Igniting Kenya’s energy future

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Igniting Kenya’s energy future

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It’s no secret that Kenya’s geographic position makes it a prime choice for investors interested in the African Energy Transition. Kenya’s energy future is clearly very bright. Few countries can boast such energetic potential from different renewable sources. The Kenyan economy holds a lot of hidden opportunities, and recently substantial strides have been made towards streamlining the investment process for foreign and local companies.

We wanted to give Albert – Jan Schepers (also introduced to us as AJ), director WTS Energy East Africa, the opportunity to explain what this process is like for a foreign investor.. AJ has a lot of experience with the African continent, having been active in the East Africa region since 1995. He is joined by Brian Kuloba, Business Developer who has been with WTS Energy Kenya since its inception.

Hi Brian, thank you for joining us today. Let’s start by talking about the beginnings of WTS Energy in Kenya. Could you share with us how it all started and how the company has evolved over the years?  

Brian: Well, WTS Energy started its journey in Kenya back in 2015. We acquired a local recruitment company. We rebranded it to WTS International Limited and the initial focus was on providing recruitment services in the region, specifically in the oil and gas and engineering sectors. We quickly carved out a niche in identifying and placing candidates with the right technical and management backgrounds, both locally and globally. It was an exciting time for us, and we were eager to grow.

Compared to where you are today, I would say you’ve come a long way, don’t you think?

Brian: Well, certainly. But we’ve stayed true to our mission: employing and upskilling African talent for the renewable energy industry.  Today, we are proud to say that we have trained and upskilled over 150 people for 1st class clients here. We have been in this industry for a long time, and even before we opened our office here in Kenya, we were globally an established company in the industry, and this experience helped us make the right choices. But it is also true that if you look at where we are now, we managed to overcome big obstacles. And certainly, we made our services meaningful to Kenyans and companies operating in Kenya.

Moving to the new office in Nairobi in February 2023. Together with team Kenya.

Could you tell us about some key breakthrough moments for WTS Energy during this evolution?

Brian: Of course. There are many. One of the more significant moments was in 2016 when we ventured into our second service line, manpower. We partnered with a global engineering firm and two major energy companies operating in Kenya’s northern region. We hired both national and expatriate candidates, providing complete support to our clients with their projects, including handling payroll, statutory deductions, contracting, and visa applications. This move really propelled us forward and expanded our capabilities.

That’s fantastic to hear! What makes WTS Energy’s services valuable to energy companies, particularly in the Kenyan market?

AJ: Well first, we have a deep technical understanding of our clients’ needs. We have a lot of skilled personnel, both foreign and local, and the basis of our operations lies in this understanding. Our operating principle is that we take our client’s needs very seriously, and we work hard to make sure we are on the same page. Don’t get me wrong, I know that other local and international companies have the technical knowledge to understand projects as well. Where we differ, is in our ability to bring global best practices to the local setting. By transferring knowledge and expertise to our local team, we can deploy the right personnel with the right training to our client. We know how to minimize the risks, by truly listening to the local community’s needs, and coming up with solutions to implement our clients’ projects. That is why we can ensure smooth operations and project success for our clients.

That’s not something you hear every day, is it?

AJ: It’s not, but it’s what we do, and it’s what we are good at. That is what makes us special. Where others saw risks, we saw an opportunity to invest in the people of Kenya. This move really propelled us forward and expanded our capabilities. And it most certainly expanded the horizons of possibilities for many companies. We are now reaping the benefits of our early investment, and we have shown that having been flexible and finding the right solution for each project works in a global setting, especially in the energy industry.

“…it’s what we are good at. That is what makes us special. Where others saw risks, we saw an opportunity to invest in the people of Kenya.”

-Albert Jan Schepers

How can you apply a global solution to a local market though? Doesn’t that create tensions?

AJ: You are right that carelessly applying the same solution to new markets is not a very successful strategy. But after working with clients all around the globe for over 20 years and having faced all kinds of challenges and, most importantly, having found all kinds of solutions to them, we have understood a very important lesson: There is no blanket best solution to a single problem; The best solution is to always stay open. You must really try to apply your knowledge and expertise to each individual case. That is how our global experience is one of our greatest strengths. We have seen countless ways of working, countless ways of doing.

WTS Energy has also been making significant strides in renewable energy. Could you tell us more about your involvement in this field?

AJ: Yes, of course. In 2019, we seized an opportunity to enter the renewable energy sector and won a global tender to deliver repair and maintenance services to a client in the wind sector. We sourced, trained, and deployed local technicians to support our client’s wind farm operations and maintenance. It was a great success, and it opened doors for further engagements in the renewable energy space. Once we proved what we could do, everything started growing very quickly. Since then, we have been extending our team and we envision supporting more clients in the renewable energy sector in the coming years.

It sounds like Kenya has great potential for renewable energy projects. What would you say to companies or entrepreneurs still unsure about taking the next step and starting operations in Kenya?

AJ: Kenya indeed has an abundance of capable human capital. That is a crucial factor for any project’s success. Furthermore, the country’s geographic position is very advantageous when it comes to investments in solar, wind or geothermal energy. The technical know-how of our human resources here is ripe for upskilling and deployment to various projects. By tapping into this local talent pool, companies can find a supportive and skilled workforce ready to contribute to the success of their ventures.

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As a result of the need to tap into local talent, WTS Energy, together with local partners, opened Spark Training Hub, a training center to upskill workforce in renewables.

Looking ahead, what does WTS Energy Kenya have in store for the future? What are you and the team looking forward to?

AJ: We’re thrilled about the future! We’re eager to collaborate with existing and new clients in new renewable energy projects in the region. Examples would be green hydrogen and blue economy initiatives. Our team is continuously growing, and we are fully committed to maintaining our high levels of service delivery and supporting the sustainable energy transformation across Kenya. And while I cannot tell you too much about it, we certainly have a lot more planned.

Don’t you guys ever run out of ideas?

AJ (laughing): Well, I suppose that sometimes we do, but the environment in Kenya is shifting so much and it has become a dynamic place for investors. Innovation is a must to stay up to speed with everything that is going on. We must keep a young spirit. We are always open to new ideas, and ways to apply them. A lot is coming soon. I don’t want to spoil the fun, but let’s just say that in the future we will be looking to bring our mission to a lot more people. We hope to really make a positive impact in that way.

That’s wonderful to hear. Thank you for sharing your insights and journey with us today. We wish you and WTS Energy Kenya all the best in your future endeavors!

Brian: Thank you! It was a pleasure talking with you. We’re excited about what lies ahead, and we’ll keep working hard to make a positive impact in the energy industry in Kenya and beyond. And the best part is, we are still looking for opportunities. If any companies want to be part of the Kenyan energy transition, then our experience and expertise could ensure a better chance for success. Do not hesitate to reach us. Cheers!

Would you like to be part of the Kenyan Energy movement? Find out more about us and contact us by clicking the button below.

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