United Nations Environment in conjunction with UN Women, the African Union and the Pan African Parliament has today (December 2nd) launched the African Women Energy Entrepreneurs Framework at the United Nations Complex in Nairobi.
The launch was followed by a panel discussion on innovative solutions to empower African women in the energy sector.
The session, which was chaired by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, saw participants discuss the challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the clean energy sector.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr Joanes Atela from the African Center for Technology Studies said over 70 per cent of Africans don’t have access to clean and sustainable energy, adding that this energy poverty is driven by economic poverty.
“There is a close relationship between access to energy and social-economic development,” he said.
Dr Atela noted that women are at the center of energy needs in Africa, adding that women’s needs are much more critical in national and regional development.
Speaking at the same time, a representative from Strauss Energy Limited in Kenya noted that there are many policies developed on clean energy but the implementation takes time to be effected, this she said was punitive for investors in the clean energy space.
Her sentiments were echoed by Aminata, a clean energy entrepreneur from Sierra Leone, who said that one of the issues facing women entrepreneurs in her country is that policies are not harmonized between government and other agencies, which is discouraging them from venturing into clean energy.
She noted that women entrepreneurs are charged an exorbitant fee, which is also charged on other companies including mining companies, which have more funds.
The women entrepreneurs who attended the meeting noted that access to finance has proved to be one of the greatest challenges facing them, adding that it would help if development banks provided financing to women operating in the clean energy space.
They lamented that there are no incentives to ensure commercial banks support women entrepreneurs, adding red tape coupled with high interest rates has become an obstacle to women entrepreneurs.
However, speaking at the same function, Jennifer, a representative from Rafiki Micro-finance noted that the institution finances groups (chamas) made up of 90 per cent women membership under their Chama Product, adding that they don’t require collateral.
“We give women facilities that don’t require collateral to ensure the traditional custodianship of property does not affect them,” she noted.
A representative from Safaricom also gave a testimonial of the value that mobile-based loans have offered small women traders, adding that there is an opportunity in the space to enable more women entrepreneurs to get access to funding.
The meeting noted that it was important for women to be involved in the entire energy value chain, noting that for a large part, women have been consumers and distributors of energy, not generators.
The Africa Women Energy Entrepreneurs Framework (AWEEF) will be used as a platform to address the challenges and obstacles facing women entrepreneurs and to implement innovative solutions that will encourage the participation of women in the entire energy value chain.
The programme contributes towards the achievement of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, SDG 13 (take urgent action to combat climate change), SDG 7 (ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and SDG 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls).