Off-grid solutions championed at top continental electrification summit
by Addis Tigabu
The fact that His Excellency Dr. Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s Federal Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE), announced the launch of the Second National Electrification Program (NEP 2.0) at OFF the GRID, a summit held on 27–29 March 2019 at Addis Ababa’s Sheraton Hotel, was a clear demonstration of the Government of Ethiopia’s integration of off-grid energy solutions into current national energy policy.
Present at the three-day summit were dignitaries, ministers, parliamentary representatives, government officials, energy companies, technology providers and investors. The summit addressed the evolution of the off-grid sector in Africa and addressed many related topics. One of these was women’s roles in the energy sector, which are increasingly being recognized for their entrepreneurship, acumen, and influence over family and community, especially in off-grid markets.
NEP 2.0 was drawn up in collaboration with the World Bank, in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal #7: Global Universal Electrification by 2030. The principal goal of NEP 2.0 is to electrify six million off-grid households by 2025. Green Scene Energy, which was one of a highly select number of Ethiopian renewable-energy SMEs invited to represent the sector at this summit, is currently working toward being able to electrify up to 600,000 — ie. 10% — of these households.
As part of the summit’s championing of women entrepreneurs, a designated panel discussion entitled ‘Women entrepreneurs and off-grid electricity development’ was held on the second day of the summit.
One of the panelists, Ester Mpandi Khosa, Board Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, differentiated between culture and empowerment in the balanced engagement of communities. Also on the panel, Green Scene’s CEO, Rekik Bekele, gave some insight into representations of the gender gap. Rekik stressed the importance of men’s roles in empowering women, saying:
‘Men need to help women to overcome cultural barriers by being more gender sensitive and encouraging them to be more entrepreneurial’.
Fellow panelist Inka Shomer, Gender Specialist at the World Bank, added:
‘… Even today’s meeting room is gender balanced! We need to continue with this harmony if we are to engage more women entrepreneurs’.
Although the percentage of women employed in the energy sector is still currently low, Green Scene is setting a trend by striving for representation by at least 50% of women, employed as agents, retailers, and distributors. At the summit’s exhibition booth, Green Scene showcased the new BioLite Solar Home 620, together with SunKing’s other existing models. The summit adjourned with an appointment set for the upcoming Africa Energy Forum, scheduled for 11–14 June 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal, as well as plans for a follow-up summit, again in Addis Ababa, in March 2020.