Ten clean energy projects representing a total aggregate investment of over USD 80 million in bio-fuels, solar, biomass and hydro-power initiatives developed by West African entrepreneurs and companies were presented to investors in Accra at the West Africa Forum for Clean Energy Financing (WAFCEF).

WAFCEF was the final stage of a business plan competition launched in March 2013 by the Climate Technology Initiative Private Financing Advisory Network (CTI-PFAN) and the Ecowas Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), in partnership with the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) and other regional partners.

The event was deemed a success with the participation of more than 100 financiers, clean energy experts and representatives of financial institutions from across Africa and overseas.

According to Joao Duarte Cunha, Coordinator of SEFA, "this initiative united like-minded partners interested in harnessing the entrepreneurial talent of the region to promote economic progress by using West Africa’s vast clean energy resources. WAFCEF really connected all the dots – entrepreneurs, ideas, advisory support and financing – and provided a platform for the often neglected smaller clean energy projects to succeed".

The contest entailed the presentation of ten qualified project sponsors that will have the opportunity to present their business plans to potential investors and make a pitch for financing. The goal was to identify the most promising business ideas and unlock renewable energy and energy efficiency investment in West Africa.

The 10 projects had been selected from over 70 submissions from across the ECOWAS region for their economic viability and environmental benefits. Before being presented at the Forum, each of them had received intensive mentoring from professional consultants.

SME Funds Bioethanol Scale-Up Project from Nigeria was picked as the winner of the WAFCEF 2013 business plan competition. This project is looking to raise USD 21 million of investment for the spinning-off of a successful second-generation bio-ethanol production and cook stove manufacturing operation.

The bioethanol is produced from sawdust and water hyacinth, using proprietary and patented technology, and then further refined to produce a safe and highly efficient bio-gel for use in specially manufactured cook stoves, which are also produced by SME Funds, for distribution through a unique distribution network to service rural and peri-urban Nigeria.

The judges also selected three runners-up in the business plan competition:

Azuri West Africa, a regional project of Azuri Technologies, looking to raise USD 6.6 million to expand its existing solar light distribution business into West Africa, using an innovative pay-as-you-go payment model based on proprietary software and hardware, to provide base of the period customers with affordable light in rural West Africa;

Moyamba 11 MW Hydro Project, developed and presented by Smol Powa, to construct and operate a small hydro power project on the Gbangba River in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone for captive off-take by three bulk users, including the local community through the power utility;

The Wave2O Project by Resolute Marine provides reverse-osmosis desalination powered solely by wave energy. The project involves the installation of the first Wave2O system in Cape Verde which is projected to have a capacity of 4,000 m3/day, and will supply more.

For investors WAFCEF was a great opportunity to access a select group of clean energy projects with high profit potential, verified environmental and development benefits, which are ready for investment.

"WAFCEF 2013 was one of the most enjoyable and inspiring events I can remember. The business ideas they had created were varied and compelling. This was 21st Century Africa at its very best," said.

Andrew Reicher, Chairman of Berkeley Energy Africa, manager of Africa Renewable Energy Fund (AREF). AREF is the new USD150m renewable energy fund for sub-Saharan Africa jointly sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa and the African Development Bank.

SEFA is housed in the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department of the African Development Bank.