Interview with Omane Frimpong, CEO of Wilkins Engineering
We’ll start by talking about the shortage of power in Ghana. Ghana currently faces a serious problem related to the shortage of power. Which immediate investment would offset this shortage? What particular electrical solutions do you provide?
First of all, we think that the immediate solution is to increase our generation capacity, and we would opt for IPP, independent power producers. So the solution lies within the private sector.
The second immediate solution would be to revamp our distribution network, as you know it has high losses of 25%. We can’t generate power and then throw it away. We need to revamp the distribution sector as well.
How does Wilkins engineering stand out among the local EPCs which are engineering procurement and construction companies in Ghana. What are your strong points?
I think that our major strong points are that we deliver on time and we do the job meeting the quality standards. These are the two major strong points we have. Also, we are able to arrange with the banks and get some sort of financing. Unfortunately I would say that most of our local companies have problems with their finances because they are not managed well. When they are given a job they have problems finding financing.
We are working on our drive for international expansion. We are trying to set up in Ivory Coast, Liberia and Guinea.
I would add that your international partnerships also define Wilkins.
Sure. The international partners come and assess you before partnering to make sure you are credible.
Tell us about the project in Liberia that you have recently been awarded in August.
In April or May we submitted a tender to the Liberian electricity company. There were four lots and we were awarded three out of the four. We have started mobilisation. We signed the contracts and the commencement date was 21st August and we are supposed to finish by the 21st December. As I speak to you know, our team is in Liberia and they have started work. We hope that we will finish before the deadline.
You are also involved in some long term projects in Ghana; could you tell us about those?
The long term projects that we are involved in are ongoing electrification. Government in 1989 made a policy to electrify our country within 30 years. At that time the electrification rate was only 15% today the government has reached about 72%. We are not yet at 100% so that is what we are driving towards. We hope that by the time we finish we shall have to come back to the ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana) to see how we can help them rehab their systems.
Moving onto solar energy and the solar energy systems that your company provides, are you currently working on any solar projects that would require international assistance or partnership?
At the moment we have a licence to generate 5 megawatts but because the right policies are not in place, we are not able to generate. We are working on having the right policies in place so that we can work on this. Of course we have international partners like Elecnor from Spain, to generate these 5 megawatts. At the same time the president has also initiated a project to provide 200,000 systems, this is quite a big project that we are also interested in participating in and we will need international collaboration for that.
Lastly, if you had a magic stick and could achieve anything, what would you like Wilkins to achieve?
We are working on our drive for international expansion. We are trying to set up in Ivory Coast, Liberia and Guinea. For instance, if you take Liberia, the electrification there is only 1%. The whole country is in darkness. We think that with our experiences here, we can do very well in these countries. So honestly our long term goal is to make sure that we are an international, reputable company.
When do you see this move to other African countries happening?
We have already started moving. We are now working in Liberia and maybe next week we will send somebody to Ivory Coast to set up the company. We have already started working with the Ivory Coast Ministry of Energy, but we haven’t signed any contracts there yet.
We generally want Africa to have more access to electricity, so in ten to twenty years we would like to see that happen and for Wilkins to be the driving force in the construction of most of these projects because you need a reputable company to be able to handle such projects. Skills are needed and budgets are always tight so you need people with experience. Wilkins would be the perfect partner for any international firm that wants to drive this.