But Tesla’s move into Africa isn’t about all-electric cars.
It’s a small start—just five positions so far—but Tesla Motors is hiring staff in Africa as the company expands its energy storage division.
The all-electric automaker, which launched a line of battery products last year, is hiring an applications engineer, an analyst, two sales managers, and a training specialist for an office in South Africa, according to postings on the company’s career site. As of two weeks ago, there wasn’t a single job posting for the country or continent.
During a splashy event in April, CEO Elon Musk introduced two battery products that will allow homeowners, businesses, and utilities to store energy, manage backup power, and ultimately, enable zero-emission power generation. The Powerwall is a lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at the residential level, and the PowerPack is a scalable energy storage unit for heavy industrial and utility applications.
Tesla’s move into South Africa has been expected for a few months, although details have been scant. The company recently hired Evan Rice as regional business development manager to introduce Tesla Energy to the market and continue to build out the team, a spokeswoman said. Rice is the former CEO of Greencape, a non-profit that supports the development of a green economy in the Western Cape region of South Africa.
Tesla wouldn’t provide any more information about its plans. But a look at the job postings suggest that the company is focused on building out its commercial product. The analyst, applications engineer, and one of the sales manager positions is for the commercial PowerPack product. One sales manager position is for the residential product. The training specialist job could be used in both areas.
Tesla’s entry into Africa is purely focused on energy storage, not its all-electric cars, and this makes sense. In Africa, the bigger opportunity is in energy, where demand is rising and an unreliable grid leads to regular rolling blackouts, not selling Model S sedans.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has called Africa a frontier for continuing growth opportunities due to its natural resources and rising demand for electricity. In 2014, GE pledged $2 billion in energy development across Africa to improve and expand access, reliability, and affordability of core infrastructure.
While much of the growth is in cities, opportunities also exist in rural Africa, where the power grid is lacking or non-existent. High-profile investors such as Virgin’s Richard Branson and AOL founder Steve Case are backing startups that sell solar panels to off-grid customers in Africa, India, and East Asia, and large solar companies have created divisions focused on rural customers in those same areas,Fortune’s Katie Fehrenbacher has reported.
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