Category Archives: Total

France & Kenya and Renewable Energy

Yesterday there was forum on renewable energy in Nairobi. It was organized by the Embassy of France and the Kenya government to show executives from French energy companies opportunities to invest in renewables and other energy projects in Kenya and Africa. Aqylon, Engie, GreenYellow, Quadran,  Sogea Satom, Total , UrbaSolar, Vegrent, and Vinci representatives were part of the group.

French companies built hydro dams in Kenya

French companies built hydro dams in Kenya


  • Large silent corporations include Engie which produces 3 GW in Africa and Vinci which has EUR  800  million of revenue, and 14,000 staff in Africa.
  • SUNREF from AFD/KAM provides tailored finance for green energy to Kenyan companies through Bank of Africa,  CBA,  Diamond Trust and Cooperative Bank. 11 companies have now been financed, and some that have got SUNREF green energy finance include KTDA, Meru dairy, Strathmore University, and Redland Roses.
  • Kenya has 10 independe power producers (IPP’s) producing 650 MW (28%) of its electricity – shows how vibrant it is for investors.
  • Regional electricity sharing in future: Kenya produces 2,200 MW, Ethiopia 4,284 MW (90% from hydro), Tanzania 1,583 MW (65% from thermal), and Uganda 900 MW (80% from hydro)
  • GreenYellow works with factory, malls, hotels, to finance & build (heat/cold/solar/light) systems that reduce their energy costs by 30%
  • UrbaSolar is working with Kenyatta University on a 100% self-consumption plant that will reduce electricity bills by 80% (20% is night).
  • Total is constructing a 40 MW solar plant at Isiolo with Green Millenia, while Kenya’s rural electrification authority (REA) has got funding to do a 50 MW one near Garissa.
  • KenGen which provides 80% of Kenya’s electricity, has tendered for an Olkaria 5 plant, and will build an industrial park there.
  • There’s opportunity in Kenya off-grid & mini grid electricity, but there’s no legal framework for integrating with the national grid integration & projects sometimes face land acquisition or compensation delays.
  • Solar has not picked up in Kenya, but with drop of photovoltaic prices, there’s lots of interest here now – Energy Permanent Secretary J. Njoroge told the companies..  He also said renewable energy is intermittent – it can only be used up to a certain % of Kenya’s electricity grid supply. Later there was  mention of CSP solar plants which are more complex & expensive than traditional PV ones which but do give stable solar electricity.

Kenyan Consumer Guide on Solar for Homes

Kenya is currently the largest market for solar home systems on the African continent and second largest in the world, after China, by both annual sales as well as total installed base. The Kenyan solar home system (SHS) category is considered the most competitive by far, and due to its history and heritage, one of the most developed, albeit primarily in the informal sector.  Today, there are over 350,000 solar home systems across Kenya and the market is still growing at more than 15% a year.
What does this mean for you, the consumer?
 Variety of solar options for rural households
Choice:  With so much to choose from and new products, services, and business models being launched, how can you evaluate what kind of solution would work best for your household needs?
Not only is there something for every budget but big names such as Safaricom, Total, Dayliff (Davis & Shirtliff), Sollatek and the IFC with its “Lighting Africa” initiative, all have something to offer.  Do you go with the brand that is backing the product or do you evaluate the category of product and its suitability for your home?
Let’s start with what are the categories of  “solar products” and then take a closer look at each brand’s offerings.  The products available in the market can be clustered broadly into the following:
1. “SHS in a box” or “Lighting kit in box”
2. Stand alone solar lanterns
3. Emerging “pay as you use” business models
4. Solar home systems (SHS)
1. “SHS in a box” or “Lighting kit in box”:  Today, complete kits like the one shown below are available in certain electrical shops around the country. This particular one, sells for somewhere around Kshs 15,000 (~$175)  and includes a motion sensor security light as well all the components required for installation.
They are available in three main sizes – small, medium and large – but keep in mind that since brands like these are social enterprises, they are aimed at the lower income demographic – and the 15W kit shown above is the ‘Large’ size but is limited to providing only lights, and will not be able to power a television set or a stereo system. Note also that the battery is not included. Depending on the brand, expect to pay around Kshs 4000 to 6000 extra.
An alternate type of kit is the Phillips one shown below, meant for middle-class urban homes as a backup for electricity power cuts.  Available at selected Nakumatt supermarkets for Kshs 6,000 ($70), this is one of the most expensive backup solar light kits in the market,  however, the elegant design and details such as a wall mounted light switch make it an attractive option for the upwardly mobile home.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Philips kit
The advantage of this type of complete kit is that all the components are ostensibly designed to work seamlessly together and everything necessary to the system up and running is available in one box.  This approach addresses one of the biggest challenges with SHS in Kenya which is the dearth of well-trained fundis (technicians/installers/repairmen) with the experience and knowledge of designing a solar home system.
The disadvantage of such a system, however, is that it is limited to the components provided, in that one cannot simply add on and build a larger system. Some of the best-provided homes in off-grid rural locales have extensive installations built up over time to power their entire homestead and numerous electrical appliances – so when choosing what kind of system to purchase, keep your future needs in mind.
2.  Solar Lanterns:
Total sign

Due to donor-funded support from institutions such as the IFC, whose Lighting Africa initiative offers market research information as well as quality audits on products, the Kenyan market is flooded with a large variety of solar lanterns, both with the ability to charge your mobile phone and without.

Total, for example, distributes d.Light’s solar lanterns at its retail petrol stations, while Nakumatt picks and chooses which products it will carry according to the needs of the location their outlets serve.   The basic light sold at Total costs Kshs. 999 ($12)  while the larger model which allows you to charge your mobile phone as well can go for upwards of Kshs. 3,000.
Powerpoint at Twiga

Given the wide variety and choice available in the Nairobi market, one can choose according to design and price as per one’s preference.  However, these solar solutions are limited to a single light and the vast majority of products tend to have the panel either embedded in the light source or attached to it permanently, limiting their flexibility.

Powerpoint’s outlet in Twiga Towers is one of the few reputable solar specialists specializing in serving the needs of urban Nairobi’s market.  As you can see, the range of solar lighting and solar lanterns offers something for everyone.  If you’re thinking of something solar for your household, that’s a great place to start your fact finding trip.
 Here, ToughStuff’s ecosystem of products built to work independently around a durable solar panel – available at Nakumatt – offers you flexibility in terms of whether you want only a lightweight portable mobile phone charging solution or if you’d prefer a light or both.
3. (Pay as you go) Mobile Business Models for Solar products: With Safaricom’s launch of the M-Kopa business model, customers now have the choice of paying for a solar product using M-Pesa over an extended period of time. The solar light is from d.light such as that available via Total.  Their kit contains 3 bright lights and a mobile charging system, similar to the “Kit in a box” described above.  The business model is designed to automatically deduct Kshs 40/= ($0.47)  from your account in order to use the lights until the point where you own the system. Alternatively, the complete kit can be obtained for Kshs. 15,000 ($175) upfront.
Another is Eight19’s Indigo pay as you go solar that seems to be piloting in Kenya. Here they use vouchers or scratch cards to top up your charge rather than directly via the SIM card. This is however still in the pilot stage as the company websites do not yet show a Kenyan outlet.

4. Solar home systems (SHS): Known colloquially in upcountry locations as “sola”, the basic SHS consists of a solar panel, a battery for holding the charge,  between 2 to 4 fixtures for holding energy saver bulbs (known informally as “solar lights”) and the requisite wiring.  These kits can cost as little as Kshs 10,000 ($118)  including installation and tend to be the starting point for many homes seeking modern energy systems.

From here, one can build up to including inverters and larger panels such as the 100W-120W kits popular in Maasailand, that are able to power flat screen Sony Bravia televisions, kitchen appliances and the latest stereo systems in addition to lighting the home inside and out.  Colour television and new digital systems require 60W at a minimum in order to work. Such panels alone cost around $200 upwards but prices are very rarely displayed and often negotiable.
For a household in Nairobi,  an SHS  would be the first recommendation. Dayliff is probably one of the most credible brand names, as long as the technology is German. (Be sure to the check the back of the panel to ensure this).  Ubbink is a newly launched brand that fundi’s consider to be efficient and high quality. It is manufactured by a Dutch company establishing Kenya’s first solar panel factory in Naivasha and their panels are smaller than average offering higher wattage and more affordable cost due to lack of import duties and transportation. Check them out. Its a commonly held fallacy that physical size of the panel is important.
Do’s & Don’ts on How to buy an SHS:   (also applicable to the other options above)
* Do find a reputable fundi with references and experience in calculating your power requirements and designing the requisite home system. This is the biggest reason for customer unhappiness with the performance of solar energy.
* Don’t try to talk to all and sundry and make up a list of components yourself. This is another major reason for inadequate systems that fail to meet customer needs.
* Do your homework, however.  Nairobi’s CBD is the heart of the solar power industry for the entire country and the latest products are seen here first.
 * Don’t go window shopping without a list of minimum requirements on what you wish your SHS to be able to power and for how long.
* Do have an idea of your estimated budget. For a 3-bedroom house in  Nairobi, it’s possible to start as low as $500.
* Don’t let the salesman confuse you until you simply give up and plunk down the money for the nearest panel.  Take the time to think over what you really need to purchase.
* Do keep in mind that SHS are modular and an experienced fundi can help you figure out your starter kit on which you can keep adding over time as budget permits.
Photo and market research courtesy of @nitibhan

Urban Inflation Index March 2012

2012 was expected to be an election year, which for Kenya are unfortunately marked by low economic growth, but this weekend, the electoral authority made an announcement that the next general elections would be held in March 2013.

A quotes from the above referenced post by Wolfgang Fengler, the World Bank’s Lead Economist for the region reads;

Since 1980, Kenya’s economy grew by an average of 3.4 percent. However, in election years, the average growth rate was only 2.4 percent, and growth was even below 2 percent in four of the election years. Equally challenging has been the management of post-election dynamics. Kenya achieved a modest 2.7 percent in post-election years, and three of the last six elections were followed by low-growth, especially in 2008, when post-election violence disrupted the country’s achievements of previous years.

It’s also been incredibly hot & dry in Nairobi and we all hope that the upcoming March/April rains will restore some supply balance for agriculture (food prices) and energy (hydro electricity costs)

On to the index comparing prices of basic urban commodities to three months ago, a year ago and even four years ago when the country was still dealing with the disruptive after-effects of the controversial December 2007 election.

Gotten Cheaper

Fuel: Petrol prices were reduced again last week to Kshs. 111.6 per litre (~$6.12/gallon) for Nairobi, down from Kshs 124 in December 2011. However a year ago the price was 98.8 (when the price control regime had just been introduced) and four years ago, after the election, a litre of petrol cost Kshs 87.9.

Staple Food: A 2kg pack of (Unga) Maize flour, which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily, costs Kshs. 97 down from Kshs 113 in December 2011. However last March it was Kshs. 80 and four years ago (Feb. 2008) it cost Kshs 52.

Other food item: Sugar: A 2 kg. Mumias Sugar pack which was Kshs. 375 in December is now Kshs 245. However a year ago it was Kshs 195, and other commodities normally bought alongside it (bread & milk) have had steady price rises this year.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 83 compared to 84 in December 2011. This is exactly where it was last March 2011 before the Kenya shillings began a (now controversial) slide to Kshs 107 against the dollar. In February 2008, the dollar was exchanged at Kshs 70.7.
About the Same

Communications: Telephone call and data rates are largely unchanged, but Safaricom announced new rates for m-pesa including a slight increase for some transfers, but they also reduced the minimum amount that can be sent, opening the way to micro-payments. Meanwhile Airtel, who have set the low call regime over the last two years, appear to have reached an about-turn moment with their Chairman calling review of that strategy.

Utilities: Pre-paid electricity is about Kshs 2,500 per month which is unchanged from the last review. I finally got a coherent explanation from a @KenyaPower employee on how you get hit with extra taxes if you buy more than a certain amount of Kwh units.

LPG: Cooking gas supplies seem to have resumed stability for now, but at a price of about Kshs. 3,000 ($37) for a 13kg cylinder, up from less than Kshs. 2,500 before. Personally, I ditched my total LPG cylinder for a Kenol one as Total petrol stations never seem to stock enough for customers.

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 180 ($2.2) (at a local pub), unchanged from three months ago..but it was Kshs 120 in 2008.

More Expensive

Generally prices have come down, but life is more expensive than what it was four years ago when the last election was concluded. However there could be some slight relief in slight for urbanites as the Kenya Cabinet approved the VAT bill 2012 which removed VAT from maize, wheat flour, milk, bread and medical supplies.

The Total Motor show took place this last weekend in Nairobi (Friday 9th to Sunday, September 11, 2011). It was interesting as usual, but this time it was at KICC unlike the last one that was at the Ngong Racecourse. With the weaker shilling, and higher petrol prices, there was a noted change in some vehicle prices and more companies offering more efficient vehicle management solutions.

Some notable moments:

Companies like CMC (Ford, jaguar, Volkswagen) and Toyota did not display prices, but it was a shock to hear that a Toyota Corolla 1.8, cost Kshs 3.3M ($36,000) which is about three times the price people pay for used import models.

Public Service Vehicles: Companies like General Motors have their Isuzu’s ready to ride on the Government’s plans for larger PSV vehicles and they had a pimped out matatu – the NPR that costs Kshs 4M ($43,000), and an Isuzu FRR model (Used by many Citi Hoppa’s operators and which costs Kshs 5.8M ($63,000) and an 62- seat bus that was Kshs 9.4M

Trucks: These were a plenty, but the the truck king of the road is the Mercedes Actros; new models of these can be bought via D.T. Dobie at a cost of €93,500 (~Kshs 12.2 million) and each order is customized to the buyer’s requirements before it is built. The popular Mitsubishi FH215 is Kshs. 5.1M

Luxury: Head to head in the luxury department were BMW (from Simba Colt) and perennial market leader Mercedes (from DT Dobie) who had a range of cars, priced with and without duty/tax (an option for diplomat’s, Government and NGO buyers). BMW had the X3 at €60,000 )Kshs 7.8M) while Mercedes had the ML350 for €110,000 (kshs 14.3M). BMW had the 3-series for €47,000 (~Kshs. 6.1M) while the C200 Mercedes was €60,000 (or €34,000 duty free), and BMW also had the 5-series on show for €60,000 while Mercedes had the E200 for €78,000 (~Kshs 10.1M) or duty free for €48,000 (~Kshs 6.25M)

Pick-Up/SUV: DT Dobie has the Nissan NP 200, launched at the 2009 motor show at Kshs 1.2 million, but which now costs Kshs 1.87 million and CMC had a new Volkswagen pickup that was not priced. Mitsubishi had an L200 double cab at Kshs 4.1 million, an update of the popular Pajero at Kshs 6.5 million, while Mahindra had pickups ranging between Kshs 2.4 – 2.9 million.

With rising fuel prices, fuel saving solutions on offer include Stoic (touting to save up to 40% on fuel prices) and Fuel max (sold by Kiprin Enterprises – and enticing with savings of up to 50%). Other energy savers were Solar powered lanterns called Total Sola from sponsor Total. Better driving solutions were offered by Glen Edmunds driving school for defensive driving while Scania had one for long distance truck drivers that are purported to save 6 litres per 100 kilometers driven (from the current average of 40 litres over 100 kilometers) and which also brings better tyre and break wear

Other: Toyota also sell Yamaha motor bikes including a 106CC model which comes with a free helmet, reflect jacket, registration and one year warranty (or 6,000 km)

Car Tracking : Companies included Rivercross tracking (who also install a fuel fuel monitor that warns when truck drivers may be selling diesel from their trucks) as were other companies like Retriever, and Cyber Trace.

Online Classifieds: Car buyers and sellers had cheki and dealfish (which is free for buyers & sellers)

Banks: Banks in the auto finance sector were represented at the show including NIC, KCB, Equity, Imperial, Co-Op, Chase and CFCStanbic. Co-op have PSV financing (aimed at Sacco’s) and school bus financing (unique application requirement are board of governor approval and minutes, and ID, fees structure of school.

Apprentice: A motor show surprise was a twitter conversation with @karuoro and @mediamk on the prevalence of former D.T. Dobie mechanics who are specialists in Mercedes.

– @bankelele: I know about 3 garages run by ex-DT Dobie mechs (it’s like a badge of honour)
– @mediamk: those mechs are amazing, I wish this was the case across different industries (as) apprenticeship is a good way to grow an industry.
– @karuoro: “The industry leader is obliged to be a net supplier of talent to the industry” – Linus Gitahi (@LGTwits) …I think quite a number are licensees


The D T Dobie apprenticeship mechanic program is open to all Kenyans, male & female, who are less than 22 years and obtained KCSE C+ in English physics and mathematics. Though subsidized it will cost Kshs 50,000 ($550)per year for three years after which staff will be bonded for 3 years. They also accept self sponsored applicants who will pay Kshs 140,000, and the application deadline is 30 April 2012.

Total 2010 AGM

The annual general meeting of Total Kenya was held on June 2 at KICC Nairobi. (Excerpts from shareholder Q&A)

Hot Button issue was the Low Divided
– Board said DPS of 1/= ($0.12) per share down from traditional 2.50/= ($0.03) per share is the best they can do
– Why are you not paying dividend as high as rival Kenol? If rival Kenol is paying more, it is because they have not invested like Total (Note: today was also the day Kenol effected their second ever share split, giving their shareholders 10 new shares, for every one they owned)
– Buyout of Chevron by creation of new shares has diluted ordinary shareholder stake and dividend? true but this information was disclosed before the deal was approved and completed

Preference shares: – Since parent owns 83% why not re-classify minority shareholders as preference shareholders? the preference shares only participate in dividends and are non-voting
– When will class A shareholders who have been locked in be released to trade their shares? CMA finally granted approval and they have been free to trade from May 17 2010

Will Total bid for Shell assets? No they will not bid – various reasons cited include, its an international deal that covers 20 countries, they (and Shell) are already at about 30% market share in Kenya and can’t go higher (also cost)

High Working Capital: one shareholder noted the company traditionally carried high debtor levels, high stocks and high borrowings and called on the Board to be vigilant in collections, reduce stocks, and perhaps do a rights issue to rectify this. Chairman said they are vigilant with credit sales, and that inventory was currently higher as it was for the two individual companies (Chevron & Total), and that they will review the rights issue to see if it is relevant

Chevron stations: Which were bought in 2009 – and those not being sold onwards (as directed by Kenyan Government) will be-rebranded by year end, and there will be no loss of staff at either company

Goodies: umbrella, tote bag, t-shirt, lunch box (1/4 chicken, sausage, spring roll, beef sandwich, soda, and water

Past AGM’s in 2008 and 2009