By Charles Ajunwa
The African Development Bank Group (AFDB) and other international organisations have urged the power sector in the African continent to leverage on women’s capabilities, noting that women represent only 20 per cent of employees in the African power sector and less than 10 per cent of engineers.
They arrived at this, during a three-day seminar on ‘Promoting Gender Equality in the African Power Sector’ organised by the AFDB in partnership with the French Development Agency, Association of Power Utilities of Africa and African Network of Centres of Excellence (ANCEE) held at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan
A statement made available to THISDAY said the seminar brought together 50 human resource directors from 50 power utility companies, eight Directors from ANCEE and other participants from more than 25 African countries to the Bank for the talks.
Participants at the seminar shared best practices, raised awareness about the interlinkages between gender and the power sector and moved toward a consensus on advocacy for reform, policy implementation and regulations to ensure gender-equal access to energy services, as well as ways to increase women representation in the sector.
“Diversity is not only nice to have, there’s a business case for it. We strongly believe that, both in the public and private sector, we must have leadership bodies that reflect the societies they live in, for better, more sustainable, long term results,” Vanessa Moungar, Director of the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Department said at the seminar.
Also, participants highlighted the importance of developing a concerted approach to promoting gender equality in the workplace. These strategies aim to attract more women to the power sector, improve their career prospects and increase their access to management positions within utilities.
“We expect women to not only be minor workers in the power sector but leaders, policymakers, renewable energy entrepreneurs, utility managers, employers of power plants and distribution systems, executives of private sector partners, and customers of electricity services,” said Amadou Hott, Vice President for Power, energy, Climate Change and Green Growth.
Speaking at the opening session, Hott noted that the power sector needed to capitalise on women’s talents. Integrating gender in the power sector would create opportunities for women and strengthen the sector to support improved healthcare, education and entrepreneurial opportunities. This would propel socio-economic development across the Bank’s regional member countries, he added.
Women represent only 20 per cent of employees in the African power sector and less than 10 per cent of engineers.
Basil Jones, Gender Programme and Policy Coordinator in the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Department, told attendees during the closing session that “Women are game changers in the economic sphere. Therefore, HR directors ought to develop gender policies and strategies to mainstream women in their various organisations . This way, we are taking giant steps to ensure the SDGs Goal 5 can be achieved.”
This workshop reflects the Bank’s commitment to strengthen its engagement with partner institutions to achieve gender equality in delivering the High 5 on “Light up and Power Africa” in its Regional Member Countries. The Bank collaborated with the AFD and APUA to provide over US$10 million grant for a three-year project to set up ANCEE. The aim of the project is to improve performance in the electricity sector and intensify regional trade by strengthening governance, technical and managerial skills.