Empowering Women in the Renewable Energy Sector: How to Promote Gender Equality in Africa

Gender equality in Africa's renewable energy sector is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed, in order to enable the successful transition to a low-carbon energy future. Women play a key role in promoting sustainable energy consumption and accelerating the shift to renewable energy, but they are still significantly underrepresented in the sector. A recent study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) showed that only 32% of the renewable energy workforce is made up of women, mostly employed in administrative roles rather than in STEM jobs: this highlights the need to increase the presence of women in the renewable energy sector, particularly in STEM and non-STEM technical roles.

In order for the energy transition to be truly just and equal, it is therefore essential that gender equality is ensured. Governments, companies, and other stakeholders must work together to ensure that women’s voices are heard, that they have access to material and immaterial resources, and that they are provided with the necessary skills and training to be successful in the sector. Additionally, it is important to ensure that women are represented in all roles, especially in positions of leadership and decision-making. This article will explore the ways in which gender equality can be promoted in Africa's renewable energy sector, and how women are leading the way in the development of new technologies and solutions.

Women in Africa and their Key Role in the Energy Transition

As primary caretakers, educators, and agricultural workers, there's no lack of examples of how African women can play a key role in promoting sustainable energy and consumption and accelerating the shift to renewable power sources. In Kenya, they are using solar energy to generate electricity for rural communities, helping to increase access to clean and affordable energy. In Rwanda, women are leading the way in the development of new technologies such as solar pumps, which are helping to boost agricultural productivity. In South Africa, women are leading the way in the development of mini-grids and energy storage solutions, bringing electricity to remote areas.

These projects are not only expanding the access to clean and affordable energy, but they are also  contributing to empowering women and increasing their participation in the renewable energy sector. Women-led organizations are also an important catalyser for awareness: groups such as the Green Girls Initiative and the Global Women's Network for the Energy Transition are sensitizing about renewable energy sources, advocating for their use and promoting the role of women in the renewable energy sector.

The Benefits of Gender Equality in the Renewable Energy Sector

Gender equality has the potential to be a major force for positive change through all the layers of Africa's renewable energy sector. With increased female participation, there is greater access to energy, more inclusive decision-making, and a greater economic benefit to renewable energy. Moreover, women are more likely to have access to finance, technology, and resources, as well as to improved energy security and better public health services. Increasing women's involvement is also important for the success of the green energy industry: studies have shown that companies with more diverse leadership are more successful, profitable, and more likely to outperform their peers. In addition, promoting gender equality in the renewable energy sector can help to ensure that the benefits of renewable energy are shared by all, regardless of gender.

Gender equality is therefore essential for achieving an energy transition able to be both sustainable and inclusive. Creating a supportive environment for women, with equal access to resources and opportunities, appears thus as a major driver for the growth of Africa's renewable market, and ensure that its energy transition is more speedy, efficient and truly shared.

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Africa is a continent in continuous transformation, with a sustained economic and population growth, a fast-paced urbanization and a young generation of talents who is leading its business revolution. This transformation requires energy and will require it even more in the next decades.
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