EEP Africa shares experiences on gender and energy in Ethiopia

EEP Africa was a guest speaker at a course on Power Production Planning and Energy Trading  that was organized by Nordic Energy Research in Addis Ababa on 22-23 October 2018. EEP’s gender specialist, Ms. Lotta Wilkman, presented insights and experiences on gender and energy in Africa with the audience of Ethiopian project developers and other players in the renewable energy sector.

The course was part of a joint initiative launched in 2017 by the five Nordic Prime Ministers that seeks to bring Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges. This initiative aims to drive progress towards the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Nordic countries support the Ethiopian energy sector through a number of bilateral and multilateral programmes. More than 90% of Ethiopia’s installed electricity generation capacity comes from hydropower, so there has been a strong emphasis on transferring Norwegian know-how on hydro projects. However, with a growing and mostly rural population of more than 100 million people, the need and market potential for solar-home-systems and other off-grid solutions is substantial.

Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges

The Nordic Prime Ministers’ Initiative involves six flagship projects presenting Nordic knowledge in gender equality, sustainable food systems, smart welfare solutions, sustainable cities, regional energy co-operation and climate solutions. The Nordic Energy Solutions project targets East Africa and addresses the goal of “Sustainable Energy for All” (SDG7). It aims to increase renewable energy, facilitate international collaboration, and promote investment by utilising Nordic expertise in wind, hydro and geothermal projects.

Nordic countries have a long history of cross-border energy cooperation, with a mixed portfolio of renewable energy companies and technologies. The robust regulatory frameworks and transparent energy markets in the Nordic region could serve as a benchmark for the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP). The EAPP initiative covers seven East African countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan) with an objective to optimize the development of energy resources in the region and to enhance electricity access to all people through regional power interconnections.

EEP Gender Experiences Applied to Ethiopia

Gender equality is a priority of the Prime Ministers’ Initiative and a cross-cutting issue in the development initiatives of all Nordic countries. Ms. Wilkman presented key findings from the EEP in-depth study on gender, Understanding the Role of Women and Girls in Renewable and Energy-Efficiency Projects, and highlighted specific gender-related benefits and challenges in hydropower and other larger utility scale projects. Considering the needs of women, usually representing half of the population affected by the project, is an important question of risk and expectations management. Applying gender-responsive approaches to construction projects and guaranteeing equal access to economic opportunities can enhance the success of these projects. There are some differences between Ethiopia and the 15 countries covered by EEP, in terms of the mix of energy sources and level of women’s participation. However, many of the core challenges linked to rural energy poverty and gender inequality are similar throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and lessons from the EEP study can be shared across the region.

The course participants indicated a commitment to promoting gender equality in the Ethiopian energy sector. Discussions focused on acknowledging current barriers, considering the specific needs of women in decision making positions in energy projects, and identifying ways to attract more women to apply for jobs and develop careers in this male-dominated field. The Ethiopian participants appreciated learning from the best practices of EEP-supported projects and gaining a better understanding of the development benefits and business case of engaging in gender equality.

Nordic Business Opportunities in Ethiopia

EEP Africa also participated in a seminar on Nordic Solutions for Business Development in Ethiopia on 24 October. This event, which was organized jointly by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Embassy of Sweden in Addis Ababa, attracted a large number of Nordic and local companies. The seminar presented Nordic expertise and solutions in the context of the Ethiopian energy sector and highlighted the inspiration that the common Nordic energy markets could provide in the region. In addition to energy, the seminar looked at wider opportunities and challenges that the Ethiopian business landscape offers for Nordic companies and financing instruments.

Ethiopian project developers in both events indicated wide interest towards EEP and expressed wish to expand EEP operations to Ethiopia. Currently, the Nordic Development Fund (NDF), which hosts and manages EEP Africa, supports innovative climate change projects in Ethiopia through its Nordic Climate Facility.