Energizing Equality in the African Energy Sector

This post originally appears on the Power Africa blog, accessible here

Sub-Saharan Africa is a global leader in gender mainstreaming in energy sector policy development. In a Global Gender Analysis of national energy frameworks, sub-Saharan Africa outperforms all other regions, with nearly three-quarters (73%) of its policies including gender considerations.

A regional comparison of gender considerations in national-level energy documents, from the 2017 report Energizing Equality. The new report includes additional and updated frameworks from the region.

National energy frameworks — the collection of policies and strategies that articulate how a country aims to develop its energy sector — were long considered gender neutral. Yet, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that access to electricity can have differential impacts on women and men.

To understand how sub-Saharan African national energy frameworks include gender considerations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Global Gender Office, with support from Power Africa and USAID, analyzed 45 national energy frameworks from 29 sub-Saharan African countries. The report reveals that nearly three-quarters of the frameworks include mentions of women and/or gender. By integrating gender considerations into their energy frameworks, African nations are demonstrating their commitment to advancing gender equality through responsible energy sector planning and development.

POWERING A MORE EQUITABLE AFRICAN ENERGY SECTOR

Of the sample, two frameworks characterize women as agents of change — recognizing their potential to drive policy change and unlock more effective energy activities. For example, Mauritius’ Long-Term Energy Strategy recognizes that women’s roles as energy consumers and producers for households and businesses can, “to a greater extent achieve energy savings and energy efficiency objectives.” Nigeria’s National Energy Masterplan includes an activity to organize meetings between grassroots-level development partners, women’s groups and other stakeholders to participate in making energy policy recommendations to governments.

Data on women’s participation in the African energy sector is limited, though the sector is commonly recognized as being male-dominated. Six frameworks either identify women’s underrepresentation in the energy industry or propose actions to close this gap. For example, South Africa’s Energy Policystates that the Department of Minerals and Energy will develop an employment equity plan to assist with attracting appropriately skilled people and correcting gender imbalances.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, women are engaged in the entrepreneurship of innovative energy solutions in the production, distribution and servicing of energy technologies. Seven frameworks regard women as effective energy entrepreneurs. For example, Rwanda’s Energy Policy proposes developing credit enhancement and micro-finance programs that target women for driving investments in clean energy technologies.

Check out the report to view how additional cross-cutting gender issues, such as time poverty, education and health, are reflected in national energy frameworks.

Although this assessment of SSA energy frameworks is not intended to be an evaluation, this report identifies some key elements in frameworks that may ensure gender considerations are addressed through implementation. For example, Zimbabwe’s National Energy explicitly designates funds for gender-related activities. Three frameworks — from Niger, Benin and Botswana — identify explicit gender indicators relating to gender and energy, such as capturing the number of jobs created for women as a result of renewable energy generation. Additionally, twelve frameworks identify women’s ministries or women’s organizations as implementing partners, alluding to the need of both engaging women and gender experts as relevant stakeholders for ensuring implementation of activities.

POWERING FORWARD

National energy frameworks reflect diverse opportunities to advance a gender-responsive approach, including by addressing time poverty, energy poverty in rural and urban areas, women’s health and well-being and women’s economic and educational opportunities in the sector. Power Africa works with African governments to drive policy development and reform. For example, Power Africa and the Clean Energy Solutions Center are developing a blueprint guide for creating gender-sensitive energy policies. The guide presents the components for developing a policy on gender mainstreaming in energy access, including different considerations in design, development and implementation procedures.

To learn more about Power Africa’s commitment to gender equality and female empowerment, please visit Power Africa’s Empowering and Powering Women site here.