Powering up the leading lights in Kenya’s renewables market

When solar energy expert Moses Dokoria embarked on a management training course provided with support from TEA he didn’t expect to be sharing the spotlight with Kenya’s president. 

“It was one of those experiences that I will never forget!” says Moses, the General Manager for East Africa at off-grid solar system provider SUNami Solar. The enterprise supplies pay-as-you-go solar systems for customers on low incomes living off-grid, and has already sparked some life-changing results. These include children being able to study after dark thanks to electric lights, better access to clean water and businesses getting connected to WiFi. But it was the chance to supercharge his own business skills that led Moses to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta – and power up his performance at SUNami Solar.

A crucial thread of the TEA programme’s work across Kenya and beyond involves the upskilling of managers in the country’s flourishing renewable energy sector, as well as nurturing the graduates who will become the managers of tomorrow with job placements. And so, Moses joined the Empowering Managers programme, provided through TEA’s Off-Grid Talent Initiative (OGTI), and delivered by the African Management Institute (AMI). Participants boost their skills in areas such as managing a business’s rapid growth, shaping a performance culture and helping frontline staff to become more productive.

Moses attended the programme with four of his team members and says he saw “almost immediate” results. “The fact that we were there together as a team made it easier for us to implement our learning quickly.”

Speaking up

It was the negotiation skills he took away from the course that led him to that meeting with Kenya’s president at the GOGLA Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo, held in Nairobi in early 2020. “It helped us negotiate a better rate, which then enabled us to take part in the conference,” explains Moses. “With the ‘Speak up and Lead’ skills we had learnt through the programme we had confidence not only to push for tickets to the forum but also to negotiate to secure a free exhibition booth – and it was at that booth where the president visited.”

That high profile meeting aside, the relationships Moses built with his team, and the communication skills he learnt, have helped him to be a supportive and resilient manager in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, too. He has had tough conversations – but has handled them with care.

“We learnt that when giving negative messages you don’t necessarily have to deliver negative feedback from the onset of the conversation and that starting with a positive tone and with positive feedback makes a whole lot of difference.”

Moses also worked out an action plan with his finance team to manage the situation even better, and presented it to the Board. He adds: “I must say all these skills have been very useful, the soft skills we learnt from AMI have added a lot of value to my work.”