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Employability and energy transition: a unique opportunity for women and for Africa

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By Roberto Vigotti

· 3 min read

In the ever-evolving landscape of the global energy sector, a remarkable transformation is underway. Today, the clean energy industry employs a higher number of workers than its fossil fuel counterparts. This transition signifies a crucial step towards a sustainable and environmentally conscious future. However, this is not without its share of challenges, one of the most serious being the skilled workers shortage. Two key strategies might be considered to address this situation: the transition of the already existing energy workforce and the inclusion of new potential resources.

As the world moves towards a greener future, the transition of skilled workers from fossil fuel-based industries to clean energy is paramount. This transition requires a concerted effort from both governments and the private sector to provide reskilling programs and educational opportunities.  It is critical to meet the increasing demand, particularly in light of future projections indicating an increase in the number of jobs requiring clean energy certifications. Governments could implement policies that facilitate the transition and provide economic incentives for companies to invest in clean energy. On the other hand, firms can play a pivotal role by providing the additional training needed in order to enable fossil fuel workers to be competent and efficient workers in the renewable energy sector.

Concurrently, it is fundamental to pursue inclusion and actively encourage women to embark on a career in the energy sector. Data show that women represent less than 20% of the energy workforce compared to 40% in the worldwide economy average. Besides, women working in the energy sector tend to earn 20% less than their male counterparts. As an industry historically dominated by men, the energy sector exacerbates the challenges that women already face in other economic sectors. Supporting women’s inclusion will not only contribute to addressing the labour shortage but will also foster a more diverse work environment leading to a win-win scenario. In this respect, RES4Africa will soon present a Report regarding women’s representation in the energy sector titled ‘A just transition or just a transition: Making the case for women in energy’ realized with the support of online surveys addressed to workers in North Africa. The Report stems from the need for a comprehensive understanding of women in the energy sector and the urgency to address inclusion and apply a gender lens when analyzing energy transition. The message is to empower women by increasing their participation both in terms of energy access and in terms of energy-related education, energy workforce and leadership roles within the industry.

It seems clear that the energy transition is a unique opportunity to ensure a more sustainable and better future for all. This is true for countries worldwide and especially for Africa, for its clean energy resources richness – mostly wind, sun, hydro – and its demographic growth rate. The benefits would not be merely from an economic point of view, but also in terms of employability, equality, and welfare across the continent. Data show that in Africa renewables already increased the workforce by 1.9 millions, and will continue to do so as transition-related industries grow. Data forecast that clean energy is one of the industries with the greatest potential for job growth that will likely create more than 8 million jobs by 2050.

The energy transition is therefore inextricably linked with positive socio-economic effects including reduced damages from climate change, local development, and job creation. To fully realize this transition’s huge potential and fully reveal Africa’s development, a thorough strategy that considers all these aspects must be implemented. Policymakers, local stakeholders, international partners and other relevant public and private actors must cooperate in order to ensure that the benefits of the energy transition are equitable and accessible for all.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Roberto Vigotti is the Secretary General of RES4Africa Foundation, a European think tank gathering 34 stakeholders from the clean energy value chain to accelerate Africa’s RE transition. Previously, he spent 35 years in Enel Power R&D Division and served for 12 years as the chair of the Renewable Working Party of the IEA

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