Former Morgan Stanley Exec Plans To Invest $800M In African Solar-Powered Telecom Towers

Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Renewable energy firm, GreenWish Partners, which is run by former Morgan Stanley executive Charlotte Aubin-Kalaidjian, has announced plans to invest $800 million on solar-powered telecom towers to be built throughout Africa.

GreenWish will partner with telecoms provider Orange to implement hybrid telecommunication tower systems that are completely off-grid thanks to the combination of a solar panel, a battery and a diesel generator, according to Techcentral.

Sub-Saharan Africa experiences the lowest access to electricity in the world, with half of the continent’s 1.2 billion people unable to enjoy a reliable electricity supply, the International Energy Agency reports.

These solar-powered towers would go some way in addressing the reliability issue, with the Mauritius-based GreenWish set to build the first towers this year before a rapid increase in project goals in years to come thanks to the $800 million investment.

This initiative will begin with 250 towers in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the course of this year, with future objectives set at 3,000 towers across numerous countries by 2018 and 10,000 by 2020, according to Telecompaper.

From banking to building telecommunications towers

Aubin-Kalaidjian, the founder and chief executive officer of GreenWish, who was formerly a managing director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, said she wanted to leave investment banking and instead aim to have a positive social and environmental impact on the world.

“I didn’t want to belong to an investment bank anymore, I wanted to create my own business mandate and finance only real assets. Projects with a positive impact, socially and environmentally,” said Aubin-Kalaidjian, according to IOL.

Regarding the project itself, the GreenWish chief executive explained the benefits of the hybrid towers.

“We reduce the total cost of power by 30 percent,” she said. “Smaller towers can run entirely on solar and battery and larger ones reduce their diesel use by at least 60 percent.”

“Our partnership with Orange is a client-supplier relationship; we provide them with energy management services. We finance everything ourselves,” Aubin-Kalaidjian added.

Orange is working with GreenWish in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but they expect to see the partnership extended to markets such as Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and Ivory Coast, according to Businesslive.