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Innovative Solutions in Africa’s Energy Sector: AEW 2023 Women’s Roundtable

The AEW 2023 conference heralded a defining moment for Africa’s energy sector. Influential women in energy gathered, offering a rich tapestry of insights, strategies, and solutions to fuel Africa’s sustainable energy ambitions.

Empowering Africa’s Sustainable Energy Transition

Grace Orife, the dynamic CEO of Adelaar Energy, moderated the session. The African Women Business Energy Network, alongside bp SA, was responsible for orchestrating this invaluable dialogue. Sarah Baashan, representing Saudi Aramco, placed a strong emphasis on the importance of navigating the delicate balance between ensuring energy is affordable and sustainable, without sidelining the imperative of decarbonization.

Africa’s demographic dividend, characterized by its young population, provides a unique advantage. As Baashan rightly pointed out, harnessing this youthful vigor by creating substantial job opportunities can pave the way for holistic and sustainable socioeconomic growth. Ibi Ogunbiyi, another esteemed panelist, brought to the table a compelling argument. She suggested a visionary strategy: a seamless blend of hydrocarbons producing baseload power, supplemented by off-grid and other renewable systems. This, she believes, can ensure energy access even to the remotest corners of the continent. Furthermore, she pitched gas as a pivotal transition fuel, marking its importance in the evolving energy narrative.

Overcoming Infrastructure and Financing Challenges

Discussing the challenges, the inadequate infrastructure and the complexities surrounding project financing stood out. They act as persistent roadblocks to the unbridled growth of African energy economies. Oluseyi Afolabi, with his depth of expertise, made a compelling case. Governments, he emphasized, have a critical role to play. They should be at the forefront, championing the cause of developing and fortifying assets. These assets, in turn, would guarantee uninterrupted generation and transportation of energy, catering to both bustling urban centers and serene rural landscapes.

Allyson Anderson Book, with her wealth of experience at Baker Hughes, echoed Afolabi’s sentiments. For her, the diversification of Africa’s energy mix is non-negotiable. And to achieve this, increasing investments in capacity-building initiatives is paramount. This approach not only ensures energy security but also reduces the continent’s reliance on international aid, promoting self-reliance and autonomy.

Vision for the Future: Collaboration and Innovation

Taelo Mojapelo, the dynamic CEO of bp SA, provided an analytical perspective. She shed light on the increasing energy demand, which is witnessing a robust annual growth of at least 3%. However, the corresponding investments in fresh projects have been sluggishly slow. This dichotomy, Mojapelo pointed out, is concerning. Ayanda Noah, offering a macro view, underscored the importance of robust collaboration between governments and the private sector. The Southern African Power Pool, she cited, stands as a testament to what collaborative endeavors can achieve.

But beyond infrastructure and collaboration, there’s another vital component – innovation. Women, with their inherent creativity and problem-solving acumen, are well-poised to lead this charge. Noah firmly believes that women can drive transformative change by introducing groundbreaking solutions to address the most pressing energy challenges.

Amb. Martha Nyamal Choat accentuated the essence of market stability. For Africa to genuinely flourish and attract private investments, providing a stable, secure business environment is quintessential. Shirley Webber rounded off the discussion with a forward-looking approach. She stressed the need for governments to prioritize not just market stability but also Environmental Social Governance. Furthermore, a diversified palette of financing mechanisms can catalyze the development of diverse energy infrastructure projects, ensuring a brighter, more sustainable future for the continent.

In conclusion, the AEW 2023 Women’s Roundtable highlighted the multifaceted challenges and opportunities in Africa’s energy sector. With a collaborative, innovative approach, Africa is on the brink of an energy renaissance.

Feel free to contact the Energy Transition Centre today with questions. 

·  Julius Moerder, Head of Energy Transition Centre [email protected]

·  Oneyka Ojogbo, Head of Energy Transition Centre, Nigeria & West Africa [email protected]

·  Leon van Der Merwe, Head of Energy Transition Centre, South Africa [email protected]

Author: Memoona Tawfiq