Prince Monsekea is the Head of Solar at Paygo Ventures, where he is in charge of product selection and design and of solar solutions, and managing our team of installers. Previously, he was the Head of the Renewable Energy department at consulting firm ASCOTECH, and Technical Director at solar energy and electricity contractor SEEREN, and as a consultant for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.
Prince has an engineering degree from Educatel in France, and a diploma in physics and chemistry from Félix Houphouët-Boigny University.
What inspired you to start working in off-grid energy?
I grew up in a village without electricity in the west of Côte d’Ivoire. We used kerosene lamps to study at night. This experience impacted me deeply as a child, and inspired me to pursue studies as an electrician. Today, with renewable energy, I can give students the chance to study in decent conditions, help the village nurse to work at night, and allow households access to information from around the world.
What are the main things you have learned while working as an entrepreneur in off-grid energy? Your biggest success? Key epiphanies or turning points?
Even simple, and relatively cheap, solar solutions can have a great impact. When you provide a simple solar torch or radio, the joy that people express is a wonderful thing. For some people it may not sound like much but being able to illuminate your path at night, avoiding hazards such as snakes when going home from your cocoa plantation in the evening, or the ability to connect to the wider world with a radio are meaningful improvements to people’s lives.
My greatest achievements have been installing a solar pump and water storage tower to provide a village with access to drinking water, and installing mini-grids in 7 villages, serving some 4,000 people.
What has surprised you most about working as an off-grid energy entrepreneur?
I’m always surprised by the lack of political will for the promotion of renewable energy in Côte d’Ivoire, for example through favourable tax and customs regimes, when these solutions can have such an important impact on peoples’ lives.
If you could share some wisdom with yourself 3 years ago, what would it be?
The advice I would give myself is that one should always believe in oneself, and always emphasise the social impact of what one is doing which goes hand in hand with building a successful business.
Where do you hope to be 3 years from now?
One thing is for sure – in three years I will be working in solar energy because this sector has an incredibly promising future in Africa.