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  • Writer's pictureBobbi Harris

Feeling EmPOWERed in Africa

I spent last week in Cape Town, South Africa participating in the African Utility Week conference. Throughout my many activities of the week, I felt quite inspired and empowered, and truly enjoyed meeting with leaders from Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa.

I participated in the Women in Power Luncheon sponsored by PowerAfrica and the Canadian High Commissioner to South Africa. Virginia Blazer, the U.S. Consulate General to South Africa spoke at the luncheon and later in the evening hosted us at her home for a reception celebrating the partnership with PowerAfrica.

The reception brought together leaders from across Africa and the USA. PowerAfrica has been very successful over its six year history and now growing to "ProgressAfrica" in the coming months. My participation at this reception will hopefully allow me to make the proper connections to perhaps on smart water infrastructure as part of the program in the future.

It was great to see women from across Africa playing such a large role in the future of energy and economic growth.

The following day, I led a panel on the topic of telecom standardization for smart metering, which is a subject I am particularly interested in because time and again when I talk with utility leaders, the interoperability of devices is a major concern. Utility telecommunications infrastructure must support a variety of utility applications including smart metering, distribution automation, substation control, asset management, operational and information technologies. The panel focused on the need for a set of standards around which manufacturers and vendors could deliver a unified platform which allows for scalability, integration and interoperability. There are several standards bodies around the world but how can we reconcile those groups and solve the challenges utilities face? Unfortunately we now have more questions than answers and didn't come to a conclusion of our own during the session...but the debates will continue.

I was supported in my efforts by the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. In conjunction with the U.S. Small Business Administration, EDPNC provides funding to qualifying small businesses to offset costs associated with exporting. STEP funds assist companies with: participating in foreign trade shows and trade missions; developing websites to attract foreign buyers; designing international marketing materials to reach a broader audience; obtaining services to support foreign market entry; and attending select export education courses throughout the program year. Thanks to the support of the EDPNC STEP program, I could tell my story and work to gain more business with companies in Africa. I look forward to returning to Africa and working closer with many countries on Smart Water and Smart City infrastructure.

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