to host ARIS because the issue around inadequate investment in Africa’s renewable energy sector was not being properly highlighted in many of the energy conversations where Africa is mentioned. Addressing energy poverty on the continent where half of the population has no electricity, we need to be more deliberate on the investment front.

Africa is only receiving 2% of all global renewable energy investment, despite having 60% of the world’s solar energy potential. Unacceptable in our view. We wanted to provide a platform where investors get to look at projects for investment right at the event. Or at least start the process of investment from ARIS.

What will your event look like? And how many delegates do you expect offline/online?

ARIS will mainly focus on connecting investors to projects through our matchmaking facilities. We’ll also have pitching sessions for projects, not only in electricity generation but also green hydrogen which is currently the hype of the energy industry right now. Africa with its immense renewable energy potential is uniquely positioned to play a strategic role in the production of green hydrogen - a fuel crucial for decarbonisation of various industries.

We are expecting no less than 500 in-person delegates. We won’t have any online delegates for this year’s ARIS.

Did you conduct virtual or hybrid events before? If you compare a virtual with a live event, how different are the planning and organization?

Yes, we have organised virtual events before. ARIS is being organised by four organisations including GWEC (Global Wind Energy Council), SolarPower Europe, RenewAfrica and AFSIA (Africa Solar Industry Association), who have experience individually organising events for years. For us RenewAfrica, this will be our first in-person event.

Based on our experience organising virtual events, I feel live events are quite laborious to execute. So much planning goes into organising live events. But the goal is to make more impact. We feel people engage each other better in person, physical handshakes always feel better than emojis when talking business.

Virtual events do have advantages as well, they are less expensive to organise. There are some topics that do suit virtual events quite well, especially if it's a topic that needs to be addressed in an instant.

The MICE industry has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think this will change our industry, and what measures can be taken, in your opinion?

The pandemic has impacted the MICE industry in both negative and positive ways. I think the virtual component of events is a good addition. My philosophy has always been to embrace change and adapt. COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of technology and digital tools for organising events. That for me is a plus. But of course there are still concerns about the pandemic, COVID-19 is not completely over. This calls on the industry to make health and safety measures central in event organisation.