My name is Salma Abdulla. I’m Sudanese, but I grew up in Saudi Arabia. I am currently pursuing my MBA at Southern New Hampshire University (USA) on a Fulbright Scholarship.
My interest in energy - specifically renewable energy - started when I was in grade school. Then, I had the opportunity to study engineering in Malaysia. This is where I learned that innovation comes from simple things – by changing the process or creating new methodology.
I participated in Climathon Khartoum in 2018 where the challenge focused on extreme weather with an emphasis on renewable energy. Our idea was to install solar panels on every rooftop in Sudan. How it was going to happen, I was not sure. But we ended up winning second place and were invited to participate in an incubation programme at Impact Hub Khartoum.
However, a few months later, the Sudanese government was overthrown. There was a lot of uncertainty during this time. No one knew what was going to happen in the country and we didn’t know how to proceed.
But we continued working on our Climathon idea while a transitional government stepped in. Unlike the previous president who favoured fossil fuels, our new prime minister had a different vision for the country. He is more interested in investing in renewables because we have an energy crisis in Sudan.
The electricity shuts off for about five hours per day, everyday. This has been going on for over a year now, which has driven a lot of people to adopt renewable energy, especially solar. Our new government is trying to figure out how to best approach this problem.
We decided to turn our Climathon idea into a company called Artik Energy at the end of 2019. We started with solar panel installation and implemented nine pilot projects for homes, businesses and even a farm.
The energy sector is totally changing now in Sudan. More and more, we are seeing new energy initiatives coming to the country. There are a lot of projects in the diesel-to-solar transition which is offsetting the pressure on our diesel resources.
However, we still have a long way to go. Renewable energy is a political sector, mostly dominated by men. We have a great chance in getting more women involved. This is my true calling.
For me, what I am passionate about is women empowerment in the renewable energy sector. My agenda from the beginning was to create economic empowerment for women. Artik Energy allowed me to enter this space as a woman myself.
It's really hard to start a business in Sudan, especially in the renewable energy sector. Our success inspired a lot of young people. And I inspired a lot of women to think about starting a small business in this sector.
For example, having access to a charging station could allow women to sell the energy in their local area - that’s a profitable business model. Sustainable energy means a sustainable pace of work that leads to a large portion of people above the poverty line.
Climathon was the launchpad for my own sustainable start-up. It was a great experience to learn and to meet people in the climate change activation sphere. I didn’t show up with a team or an idea, just an open mind. I’m eager to see what’s next for my renewable energy journey.