Walid Elrawy worked in the textile industry for twenty years. He earned his living selling workwear for the medical, gastronomy and trade industries. However, for many years now, his real passion has actually been solar energy. In 2014, the engineer specialising in mechatronics, participated in the MP. The concept of “exploring new horizons” applies to him in many ways.
Dubai, November 2015. Engineer Walid Elrawy is pleased. It is 14 November 2015 and the first SunCat 21 solar boat has just arrived in the Port of Jebel Ali. It took one month to transport it the almost 6,500 nautical miles from the Port of Hamburg by container ship. The solar-powered catamaran will take to the water from December 2015 and noiselessly and safely transport passengers through the city along Dubai Creek. The same model is also used in Germany to show tourists Berlin’s top sights. It was built in Berlin by SolarWaterWorld AG, Elrawy’s business partner in Germany.
The backstory …
Cairo/Egypt, April 2014. Elrawy established SolarTech Egypt setting a new course for his life. He first began working in the textile industry twenty years ago. In the years that followed, there were no major changes in his professional life, aside from a number of promotions – all the way up to Head of Marketing at one of the leading Egyptian textile companies for workwear.
Berlin/Germany, June 2014. Participation in the MP with a focus on renewable energies represented a huge opportunity for Elrawy. As a young entrepreneur and newcomer to the solar industry, he hoped to use the programme to gain valuable contacts and business know-how. At a business meeting in Hamburg, he met SolarWaterWorld AG, a Berlin-based company specialising in solar-powered boats. Elrawy saw good opportunities for importing this technology to his sunny home country and was able to get the Germans on board for his project. “We have not only become partners but also friends,” he says, looking back today. However, there were difficulties at the beginning: due to the political unrest, the economic situation and overall circumstances in Egypt were not favourable for his innovative project. The father of two did not want to give up so easily though. “I was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit in Germany and motivated to fight to achieve my goal”, says the engineer. And this did not necessarily have to be in Egypt. Thus, Elrawy established a second company, FitSolarTech Boats Trading LLC, based in Dubai.
Dubai, 2015/16. Elrawy initially travelled between the two countries and built up contacts. In January 2015, he became a resident of the desert state. For Dubai has very liberal economic policies. “In the 2016 Ease of Doing Business Report, which ranks countries according to their competitiveness and quality of the location, the United Arab Emirates were ranked 31st. Egypt, on the other hand, only made it to position 131 – out of 189”, says the company manager in justification of his decision. That this was the right step is clear today, two and a half years after the MP and two years after his move. He has just sold another solar boat in the Sultanate of Oman. And launched a very promising project. With the help of SolarWaterWorld AG, he has converted an Abra. Abras are small, diesel-powered wooden boats, which are used in Dubai as public transport. The around 150 Abras are used to ferry passengers across Dubai Creek, an estuary of 14 kilometres in length on the Persian Gulf that divides the city in two. The River Transport Authority (RTA) has been attempting to convert its public transport to more environmentally-friendly technology for some time now. A great many options have been tested in recent years – particularly with the Abras, including electric motors. However, nothing has stood out until now.
The test phase for Elrawy’s boat began at the start of 2016. Following an evaluation, the authorities were able to give the go-ahead to convert further Abras to the emissions-free technology. In an interview with the Gulf News on 8 February 2016, Abdullah Yousuf Al Ali, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency, said of the use of solar boat: “It is the first time that 100 per cent solar boat technology is being used in our region. This will encourage more companies to trust in this technology and start using it”.
This would make Elrawy a trailblazer for the export of German solar technology to the MENA region. Full order books would then also allow the 42-year-old to soon make his personal dream a reality: to bring his family, who are still living in Egypt, to join him in Dubai.