Business News

Meet climate tech CEOs positioning Nigeria for $13.8 billion Green Investment Fund

Adepeju Adebajo

Global attention is increasingly focused on climate action as the world accelerates efforts towards sustainable development. Countries are pledging more investments in the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the world’s largest dedicated climate fund.

The GCF aims to foster a paradigm shift towards low-emission, climate-resilient development in developing countries. With a portfolio of $13.5 billion (including $51.9 billion, with co-financing), the GCF is delivering transformative climate action in over 120 countries.

For a country’s firms to benefit from the fund, they must adhere to the Environmental Sustainability Goals (ESGs). There must be return on investment (ROI) expectations and the firms must deliver positive environmental and social impacts, according to Carbon Collective Investment, which handles climate-related funds.

Despite contributing the least to global warming and having the lowest emissions, Africa faces severe collateral damage. This impacts its economies, infrastructure, water, food systems, public health, agriculture, and livelihoods. The African Development Bank warns that these effects could reverse development gains and increase extreme poverty.

Nigeria exemplifies this challenge. As Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, it is rich in natural resources such as oil and natural gas. However, Nigeria has the world’s highest deforestation rate, losing 3.7% of its forests annually, according to the United Nations.

The country’s diverse ecological zones support various livelihoods, agricultural practices, and commodities, all affected by climate change.

Rising sea levels threaten cities such as Lagos, increasing risks of flood, waste management problems, and waterborne disease. Deforestation, land use changes, and the energy sector are the main contributors to Nigeria’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Nevertheless, climate-focused companies are emerging to drive sustainable practices in Nigeria, advancing sustainable development goals and climate action to tap into the opportunities available.

While market penetration has improved modestly, these companies have gained acceptance with effective business models and market adaptability.

Here are the CEOs of these companies, who are catalyzing change and positioning Nigeria to become the face of climate action in Africa.

Adepeju Adebajo, with over 25 years of diverse industry experience, currently serves as the Chief Executive aOfficer (CEO) of Lumos Nigeria, an off-grid solar company that provides reliable electricity solutions to households. Under her leadership, Lumos has installed over 100,000 solar home systems across Nigeria and secured $125 million in funding, including a recent $35 million financing from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to expand its market.

Adebajo’s career includes notable public service as the Commissioner for Agriculture in Ogun State, where she led initiatives to enhance the agricultural sector.

She has a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical Engineering) degree from Imperial College of Science & Technology, London, and a Master of Engineering (Chemical Engineering) from the University of London.

Her extensive tenure at Lafarge Africa Plc as Managing Director of the Project Management Office & Geocycle saw her oversee significant projects such as Cement Plant Expansion Projects worth approximately $600 million and many more.

In December 2016, Lumos Global raised $90 million in funding, comprising $50 million in debt and $40 million in equity, from investors including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Pembani Remgro Infrastructure Managers, VLTCM, and Israeli cleantech venture specialist, ICV. Adebajo’s leadership continues to drive significant advancements in Nigeria’s renewable energy sector.

In December 2016, Lumos Global raised $90 million in funding, comprising $50 million in debt and $40 million in equity, from investors including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Pembani Remgro Infrastructure Managers, VLTCM, and Israeli cleantech venture specialist, ICV. Adebajo’s leadership continues to drive significant advancements in Nigeria’s renewable energy sector.

Bill Lenihan

Bill Lenihan, Founder and CEO of Zola Electric, has over two decades of experience across various industries.

Zola Electric, which he has led since February 2015, is a pioneering enterprise technology solutions company that provides distributed power solutions to underserved markets. It operates in over 10 countries across four continents.

The company aims to eradicate energy inequality, combat climate change, and deliver power anywhere, with backing from prominent investors such as Tesla, EDF, and Total.

Previously, Lenihan served as a Senior Advisor at Tile from 2014 to 2015, helping shape the company’s go-to-market strategy.

Lenihan co-founded LL Golf Corporation, raising $200 million to acquire and manage distressed golf courses, and served as Managing Director at Calera Capital, a private equity firm managing over $1 billion in equity.

Earlier in his career, he had been an Associate at Goldman Sachs and a Summer Associate at Bain & Company, gaining valuable experience in investment and strategic consulting.

Under Lenihan’s leadership, Zola Electric raised $133 million over eight funding rounds.

The company’s first funding round was on March 21, 2014, and its latest round was a $45 million conventional debt round on September 23, 2021.

Femi Adeyemo

Femi Adeyemo is the founder and CEO of Arnergy, a pioneering distributed utility backed by venture capital, including investments affiliated with Bill Gates. Arnergy focuses on providing reliable and affordable electricity to residential, commercial, and industrial customers in emerging markets, starting with Nigeria. The company leverages rooftop solar solutions to ensure sustainable energy for SMEs and economic clusters.

He holds a master’s degree in computer networks/information technology from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and a Bachelor of Technology from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology.

Since founding Arnergy in August 2013, Adeyemo has driven its growth into one of Nigeria’s fastest-growing renewable energy companies.

Before Arnergy, Adeyemo had worked at several prominent firms such as Huawei, Telinno, Omantel, and Cornea Consulting.

He managed extensive projects, including the nationwide rollout of mobile telecommunication networks and service operations for multinational telecom such as Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia. His experience spans Africa, South America, and Asia, where he played critical roles from the startup phase to nationwide deployments.

His leadership encompasses strategic direction, technological innovation, product development, and business growth. In 2019, he spearheaded Arnergy’s successful $ 9 million Series A equity round, attracting investment from four top-tier global investors.

Prince Ojeabulu

Prince Ojeabulu is the Chief Executive Officer of Rensource Energy, a leading developer, financier, and manager of critical energy infrastructure for African enterprises.

Since assuming the role in September 2022, Ojeabulu has overseen executive leadership, capital origination and management, and business development, positioning Rensource as a fast-growing player in West Africa’s commercial and industrial (C&I) energy sector.

Before becoming CEO, Ojeabulu had served as Chief Operating Officer from November 2021 to September 2022.

He transformed the business model to focus on commercial and industrial (C&I) solar projects, leading project management, engineering, operations, and supply chain activities. Under his leadership, Rensource developed approximately 70 MW of C&I portfolio and constructed around 2 MW of projects.

From August 2020 to November 2021 as Head of Operations, Ojeabulu managed Rensource’s mini-grid, residential, and C&I utility operations, overseeing an installed PV capacity of approximately 5 MWp and generating $750,000 in annual revenue.

At Airtel Nigeria, he coordinated projects related to the preparation and handover of technical and commercial documentation for 5,000 cell tower sites valued at $1.4 billion.

The company has a total funding of $45.3 million raised over its operational period. The latest funding round was $15 million from Afrigreen Debt Impact Fund to finance the construction of over 30MW of Rensource C&I portfolio in the next three years.