Rolls Royce Rolls in Africa
By Kaleyesus Bekele
Rolls-Royce pioneers sustainable technologies that deliver the cleanest, safest and most competitive solutions for our planet’s vital power needs. Many can be forgiven for associating Rolls-Royce with the British luxury car manufacturer.
But, with more than16,400 aero-engines in service worldwide, Rolls-Royce has grown from the electrical and mechanical business established by Henry Royce in 1884. The car company was sold in 1990, and today BMW holds the rights to the name and marque for use on their luxury Rolls Royce Motor Cars.
Today Rolls Royce Group is a Global technology company built on three strong and complimentary business units-Civil Aerospace, Defense and Power Systems.
The Power Systems business, now called Rolls-Royce Solutions, was acquired by Rolls Royce Group fully in 2014. Power Systems is a leading provider of high-speed and medium-speed reciprocating engines, complete propulsion systems and, distributed energy solutions.
Rolls-Royce believes that Africa is on target to become the first continent in the world to grow its economy solely through modern technologies and sustainable low carbon energy sources.
According to Tobias Hoffmann Rolls-Royce Solutions, Senior Sales Manager, Rolls-Royce is strengthening its foothold in Africa. “In Africa, the majority of our business is within two pillars-the aviation sector, where we do business with international companies, such as Ethiopian Airlines and Egypt Air. And, what I call, the ‘land division’ where we do power systems. We are generating power. We have diesel and gas generators. We have also the capability to introduce new technologies and fuels like hydrogen,” Hoffman said.
Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems division is manufacturing clean and efficient engines, their gas genset are proved to run on 100% hydrogen and their diesel gensets can take Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). The company is growing its presence, products and services across Africa.
Eliud Muchina, Sales Engineer at Rolls-Royce Solutions Africa Kenya Ltd, said that Rolls-Royce is covering the railway, mining, marine and power generation sectors in Africa. “In all these sectors, we support our customers. In the past, we were only represented by third parties, but now we can directly support our customers. We have an entity in Nairobi, and through this entity we can support our partners and customers in East Africa.” Muchina said.
Rolls-Royce Solutions has different units including power generation, marine, industrial, mining and agriculture, all of which can benefit Africa. With headquarters in South Africa the company has products in all African countries, namely in Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt.
Rolls Royce is rolling out a new plan for the African market that will enable it to strengthen its foothold in the continent. “We are extending our footprint in Africa. We are working with our local partners having deployed our people on the ground,” Hoffman said.
Speaking of the Ethiopian market, Muchina said Rolls-Royce sees big opportunities in power generation. There are many ongoing hydropower generation projects such as the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Muchina said Rolls-Royce could also supply water pumps to the ongoing geothermal projects in Ethiopia.
“We can provide off grid solutions. We can generate power where the national grid doesn’t exist,” Muchina said. Rolls-Royce supplies fuel efficient power generators and it can also build micro grid. “We see big business in Ethiopia in power generation.”
The Ethiopian government is expanding the national grid and delivering affordable electric power. However, frequent power interruptions and power fluctuations still threaten the manufacturing industry. “That is where we can jump in,” says Muchina.
Rolls-Royce Solutions manufactures and supplies uninterruptible power backup generators (UPSs) and battery storage solutions and genset back up power generation. In the industrial parks, the company can supply emergency power supply units. “We know that the government is availing affordable power, but manufacturers need to have backup power. Most of the manufacturers in the industrial parks are textile factories. Their machines are very sensitive to power interruption or inconsistency. So we can provide solutions to the manufacturers. We can work with the industrial parks and provide them with centralized back up power system or we can serve individual companies,” Muchina said.
According to Hoffman, Rolls-Royce has already started its journey in Ethiopia last year by partnering with its local systems integrator-General Power. “We already have plenty of demand for generators and micro grids. We will be serving the demand where there is no grid with our local system integrator.”
Yeneneh Dawit, General Manager of General Power, said that half of Ethiopia’s 110 million population does not have access to electricity. “Together with our partner Rolls-Royce we want to address this sizable market. We have partnered with the right power company, and we are on the right track to serve the Ethiopian market,” Dawit said.
Muchina cited a practical example where Rolls-Royce supported Kenyan Railways in revamping aging locomotives. Railways have been operating in Africa for the past 100 years. Over the years, they have become run down. Kenyan Railways has old locomotives powered by Rolls-Royce engines.
“We are helping them replace the engines, which are over forty-fifty years old which can no longer be serviced or repaired. We are helping them to replace the engines gradually. We started that in Kenya, and hope to help neighboring countries with their ageing fleet of locomotives, and give them a new lease of life.,” Muchina said. With the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), African countries need to transport goods across borders, and railways play an important role in realizing the transport demand between neighboring countries.
Hoffman says African countries can tap into new technologies such as the use of sustainable fuel. “Our engines are ready to run on sustainable fuel. African countries can jump in and seize the opportunity,” he added.
Muchina shares Hoffman’s view. “We are heading to an era of de carbonization and increased energy security. African countries should be looking at the use of native, locally produced sustainable fuels. And this is the space where our products can come in. We are focused on the manufacturing and delivery of sustainable power solutions. As East African countries’ economies are growing, we see big opportunity,” he concluded.