Technical solar installers posing with their certificates after attending a 5-week solar technology training course in 2019.
Vision Reporter
Journalist @New Vision

Loy Kyozaire is the CEO of Sendea Academy which is an association of small and medium enterprises in the local solar energy business.

“We have a training arm that is aimed at building capacity for the end-users of our services. But our main challenge now is funding that can catapult solar installation technicians to heights. They urgently need start-up tool kits.”

Since 2018, over 190 young men and women have been trained under the various components which include both the technical fields of solar installation and maintenance; as well as core operational areas of sales, management, procurement and finance.

“Our Sendea Academy as a training arm is to have skilled labour to enable us to feed into the pool of technicians from freelance to certificate, diploma, graduate and post-graduate holders whose diverse skills are in real demand across the country,” Kyozaire says.

Financial interventions of at least sh3.5b over a 3-year period from sources such as under the Skills Development Fund could easily support the attainment of a 3,000 target in the training of mainly young girls.

“We call upon the government to scale up on incentives, allow us access to the Skills Development Fund to support us train more young people, contribute tool kits for the technicians, sub sized funding for the renewable energy sector and lobby for more investors to join the sub-sector and reduce the cost of doing business,” Kyozaire adds.

According to country statistics, about 60% of enrolled pupils drop out before completing their Primary Leaving Examinations, while a record 80% drop out at or before completing their Ordinary Level; thus underscoring the need for a combined effort in resolving this impasse with the current causalities being girls.

The rapid expansion of capacity of all skilling efforts is thus seen as a potential avenue of knowledge development and quicker route to jobs, employment creation and increasing the pool of purchasing power national by way of improved incomes.

Kyozaire anticipates that more of the sector and line businesses will thrive; the image of the renewable energy sector will improve and Uganda, with its robust weather, young population and increasing rate of urbanization could then become a role model for the region and Africa in developing a sustainable renewable energy value chain.

Among the apprentices under the Sendea Academy is Patricia Namuddu, 26, who has since upgraded her certificate in solar installation diversifying beyond her diploma in electrical engineering from Kyambogo University to graduate as an electrical engineer.

Since 2018, Sendea Academy has intensified the provision of short technical skills, oriented training in solar installation technology, because of the need to bridge the gap in access and quality assurance, particularly for the low-income communities across the country.

“I trained under the Sendea Academy program at Nakawa Vocational Training Institute, to do solar installation, standalone home solar PV installation. The skills are enabling me to install solar batteries are installed, fitted, sized as well as the solar input data control,” Namuddu a solar installation technician emphasizes.

“Since I completed in 2021, I have installed 21 solar sites across the country, Saum, Lwakaka, Vura, Kasensero, Kitagati and Ntoroko among others,” a confident Namuddu asserts.

“We learnt inverter sizing according to customer requirement, maintenance and troubleshooting of solar systems. This maintenance is done quarterly a year. And when there is a fault somewhere, it helps one find out where the problem is,” she explains.

Currently working at Mung Engineering Solutions, located in the suburb of Kyanja, in Kampala district. Sendea is now supporting her graduate studies at Kyambogo University in the advanced field of electrical engineering.

Over the next 3 years, Namuddu, hopes to become one of the most outstanding champions in the renewable energy solutions space within Uganda.

“We need to go green. I advise all my friends and colleagues to join Sendea, train with us and obtain life-lasting skills.”

In Kaliro district, another female solar technician is Irene Nangobi, who says she is now well equipped with skills in undertaking domestic solar installations in her village of Nawaikoke, Nawaikoke sub-county, Bulamogi North County.

The 21-year-old, says Sendea Academy, in partnership with Don Bosco Vocational Institute in Kamuli district provided the firm foundation for her to skill in this solar installation, an increasingly sought after service by both rural households and micro-enterprises interested in lighting services.

“I have since the start of this year been able to install at least 3 different homes within my village of Nawaikoke. Even those who want to purchase solar now contact me for the specifications before they go and buy from the solar shops,” Nangobi says.

She says that she is getting busier than ever before with most of the new owners of the solar systems paying her an average of sh40,000 per day for her services

In the eastern district of Kumi, Peninah Ademun, works as the district electrical technician. She has been able to improve her knowledge and skills, which now include solar installation and maintenance.

“I have found this training very instrumental since I have gained more skills in solar installation, solar troubleshooting, solar water pumping and street lighting,” she says.

Ademun notes that “Before COVID-19, we could install at least five sites in a week, now it is about two locations. We have big institutions such as hospitals, schools and farms.”

“Over the years I have successfully trained some young boys and girls to learn these skills of solar installation a number of them have gained and now do their own installations across the districts of Kumi, Soroti and Paliisa.

“I wish that more young girls joined the academy. Several customers nowadays find it easy to trust me with their money to buy and install the solar systems for them, I ensure that I remain a trustworthy woman,” Ademun counsels.

For freelance technician Dora Nabwire, 24, “I trained under Sendea Academy, and together with most of the fellow technicians that I trained with, I do the freelance installation within Kampala and beyond.”

Epicenter Africa a solar firm that does irrigation and solar water pump systems is one among those that repeatedly seek the services of Nabwire.

“Once they get clients that need installation I am immediately asked to extend my services. I do solar installations including PV systems for lighting and solar streetlights solar water pump irrigation,” she says.

“Since 2018 I have directly installed over 200 kits across the country. For the PV systems, I have personally installed 40, for streetlights about 40 mainly in Kiryandongo, where we installed solar kits in 2021,” Nabwire, the solar installation technician says.

The young female solar technician says, “I would love to encourage my young females, they should not fear. It’s not just a man’s job. Even us we can do it. Just be courageous. In most of the firms I work with, I happen to be the only lady.”

In Namisindwa district, Kasifa Nakandi, is already adding value to the family business, which trades in solar accessories and systems within their area of operation.

The 19-year-old who has been an apprentice under the academy says she obtained skills as a solar installation technician and now it is very easy for the customers who purchase accessories in Namisindwa to have them installed immediately.

“I have been able to install these solar systems in my home area of Namisindwa and I am paid an average of sh40,000 per installation by the customers. I encourage my fellow young women to consider learning these technical skills,” Nakandi advises.

She adds, “Even for my father’s business trading in solar systems, it is much easier now for the customers to have their new sets installed immediately.”

Nakandi says the impetus for more households to secure renewable energy solutions such as solar, has prompted her to return for further training at Don Bosco Vocational Training Institute in Kamuli.

“My father encouraged me to pursue an additional certificate in electrical engineering. This will complement my skills as a solar installation technician. I am sure I will earn better in future,” she says.

For Harriet Nongoola, who is the managing director of Xtreme Solar Solutions/SunnyMoney, Sendea Academy is adding a lot of value to the various firms involved in the importation and distribution of solar systems.

“The services that the solar technicians are instantly rendering to our customers is of great service because most of our distributors are completing the sales processes with much,” she says.

The technical trainings that these young people have, also imply that they can also train others in undertaking installations. For instance plug and play home systems, which may not need many technical inputs, then with more experience, they can move installations of water solar pumping systems.

Nongoola, advises that “Community training, where we intervene is not sufficient. The government needs to channel more support to organisations such as Sendea, since it is our apex organisation of solar system distributors. We shall contribute more towards the country’s effort to ensure wider access to renewable energy. And effective installations and availability of skills in servicing systems are very important.”

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