Berlin, Germany, 6 March, 2023
Maher Soyah completed RENAC programmes and courses in Berlin, Germany, when he learned about the Alumni Network Gruene Buergerenergie’s Alumni Netzwerk und Support für afrikanische Professionals (ANSAP) programme. RENAC organises and implements online training on renewable energy technology and finance and the mentorship programme for ANSAP. As a maintenance engineer at an electric and gas company in Tunisia, he was motivated to apply because he wanted to start a company in the country that would promote sustainable community projects and provide employment opportunities for others in his community.
RENAC’s training and mentorship supported Maher in achieving his goal—he recently started his own business, INNOPSOL (Innovative Power Solutions), in Tunisia. INNOPSOL provides software solutions in the field of renewable energy as well as consulting services. We caught up with Maher to learn more about his path to success and how he continues to use the skills and knowledge from ANSAP as a new business owner. For Maher, the most impactful parts of the ANSAP programme were the pitch sessions, the focus on financial analysis, and the mentorship component.
Thank you so much, Maher, for sharing more about your story with us at RENAC. Why did you apply to ANSAP?
Of course, I am happy to share. I completed RENAC programmes and courses in Berlin, Germany and applied to ANSAP to develop my skills and knowledge in renewable energy and energy efficiency. I wanted to do this to create a business that focuses on these topics. By doing this, I could positively impact my community by starting a company based in Tunisia. I could help companies in my country, and other countries in Africa assess their renewable energy projects.
ANSAP includes both online training and a mentorship programme. What skills or knowledge from the online training do you currently use most in your work?
Before ANSAP, I wanted to start a consulting company. I had yet to form my idea for this company, but during the online training, there were two assignments: prepare two papers about your idea, so the real business plan started then. From this online training part, I learned some essential technical and financial content that I used to create the technical and financial simulation software that my company uses now to make project assessments. For example, we use formulas from the RENAC training for financial assessments of off-grid and solar PV projects. The content also used examples from countries in Africa, which helped me ensure that what I was learning could be applied to where I work. This connection helps make sustainable projects and solutions because the local context informs them.
Why did you want to participate in the ANSAP project development mentorship programme? How did the ANSAP mentorship programme help you develop the business plan you started during the online training part?
I wanted to develop my model of a business plan, which was initially for a consulting company. However, after working on the structure with my mentor, I had a different idea—a software solution company plus consulting. My mentor advised me to focus on the calculation tools I had already prepared and to include them in my business plan as software solutions. This was good advice because instead of only focusing on consulting, I shifted to also focusing on the tools and solutions. I came to the programme with a lot of technical expertise, but had to work on my understanding of finance. The programme allowed me to strengthen my understanding of finance, which was crucial to be able to make this shift in the direction of my company.
Is there anything you are doing differently due to your mentoring experience?
Instead of focusing on technical consulting, I focused on software, so I now consult using the tools and software I prepared. Before, it was about tech integration into the grid, but now I can use the tools to then assess the impact and also assess the technical and economic impact of renewable projects.
What did you like most about the mentorship programme?
I liked the one-on-one with mentors, looking at strengths and focusing on weaknesses to improve them. And I also liked the group sessions, which led to learning about my peers and their projects. Their projects included aspects that are specific to the countries I planned to work with. The pitching sessions were also helpful because I learned how to promote my project quickly.
What career advice would you give to others who want to start green energy businesses?
1. Try to find good training to enhance knowledge and expertise in the field 2. Understand the importance and potential of renewables. 3. Then, understand the business side and know how to pitch a project. 4. It is important to believe in yourself and your ideas. It isn’t easy at the beginning, but keep at it.
Learn more about ALUMNI NETWORK AND SUPPORT FOR AFRICAN PARTICIPANTS.