With his broad smile, positive, open-minded attitude and ability to make connections both locally and abroad, Charlemagne Fandohan is the kind of colleague that make NIRAS a special place to work. And it seems like the feeling is mutual.
“NIRAS is full of smart and warm people. The way we work is unique. All employees anywhere in the world can work for any NIRAS office. The collaboration has no borders. We support each other to make the world a better place to live,” the 34-year-old Beninese exclaims.
Originally from Abomey, the former capital of the 300-year Kingdom of Dahomey in the south of Benin, Charlemagne has a Master’s in project management and financial auditing and, last year, received a certification from the Frankfurt School of Management and Finance as an expert in climate and renewable energy financing. Before joining NIRAS, Charlemagne spent almost six years at GIZ, first as stock manager in an energy project (Facilité Energy) funded by the EU and, afterwards, as a technical advisor responsible for a results-based financing programme for an EnDev (Energising Development) project funded by DFID.
“I’ve also worked in the steel sector, but my real beginnings were as an independent financial consultant, helping SMEs with their accounts and financial planning. I was good at that as I had run my own small import-export business where I travelled between Benin and Nigeria selling mobile phones,” he says.
Bringing electricity where grid doesn’t go
A Fon-, French- and English-speaker with ambitions to learn Russian and Mandarin within five years, Charlemagne has been with NIRAS since 2017 as our focal point in Benin and West Africa more broadly but also as deputy project manager in the US$40M Off-grid Clean Energy Facility (OCEF) project. In a country where 66% of the population as little-to-no access to energy, the Challenge Fund is key part of a larger US$375M grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to spur investments in the electricity sector.
The off-grid renewable energy topic is a vital one, according to Charlemagne. “There can be no development without access to energy. As Adnan Amin, the General Director of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said, ‘Off-grid renewable energy systems have transformed our ability to deliver secure, affordable electricity to rural communities all over the world and are playing a vital role in breaking a cycle of energy poverty that has held back socio-economic progress for hundreds of millions of people.’ Our role as experts in that field is to help people get that access. Did you know that OCEF in Benin will raise a global investment of US$52M from private sector and create an additional energy capacity of 15,5 MW for 711.635 beneficiaries?” Charlemagne notes, adding, “It’s really making a difference.”
In his OCEF role, Charlemagne is responsible for ensuring project deliverables stay on track and reporting any diversions to the project manager and deputy project director.
“Essentially I authorise all the administrative expenses of OCEF and ensure everyone working with the project is respecting the administrative manual rules. I keep the accounts in order and expenses in line with the planned budget. Where there are conflicts among experts, I smooth things over and take care of logistics for any OCEF events,” he explains.
Together with Irene Karani, Director of NIRAS Africa
Personal connections and literary accomplishments
As NIRAS’s country representative, Charlemagne also does fact-finding missions across the whole region of West Africa, reaches out to new experts and partners, and conducts research on costs for budget preparation in tenders for colleagues from around the globe.
“My job and especially the fact-finding missions put me in connection with people all over the world. This expands my professional knowledge and contacts. I discover another way of thinking and add to my friendship base out of my home country.”
In sharing what he does in his spare time, Charlemagne let us in on a little-known secret. He has a passion for writing and the social sciences and is the published author of a book on staying faithful in relationships: Réduire les risques d’infidélité dans les couples. Ever ambitious, he has two others books ongoing and one totally finished – a novel that raises awareness about sickle cell disease and the importance of electrophoresis tests before marriage in Africa – for which he’s currently seeking a publisher.
Finance, energy, literature, the social sciences … whatever the topic, Charlemagne welcomes you to Cotonou for an interesting debate!