The potential to transform Africa’s economies and accelerate development in the coming decade lies in lighting and powering the continent. But, more importantly, and often overlooked, is that this potential also lies in deliberate efforts to integrate more women in energy projects.
The energy sector is one that has historically been male-dominated. From all sectors of the workforce more so at the executive level, to the trajectories of transmission, distribution and re-distribution, the sector disadvantages women. This requires challenging.
Indeed, the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), “choose to challenge”, is based on the premise that a challenged world is an alert world where individuals are cognizant of their thoughts, decisions and actions.
As we celebrate IWD 2021, we must go beyond discussion. We need to use the tools available to us and effectively integrate gender in energy planning, implementation and monitoring.
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Attracting female talents in the energy sector is key to ensuring a successful, speedy and just energy transition. In addition to financing energy projects in Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is actively developing tools to help achieve this goal. These include the recent “Gender and Energy Country Briefs”, which the Bank published in partnership with Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA).
The briefs which cover Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, provide tailored recommendations on how to set up holistic and programmatic approaches for catalysing women economic empowerment in the energy sector.
The briefs are part of AfDB’s push for increased production of gender-disaggregated data and knowledge products to adequately address gender gaps on the continent.
Why work at the Energy and Gender nexus?
Energy is tied to every development area: agriculture, manufacturing, education, social and health infrastructure, as well as security. Yet in all these, women are severely disadvantaged.
International networks on the gender and energy nexus report that female-headed households are less likely to have access to energy than those headed by male (ENERGIA 2019).
Although available gender-disaggregated data on the gender and energy nexus in East Africa provide some indications of gender inequalities, they hardly give the depth of evidence needed to develop clear policies and targets to inform energy interventions.
For example, there is little up-to-date data on sector employment and the differential impacts of energy access and utilisation on women and men. There is also a dearth of data on women’s participation in the energy value chain as entrepreneurs or employees, or women as users of energy, and women-led businesses as suppliers of energy infrastructure or services within the sector.
In the slowest-growing East African countries, the only available data is the percentage of households or overall population with access to a specific type of energy for lighting or cooking. Official gender-disaggregated data in the energy sector of these countries are relatively scarce and seldom updated.
In the fastest-growing East African countries such as Rwanda or Kenya, although there is no specific legislation for the production of gender statistics, and data on gender and energy are still scarce, recent studies are showing improvement in the availability of some gender statistics across all sectors.
Opportunity in clean energy
Through its Gender and Energy Country Brief for Kenya, the AfDB is providing the missing data to help the country advance towards a clean energy agenda that will benefit both men and women. By generating evidence, AfDB aims to raise awareness on the bottlenecks preventing women from fully engaging in the energy value chain.
The Brief also highlight the need for national stakeholders to define appropriate parameters for policies and programmes, as well as track the progress on gender issues in the sector.
Generally, East Africa holds immense potential in generating clean energy through wind, solar and hydropower. Millions stand to benefit if we invest in these clean energy projects. In doing so, it is important that a gender lens is applied through the energy value chain to ensure that these projects benefit women and men equally.
This process starts with reliable gender-disaggregated data in order to make decisions that will have direct and effective impact to achieve desired results.
The time for action to support African women has long past and we can no longer wait for Monday!
Mrs. Nnenna Nwabufo is African Development Bank’s Director General for East Africa.