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Addressing the dearth of women in Africa’s cleantech sector

women in cleantech - cleanbuild

Addressing the dearth of women in Africa’s cleantech sector

Women in the African clean technology (cleantech) sector have been playing important roles in the continent’s transition to renewable energy especially in terms of production, consumption, and conversion.

Despite their immense contribution in driving renewable energy adoption in Africa and sustaining the green economy, they are still under-represented in the space. This leads us to a very crucial question: why are there few women in the clean technology sector?

The first reason why there is a dearth of women in Africa’s energy industry is the financial gap that exists in the sector.

One of the major conditions for cleantech enterprises to begin and scale products and services is their access to quick funds at reasonable rates. But this is not the case especially for women cleantech entrepreneurs in underdeveloped and developing African countries because a good number of them do not have financing access.

This is further worsened by the prevalent gender discrimination when it comes to property acquisition and laws. Most of these women do not have properties in their name. It then becomes difficult for them to offer the properties as collateral to access loans from banks to kickstart their ventures.

That, coupled with their almost non-existent credit histories is a recipe for discouragement in the space.

The second reason why there is a dearth of women in the cleantech sector is limited access to networks and market opportunities. It is common knowledge that mentorship has a direct effect on women’s career choices.

Women mentors play significant roles in the cleantech space as they help aspiring cleantech entrepreneurs find their footing, provide access to knowledge, social capital, and business opportunities – which are key elements for these women to thrive.

However, the cleantech sector is dominated by men which means that women entrepreneurs have less motivation to want to stick in the space.

The third reason is gender discrimination. This has been a problem that several sectors and industries face; thus, the clean technology space is no exception.

Gender discrimination has deprived many women cleantech entrepreneurs of funding. To put this into context, not only does a small fraction of seed funding capital go to startups that have women founders in their team, but only a few venture capital firms invest in women-led startups.

This is especially disheartening because the space is mostly male-dominated and most of the male investors would rather invest in companies that have male founders.

Finally, you are more likely to see women-led cleantech companies in the incubator stages than you would in the acceleration stages. This is because investors are more focused on the former due to less funding requirements.

Many women would likely drop because, as the companies scale, so will the gender financing gap in its equity capital increase.

What’s the way forward?

The focus should be on women’s inclusion in every cleantech-related program. Also, there should be deliberate sensitization on the gender disparities that are prevalent in the sector.

Furthermore, women-focused mentorship programs and opportunities should be encouraged so as to enable women cleantech entrepreneurs to take advantage of the many opportunities that abound in the space.

Finally, governments should create a space for these women cleantech entrepreneurs to thrive. This can be done via subsidies, tax exemptions, investment programs, and the abolishment of gender discriminatory laws.

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