This policy briefing draws on the findings of a discussion paper examining South Africa and Rwanda’s efforts to include women in the renewable energy (RE) sector. A comprehensive gender mainstreaming toolkit was developed based on this research, which adopts a three-tier approach to the various gaps identified in national, regional and global efforts seeking to improve the participation of women in infrastructure development. Gender mainstreaming the African RE sector is an important opportunity to include women in infrastructure design, enabling their meaningful participation in and contribution to the energy industry. Unfortunately, engendering (ie, gender equality, gendered development and gender inclusivity) the energy value chain is not without its challenges and requires a multi level set of short-, medium- and long-term interventions.
The Importance of Women’s Participation for Sustainable Infrastructure Development
Well-designed, maintained and operated infrastructure is crucial in addressing Africa’s socio-economic development, growing population and rising urbanisation levels. According to 2017 data from the International Energy Agency, as many as 600 million people in Africa (approximately 60% of the continent’s total population) have no access to energy. The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the UN Environment Programme estimate that an average of $41 billion per year is required to finance the energy sector in Africa. The use of RE technologies such as solar photovoltaic and mini-hydro could help address this energy deficit, especially in less-developed countries that struggle to expand the main grid because of prohibitively high costs, while contributing to a more effective use of African resources that accelerates the economic inclusion of women, youth and disabled persons. RE technologies also open up the possibility to create energy value chains through backward and forward linkages, including manufacturing, assembling of RE technologies, installation, repairs and maintenance. The RE sector provides the ideal opportunity to learn from patterns of non-gender awareness seen in Africa’s traditional energy sector, because it (i) enables off-grid and scaling solutions; and (ii) provides an opportunity to unlearn old practices and introduce new approaches.
Author: Asmita Parshotam