The renewable energy market is expected to provide 32% of Africa’s energy access needs by 2030. With the combined decrease in the cost of renewable energy technologies, the increasing connectivity trends and ongoing innovations in energy technology, Africa is poised for an exciting decade of transformation and developmental opportunity through the smart mini-grid sector. The leapfrogged energy market, similarly to the mobile services revolution, will provide opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation. In the light of these developments in the sector and noting the lack of entrepreneurial opportunities for young graduates in the field of energy, the Pan African Virtual e-University (PAVEU) in collaboration with Global e-Schools and Community Initiative (GESCI) Kenya, has developed a post graduate certificate programme: Pan African University – Mini-Grid, Digitalization and Entrepreneurship (PAU-MDE).

Programme Objective

The MDE programme offers an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to develop and refine their own products and services related to smart mini-micro grid systems and their value chains in urban and remote areas. It uses a multidisciplinary approach and combines knowledge in renewable energies, specifically decentralized mini-micro grid applications, information and communication technologies, innovation, entrepreneurial and general skills to support innovation, entrepreneurship and deployment of smart micro-grid systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The post graduate programme, hosted by the University of Buea, Cameroon, is offered online with access to virtual laboratories, incubations and mentorship by international experts and entrepreneurs.

Eligibility Requirements

The MDE is accessible to young African graduates of 35 years or less, with a degree in physical sciences, engineering, and/or environmental sciences. Candidates must have an identified opportunity and/or business start-up in the area of mini-grids. Candidates must be computer literate and must have reliable access to good internet connectivity. The initial language of instruction will be in English, hence candidates are expected to be fluent in English in writing and speaking.

For laboratory exercises planned in the programme, students enrolled in the programme will be given access to the necessary software.

Programme structure

This is a one-year programme (48 weeks) covering 10 e-courses, an internship and the opportunity to refine a pre-existing, innovative ‘smart’ business start-up. The student will undertake an entrepreneurial journey over four terms, engaging with their peers, lecturers, an academic supervisor, industry mentors. In the fourth term, students will pitch their Smart Solution to potential investors and refine their innovation.The programme structure can be seen in the diagram below.

logo MDE

Term 1

301 The Nature of Entrepreneurial Practice and Business Model

Start Date:  08/22/2021

101 Energy Production/Generation and Storage for Mini-Microgrid

Start Date: 08/22/2021

202 Advanced power electronics applications

Start Date:  08/22/2021

102 Design, Planning and Operation of Mini-grids

Start Date:  08/22/2021

Term 2

201 Digital/frontier technologies and ICT Infrastructure in Smart Grid

Start Date:  08/22/2021

204 Data Management and Smart Grid Analytics

Start Date: 08/22/2021

203 Internet of Things and coding for mini-grids

Start Date:  08/22/2021

Term 3

104 Mini-grid Policy Regulation and standards

Start Date:  08/22/2021

103 Business Model and Finance of Mini-Micro Grids

Start Date: 08/22/2021

302 Building Expertise in Product and Services

Start Date:  08/22/2021

401 Internship/Field Experience

Start Date:  08/22/2021

Term 4

402 Smart Solution

Programme Expectations

The student is expected to commit 40 hours per week for the year to complete the MDE successfully.

The student should master successful design of business/financial models for mini/micro-grid projects, including: risk assessment; knowledge on mini-grid policy and regulations; technical skills in terms of demand assessment and forecasting; systems design and operation; ICT technologies for efficient operation of the system.

Students will be required to participate in discussion forums, webinars, virtual labs to ensure the application of the knowledge received. Given the focus of this programme on practical experience, evaluation mechanisms will include moderated self-assessment, peer reviews and assignment scoring. In addition to the tutor supported online courses, students will have access to an Entrepreneurship Community and a virtual incubator platform where they will have opportunities to meet in a marketplace to share ideas, meet other international industry experts and prepare their products and services for presentation to a group of angel investors organized by the Pan African University. The programme will also link students to Accelerators of local Tech Hubs in the continent to mature the products/services and start-up smart solution.

In the final term, the student is expected to identify and commit to a one month internship or field experience in an appropriate context such as an energy service company or a community for which the student is designing their product or service. It is in this final term that the student will focus on optimizing their business idea to a full-fledged business start-up called the ‘Smart Solution’ which they will make ready to implement pending funding. Ideally the register it as a business formally.

Final assessment will be focused on the applicability and feasibility of the student’s niched product or service.

Thematic Areas

The MDE programme is multidisciplinary and comprises three thematic areas: Mini-micro grids (M), Digitalisation (D) and Entrepreneurship (E).

The first thematic area, Mini-micro grids, provides comprehensive and essential training on micro-grid systems, including not only early stage development of mini/microgrid projects but also operations and maintenance of the systems. It addresses the technical, economic and regulatory gaps inherent to microgrids project implementation including generation and storage technologies. It will also address the societal impacts of microgrid systems on communities.

The second thematic area, Digitalisation, responds to intelligent energy systems (smart mini-micro grid systems) in urban, peri-urban and remote areas. The courses provide training on emerging digital technologies applicable in smart mini grids and relevant for the African context.

The third thematic area, Entrepreneurship, focuses on the stepwise development of the student’s innovative business plan to the creation of a smart micro-grid start-up.

In the fourth and final term, the student’s smart micro-grid start-up will be supported through an internship/field experience and an Innovation Lab.

The MDE programme aims to support the student moving from theory to practice – increasing their technical knowledge and providing expertise for designing and promoting real products and services in the smart grid sector. The programme design takes into account the specificities of local context by providing an opportunity for the student to understand the market intelligence, feasibility and risk of their proposed innovation as well as local related field experiences. In addition, the student is assigned a supporting mentor from the private sector to advise on the feasibility of their prototype product/service but obliges them to comply with existing regulations, register a start-up business using the industry experts working group to pitch their business plan, their product and ultimately obtain a commission of work.

Categories: Post graduate