Blackouts and power cuts are a common occurrence in most African countries. Business owners and individuals have had to rely on alternative power sources for years. These however come with environmental hazards. Generators, solar energy and cars mainly use lead-acid batteries which are 99% recyclable but can be deadly if the process is not done properly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that lead causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight. Developing countries in South America, Asia and Africa endure these effects the most.
Africa has however been blessed by a gem that is helping with the safe recycling and regeneration of lead acid batteries at the same time promoting women empowerment. Marly Diallo founded BRT Energy, a company currently operating in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Rwanda.
Marly Diallo was born and raised in France and has Guinea roots. She visited Guinea plenty of times in her childhood and also had several business trips to different countries in Africa in the 12 years she worked as a sales manager for a software company. During her visits she experienced a fair share of power cuts. One such experience includes staying in a 4-star hotel in Accra, Ghana where a generator had to be regularly used to back up the electricity challenge. That motivated her to start her own solution based company.
“When I started to think of the next phase for me, I wanted to do something that would impact lives.” she said in an interview with Techcabal. “Here I was selling software to large banks in a place where there was an energy problem and many were unbanked or using only mobile money. I started to draw parallels between energy, banking, and mobile network providers. It’s one thing to provide software but if there’s no energy, how will people use it?”
Diallo, who previously had no interest in batteries, first launched BRT Energy in Lagos, Nigeria, but was however more successful in Ghana and Rwanda, with Rwanda being the home of the company’s Joule Energy Lab. There she has set up a workshop for students in the field of electricity and mechanics, in partnership with IPRC Kigali Polytechnic.
BRT Energy offers battery assessment, regeneration and maintenance and also training to clients on how they can maximize their batteries’ lifespan.
Women are at the heart of her business as she understands the challenges of women raised in African communities full of gender stereotyping.
“We wanted to train the youth, especially women so that they learn the skills required for proper battery regeneration and we can hire them straight out of school.
“I’m a Fulani Muslim woman and thankfully I was born and raised in France but I know if I was born in Guinea my condition would have been different. This is why it is important that as we push women into leadership positions we also try to get them into these male-dominated spaces that are deemed ‘too technical’ but have a real impact on people’s lives,” she said in the same interview.
Diallo is not going back in her fight for a safer, eco-friendly environment. She is currently a member of UNITED, an association of companies fighting for issues like poverty eradication, good health and clean energy, which is in line with The Sustainable Development Goals. Diallo has also partnered with Rwandan companies to offer eco-friendly solutions to communities through either recycling or providing solar-powered refrigerators. Her company has prospects of opening a division in Senegal.
To date BRT Energy has offered battery regeneration services to forklift resellers, telecommunication companies and tower operators. Diallo is offering sustainable solutions to African communities, one battery at a time and making money from it is just a bonus, she is looking at impacting lives and elevating them.