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African Development Bank hosts ECOWAS workshop ushering a new era of women’s roles in West Africa’s energy transition


The African Development Bank hosted a workshop of energy experts, women entrepreneurs and government officials to discuss a Bank-funded feasibility study on Business Opportunities for Women in a Changing Energy Value Chain in West Africa.

The workshop was organized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)  Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), in partnership with the Bank Group and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Infrastructure Project Preparatory Facility (NEPAD–IPPF).

Konan N’Goran, Director of Renewable Energy and Energy Management, presided over the official opening ceremony on behalf of Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Petroleum, Energy and Renewable Energy Development, Thierry Tanoh.

“Some countries around the world have been able to transform their energy sector into an export commodity, exporting technology and technical expertise to create immense value and wealth for themselves,” he said.

On behalf of the Minister, N’Goran urged West African countries to take advantage of global transformation in the energy sector to create a niche for themselves in the global energy transition. “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,” he said. N’Goran stressed that “an energy sector where women entrepreneurs make up just 2% of the population (as it is currently the case in West Africa) is not ideal.”

In his speech, the Ambassador of Spain to Côte d’Ivoire, Luis Covarrubias, noted that the regional initiative will facilitate participation of women in the energy sector as suppliers of modern energy services and solutions, and elevate them from predominantly being considered as mere consumers.

The Director of the Department of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the Bank, 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. If women are involved in crafting the solution, the energy produced will be used in a more impactful way.”

More than 60 participants from the energy sector, one-third of them wormen chief executives, attended the workshop.

In a speech delivered on his behalf, the Executive Director of ECREEE, Mahama Kappiah, said that with many women entrepreneurs running their businesses using their own equity or small loans, unlocking investment to enable them increase productivity and performance definitely holds great promise for the region’s economic development and the health and vibrancy of its power sector.

The regional workshop and the study are 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 Côte 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 African Development Bank through the NEPAD-IPPF Special Fund, which supports African countries in the preparation of regional infrastructure projects in energy, transport, (ICT) and transboundary water. Shem Simuyemba, NEPAD-IPPF’s Division Manager, said 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 NEPAD-IPPF is keeping a close eye on the progress of the project, as it looks to replicate it in other infrastructure sectors and in other regions in Africa.

Representing the Government of Canada, Simon Snoxell commended the effort saying that it addresses the same issues Canada is working towards addressing: climate change, women’s empowerment, among 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.”

Coming from a wide range of areas in the energy sector, the participants shared their vast knowledge and expertise, underlining both the common challenges and opportunities they face as well as the diversity of the region.