Abidjan, 13 April 2018 - Energy experts, women entrepreneurs, and government representatives discussed findings from the AfDB-funded ECOWAS project on Pre- feasibility Study on Business Opportunities for Women in a Changing Energy Value Chain in West Africa at a regional workshop held in Abidjan on the 13thof April 2018. The workshop was organized by the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), in partnership with the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Infrastructure Project Preparatory Facility (NEPAD - IPPF).
Mr. Konan N’Goran, Director of Renewable Energy and Energy Management, presided over the official opening ceremony, delivering the speech of the Ivorian Minister of Petroleum, Energy and Renewable Energy Development, Honourable Thierry Tanoh. The Minister noted that “some countries around the world have been able to transform their energy sector into an export commodity, where they have exported technology and technical expertise to create immense value and wealth for themselves”. He added that West African countries should take advantage of the global transformation in the energy sector to create a niche for themselves in the global energy transition. According to the Minister “Technological disruptions are happening rapidly and if it is true that necessity is the mother of invention then our energy challenges should motivate us to create a niche in this ongoing transformation”. The Minister stressed that “an energy sector where female entrepreneurs make up just 2% of the population is not ideal”, as is currently the case in West Africa.
In his speech, the Ambassador of Spain in Abidjan, His Excellency Luis Covarrubias noted that the regional initiative will facilitate the participation of women in the energy sector as suppliers of modern energy services and solutions, and elevate them from predominately being considered as mere users.
The Director of the Department of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (PERN) at the AfDB, Mr Nakulima Osseynou, lauded the study, referring to it as “inclusive, pragmatic and relevant”. He noted that “in addressing the energy and climate change challenges on the continent Africa will need innovation, and if women are involved in crafting the solution the energy produced will be used in a more impactful way”.
The workshop brought together over 60 participants of whom one-third were female Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) involved in power generation and distribution businesses as well as providing renewable energy installation services, maintenance services, energy billing and payment services, running platforms using software as a service in the power sector, promoting liquefied petroleum gas for clean cooking and several others. In a speech delivered on his behalf, the Executive Director of ECREEE, Mr Mahama Kappiah, noted that with many women entrepreneurs running their businesses using their own equity or low-level borrowing from lenders, unlocking investment to enable them upscale productivity and performance definitely holds great promises for the region’s economic development and the health and vibrancy of its power sector.
The regional workshop and the study is part of a larger project which seeks to develop a pipeline of investment-ready, women-owned energy businesses across the West African region. The project seeks to produce four country-focused feasibility studies of energy businesses that make the most of the global megatrends shaping the new energy system, of which the following businesses were identified through the Pre-feasibility Study: liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) businesses in Nigeria; solar based electricity generation systems and solar lighting product distribution businesses in Ghana; clean energy powered mini and micro grid electricity generation and distribution businesses in Senegal; smart applications for energy consumers in Cote d’Ivoire. For each of the projects, the feasibility study will assess the possibility of replicating the projects in the other pilot countries.
The project is funded by the AfDB through the NEPAD-IPPF Special Fund, which supports African countries to prepare regional infrastructure projects in energy, transport, (ICT) and transboundary water. Mr Shem Simuyemba, the NEPAD-IPPF Division Manager, noted that the success of the ECREEE project will be determined by its ability to raise new funding for women-owned businesses at the end of the study. He added that the NEPAD-IPPF is keeping a close eye on the progress of the project, as it is looking to replicate it in other infrastructure sectors and in other regions in Africa.
Representing the Government of Canada, Simon Snoxell commended the effort noting that it addresses the same issues Canada is working towards addressing: climate change, women’s and empowerment, amongst others. Canada applauded efforts to promote a leadership role for women in the renewable energy sector in Africa. Paula Caldwell, Director General for Pan-Africa Bureau of Canada, explained that “as the principal consumers of energy at the household level, women can play a critical role in the energy value chain, including at a leadership level in the emerging and innovative renewables sector. To that end, Canada congratulates AfDB & ECREEE for a very successful workshop and in particular for bringing together women entrepreneurs in the energy sector from all over West Africa –including anglophone, francophone and Lusophony women.
Coming from a wide range of roles in the energy sector, the participants shared their deep knowledge and expertise, underlining both the common challenges and opportunities they face as well as the diversity of the region. This was a unique and important learning opportunity to promote women entrepreneurs.