Buea, April 12th, 2017, it is one o’clock when I meet with Monique Ntumngia in her favorite restaurant: IYA. The young entrepreneur, 26, is running Monafrik Energy, a company that builds solar and biogas installations in rural areas in Cameroon.
It all begins in September 2014, Monique Ntumngia works in Kana, the second most populated city in Nigeria. She oversees the question of gender in the Nigerian organization Human Rights and Education. To celebrate the start of school, the organization distributes school supplies to underprivileged citizens. That day, although happy, children keep asking the same question to the young Cameroonian entrepreneur: “Madam, how are we going to use these notebooks and books without light?”
“This is the moment I produced a conceptual note based on this problematic: how to promote sustainable development in Africa with the help of renewable energies?”, adds Monique Ntumngia.
From that moment on, she organizes fundraises with companies and organizations such as UNICEF and the European Union. Within two months, Monique raises $10.000. With the money, she can go to Norway and buy 2.500 solar lamps with a 5-year lifetime from the company Bright. “After sharing those lamps in Nigeria, I thought that it would be useful to do the same in my country, Cameroon. In October 2015, I land in Doula airport”, she tells.
“Her mission, electricity for all, at a fair price”
When returning to Cameroon, the young woman is aware that access to electricity is an issue in the country. According to her, ENEO, the electricity production, transmission and distribution company in Cameroon, cannot meet the demand. It is more concentrated in cities than in remote areas. Less than 10% of the continent's 600 million rural inhabitants have access to electricity. To carry out her mission successfully -electricity for all at a fair price- Monique Ntumngia begins by carrying a survey on the evolution of sustainable economies in Cameroon. “I realized that waste management was an issue in rural areas. Therefore, my company -Monafrik Energy- wanted to develop not only solar energy, but also biogas.” Biogas is a combustible gas mostly obtained from the anaerobic fermentation of organic animal or vegetable matter. This alternative is the most accessible for rural populations which want to meet their daily electricity needs.
Monique explains: “For the people living in less remote areas, those living in cities, solar installations remain the most popular. There has been a change in demand, particularly since the rise in the price of oil. It has become complicated to use generators.” Since December 2015, Monafrik Energy has built eight solar installations and twenty bio-digesters for biogas production.
Within a few months, 623 girls from age 14 to 18 received training in 3 regions of the country
In August 2016, Monique Ntumngia created the charity Green Girls, which mission is to encourage young Cameroonian women from the remote areas to take an interest in renewable energies. “We teach them in a four-day training course how to generate energy from the sun and/or everyday waste.” The training courses are adapted to the targeted areas. For instance, when Green Girls goes to the northern part of Cameroon, the association provides training on the production of biogas based on cowpat, because there is so many of it.
In just a few months; 623 girls from age 14 to 18 received training in three different regions of the country: North-West, South-West and Coastal.
There is still a long way to go. Other foreign companies take on the same sector. They have more budget and more experience. Monique, as confident as ever, concludes: “I will make it because of my knowledge of Cameroonian territory and its specificities. For now, my goal is to compress biogas, so everybody can have access to the product.”