IPS writer Peter Costantini tagged along with a couple of ENERSA's founders as they traveled to Senegal to cooperate with another green energy company. Click on the link to the full story to read more about how the Haitian entrepreneurs learned about their ancestry in Africa during the trip.
A Senegalese firm specialising in solar-power installations, KAYER, had invited Noël and technician Frantz Derosier to visit the westernmost nation of West Africa to teach their employees how to fabricate their own photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert sunlight into electricity.
Noël is co-founder, along with his partner Alex Georges, of ENERSA - Énergies Renouvelables, S.A. (Renewable Energies, Inc.). Derosier is one of their 20-odd employees. ENERSA manufactures solar streetlamps and other solar-energy equipment using PV panels that they build from scratch. They count around a thousand such lights installed in over 50 municipalities all over Haiti.
After the catastrophic earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, which knocked out electrical power across the Port-au-Prince area, these lamps were the only public light sources for some localities. The temblor also destroyed much of ENERSA's physical plant, but all the employees survived and the firm was able to restart production within a few months.
During the nine days Noël and Derosier were in Senegal, a former French colony like Haiti, they conducted a week of training sessions with KAYER in the headquarters of a peasant farmers' confederation in the town of Mekhe, about 100 kilometres inland from Dakar, the capital.
The sessions resulted in the first solar panels "made in Senegal". The ongoing collaboration, according to ENERSA, will cover the conception and manufacturing in Senegal of solar products, including solar streetlights.
Derosier and nearly all the other ENERSA employees are young men from Cité Soleil, the biggest bidonville (shantytown) in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, where jobs are prized rarities. ENERSA trained them for several weeks in electronics and metal fabrication skills, and pays them wages well above the going rate in Haiti, where the majority tries to survive on a dollar or two a day.