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Home 10 Best Companies to Watch 2024 Revolutionizing Energy Access: The Proto Energy Story – Bridging Gaps and Empowering Communities

Revolutionizing Energy Access: The Proto Energy Story – Bridging Gaps and Empowering Communities

by Biztechoutlook

A Conversation with Amanda Donahue: Leading Proto Energy's Charge in LPG Innovation

Revolutionizing Energy Access: The Proto Energy Story - Bridging Gaps and Empowering Communities

What is Proto Energy, and what sets its business apart from competitors?

Proto Energy is the downstream arm of African Gas and Oil Company (AGOL), a home-grown LPG Terminal based in Mombasa, Kenya. AGOL was established to address the challenges of energy access in Kenya, including the lack of access to clean cooking fuels.  AGOL began about ten years ago by investing in infrastructure, such as storage facilities and transportation logistics, to support the distribution of LPG throughout the country. They also established partnerships with local distributors and retailers to ensure the consistent availability of LPG to consumers at a lower cost. Proto Energy is a market leader, consistently providing the safest cylinders that adhere to international quality standards, and is unmatched in its commitment to customer service. As the only LPG company with an entirely self-contained ecosystem from ship to home, Proto can sustain high quality standards, surpassing its competitors.

 What LPG services does your company offer, and how do you tailor LPG solutions for clients?
The company offers both bulk sales and consumer sales in Kenya, and bulk delivery in Uganda and Rwanda. As the only LPG company in Kenya with the logistics, infrastructure and capacity to transact 1,400,000 MT’s a year, Proto can service any level of client need we are proud about ourselves on delivering safe, low-cost LPG to customers in their homes. We offer home delivery service; we have a network of thousands of retailers throughout the country and we expect to launch a new program next year to help customers even more on cost savings. We focus on supporting our retailers as much as our customers and have dedicated service teams that visit retailers weekly so that we can constantly upgrade our service and stay in tune with what the market needs.

Could you explain how your company provides LPG and ensures safety in the process?

One of the major challenges in the LPG industry in Kenya is the need for more infrastructure for safe distribution, storage and safe transport. AGOL addresses this problem by investing in a network of upgraded storage facilities and with the introduction of Pro Gas, committed to manufacturing the highest quality cylinders in market. Safety and convenience rank amongst the top priorities for the company, as well as for LPG consumers. So naturally, high-quality gas requires high-quality cylinders. PROTO commissioned and operates one of the largest cylinder manufacturing plants in East Africa, from our Kabati facility, 1h North of Nairobi. We truly believe that our cylinders are the best quality and safest gas cylinders in the market.  

Can you take us through the initial stages of Proto Energy and how you managed to achieve this position in the industry?
Despite its relatively brief existence, Proto Energy has swiftly risen to prominence within Kenya’s LPG downstream distribution landscape. At the heart of its success lies its ability to offer LPG as both an essential and aspirational product. There were huge gaps in servicing the fast-growing market and Proto entered with new vibrant pink cylinders, established itself as “the cool kid” in the game, backed by the safest cylinders available. This approach has not only positioned Proto Energy as the leading player in the Kenyan market but has also extended its reach to serve the broader East Africa region. The brand has made LPG accessible to a wider and more diverse audience, marking a remarkable achievement in the energy sector.  In 2020 Proto acquired a second downstream brand, Sea Gas, which allowed the company to gain market share in the eastern part of the country, along the coast. With both brands in market and a completely self-contained ecosystem, Proto continues to maintain a strong market position and still sees growth potential.  

How has the company’s trajectory changed since its foundation?

The company’s initial focus was to address infrastructure and key safety issues, AGOL brought stability to the LPG industry in Kenya and through Proto Energy has increased access to a more reliable and affordable energy source for consumers. Since Proto’s inception four years ago, the company has had a strategic focus on safety and convenience while creating a booming industry that has created business opportunities and jobs for hundreds of thousands of people, including LPG distributors, transporters, cylinder manufacturers, filling plant staff, retailers and others. Looking to the future the company has plans to partner on teaching Kenyan students the importance of climate change and reducing deforestation. We are working on new technology that will dramatically change the industry and the standards for cylinders. More households every day are switching from traditional sources of energy like firewood and charcoal, to LPG, and we ensure that Pro Gas is available and affordable. It is estimated that 2.8 million trees can be saved annually by switching to LPG and just as significant is the health impact for Kenyans, about 7,200 lives can be saved per year due to avoiding smoke inhalation from charcoal and firewood. 

How do you define leadership, and what advice do you have for the younger generation in developing leadership skills?

Leadership at the heart is collaborating with the right individuals and gathering both tangible and qualitative data to uncover the true story and understand customers by going direct to the source. Amanda also prioritizes empowering the team to take ownership and address challenges within their respective business lines. She firmly believes that effective leadership is rooted in the capacity to listen and truly understand the unique strengths of her team members.

Can you provide our readers with a brief overview of yourself and your teammates?

Amanda Donahue, CEO of Kenya Energy Group, leads both the upstream and downstream channels of this expansive LPG business.  Her executive journey has spanned continents and diverse industries, yet she only entered LPG three years ago in Kenya. “When I made the decision to exit the corporate rat race in the U.S. and arrived in Kenya 15 years ago, my initial plan was to take a six-month sabbatical. What has transpired is a winding journey from poultry farming to maternal health clinics to FinTech and now to LPG.”  

Amanda developed a deep understanding of the local Kenyan economy and the needs of its people. “You cannot underestimate the imagination, drive and innovation of the Kenyan people – it is simply remarkable.” Amanda joined KEG early on in the COVID pandemic and weathered tremendous inflation, tumultuous Kenyan Elections, and managed to maneuver all those hurdles and continue to innovate and grow the company. Amanda has also sought to grow the leadership team and places value on diversity and promoting women, not only at the highest levels but throughout the company. A key tenet of her leadership, Proto Energy started a program to empower women from low-income areas to become delivery tuktuk drivers in the market. This program, coined “Queens of the Road” is completely unique within the gas industry, taking women through a 6-week course of not only obtaining their driving license but equally important, gaining skills in financial management, customer service and even self-defense. Women who had few options for gaining such skills are running their own delivery routes, earning income plus commissions and gaining an independence and self-worth that cannot even be measured. For those women who pass the training course, they are given a one-year renewable contract with Proto. This earning is a life changing amount of money that not only impacts the woman’s direct family but the entire community. They have proven to be hard-working, loyal, competent and strong employees.  The team at Proto is young, growing and dedicated. Under Amanda’s leadership, the potential is tremendous.

“It is estimated that 2.8 million trees can be saved annually by switching to LPG”

 “Proto Energy has swiftly risen to prominence within Kenya’s LPG downstream distribution landscape”

 Company Name : Proto Energy

 Website : www.protoenery.com

 Management Team

 Amanda Donahue, Chief Executive Officer

 

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