Yemenis go solar amid war energy shortage

Farmers walk next to solar panels at a farm in Wadi Dhahr near Sanaa, in Yemen. (Reuters)
Updated 18 November 2019

Yemenis go solar amid war energy shortage

  • Electricity was cut to Yemen’s capital four years ago after war broke out
  • Only 10 percent of the population are estimated to have access to electricity after the conflict began

SANAA: When electricity was cut to Yemen’s capital four years ago after war broke out, Ebrahim Al-Faqih saw a gap in the market and started selling solar panels.

Faqih is part of a booming solar sector transforming lives and energy sustainability in Yemen, a poor country with scant rural power access even before conflict knocked out most of the national grid.

“Even people who used to work selling food moved to work in solar energy because of the high demand,” Al-Faqih said from his shop in Sanaa selling solar water heaters and panels imported from India and China.

The UN estimates that only 10 percent of the population had access to electricity after the conflict began.

Many areas need pumps to bring drinking and irrigation water to the surface and fuel shortages have also made water hard to come by.

“Electricity these days is not just for lighting — electricity is life,” said Muhammad Yahya, whose home in Sanaa is powered by rooftop solar panels.

He sees solar energy as a stopgap measure for those who can get it and hopes everyone will have mains electricity when the war ends.


Solar farming

Sanaa is controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthis. There is no state power supply to Sanaa and many other areas, and buying a diesel generator or hooking up to a neighborhood generator is polluting and too expensive for many people.

“Alternative energy is better, it changed my life dramatically. Now I barely rely on normal electricity,” said Sanaa resident Akram Noman.

He wants tax reforms to encourage solar energy use, and loans for farmers to buy solar systems.  

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Updated 15 min 9 sec ago

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”