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How one vision-driven founder created a whole new energy category

Solar energy can be regarded as the future of electrical power and a certain innovative Nigerian Entrepreneur with in-depth vision has utilized the value of this clean renewable source of energy by setting up one of the fastest-growing solar electricity companies in Africa. Born in Port Harcourt Rivers State Nigeria, Tonye Irims is the first […]

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Solar energy can be regarded as the future of electrical power and a certain innovative Nigerian Entrepreneur with in-depth vision has utilized the value of this clean renewable source of energy by setting up one of the fastest-growing solar electricity companies in Africa.

Born in Port Harcourt Rivers State Nigeria, Tonye Irims is the first of six sons to his late Father, Capt. B.T Irimagha, a former master mariner, and his late mother, Muriel Irimagha, a businesswoman of the Royal Bonny Kingdom descent. Unfortunately, he lost 3 of his brothers in tragic circumstances.

Tonye Irims had his primary education at Corona nursery & primary school, Apapa, and Imola Day primary school, Alasia, Lagos. His secondary education was at Command Secondary School, Jos, Nigeria. He studied marketing at the University of Port Harcourt. Irims later proceeded to do a clean power specialization program in the Imperial College London, and a Blockchain specialization from INSEAD. This would be where his passion for solar electricity began.

Tonye moved to South Africa at the age of 23. There, he did some menial jobs and later joined modeling which he did for a few years. Irims said he was still modeling when he got introduced to Dr. Mike Adenuga, a Nigerian billionaire industrialist, who later became his business mentor and for whom he did volunteer work. 

In 2011, He moved to the US but soon returned to South Africa after a failed attempt to launch a payment app called FriendChip. At his home in South Africa, He saw the need for solar electricity after experiencing several power cuts with hefty reconnection fees.

In 2016, Irims founded WiSolar. However, like many startups, WiSolar experienced a series of challenges that almost closed its doors. The company was able to do only three installations in its first year. After an unsuccessful attempt to sell his business for just a little over R120,000. He gave it another shot after receiving a R60,000 seed capital in 2018.

By 2019, WiSolar became a fast-growing solar electricity company. WiSolar Successfully provided electricity to hundreds of households at very affordable prices. It expanded operations in South Africa by establishing the Gateway Office in Bronkhorstspruit and in June 2020, it started offering solar financing to make solar electricity more mainstream.

WiSolar partnered with LG for high efficiency black photovoltaic panels in a bid to make the electronics giant a provider of solar panels for LG and the WiSolar’s customers. The company further gained international recognition when it received the 2020 MEA business award and was also regarded as the most Innovative Clean Energy Company in Africa.

As part of his objective to make solar electricity cheaper and more available in Africa, Irims opened up his business for franchising, making him the first Nigerian franchisor in South Africa. According to him, “Energy democratization will unlock new value chains cross Africa and usher in clean electric mobility” He further mentioned that the company is aiming for a stock exchange listing in 2025.  Currently, WiSolar pilot franchise is generating over R995,000 ($65,000) in turnover per month.

Tonye demonstrated his interest in extending the company’s solar electricity service to Nigeria by developing WiSolar’s prepaid solar electricity prototype to eliminate environment polluting fuel generators in Nigeria. Its current plan is to roll out affordable solar electricity to every household in South Africa and Nigeria.

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