[Column] Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Energy partnerships in Africa must benefit women and children through localization
Having served both the United Nations and the South African Government, I am of the view that Africa must ensure both consistent and diverse energy supply to its people and the world while also tackling some of the most challenging socio-economic issues it faces.
The upliftment of women and ensuring equality will contribute positively development and growth of countries. Diversified energy sources used together with rich energy reserves could act as a force multiplier for growth, economic upliftment, poverty reduction and improved health.
Worryingly, UN Women statistics indicate that women in Sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend over 40-billion hours a year collecting water. Rural communities that do not have access to efficient energy sources continue to rely on open fires and burn wood and crop waste to survive. Research also shows that when more income is put into the hands of women, education, children nutrition and health also improve. African countries must be careful of the well documented industry behaviour which has continued to exploit the resources and the local people and African governments that have failed to stand up for their country’s developmental needs.
Later this year, heads of state, industry leaders and multinational oil and gas companies will convene for the annual Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town from October 3rd to 7th. This is Africa’s premium energy event and a key opportunity to outline the benefits of localization. It is also a key moment to present the climate change imperatives which must guide the way forward.
An inclusive approach that benefits locals would boost local skills development, lower supply chain costs, encourage responsive & good governance, enhance infrastructure, develop sustainable local content all in enhanced localization approach and strategies.
It is my sincere hope that, as energy leaders come together for AOW in October, the opportunities that can put Africa on a successful and sustainable energy path are considered with the seriousness they deserve and with the spirit of Ubuntu – the understanding that we are interdependent and coexist as a partnership.
We must grapple with the historic curse of resources that has beleaguered many countries who remain unequal and poor despite growth in exports and foreign earnings from energy resources. Climate change constrains must also continue to guide our choices of energy mix, money gained from fossil fuels must also be used to invest in clean energy and for the development of our people. We must combine our strengths, resources, and knowledge to ensure that no woman or child is left behind as we advance together.