GE Africa, USADF announce 2017 Off-Grid Energy Challenge for women innovators

18 Nov 2016, 12:00 am
Financial Nigeria


The contest is part of Power Africa’s Beyond The Grid initiative, aimed at driving investment in small-scale renewable solutions.

Off-grid solar panel

GE Africa and the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) have announced the 2017 Off-Grid Energy Challenge focused on African women-owned and managed energy enterprises and innovations. The Off-Grid Energy Challenge is part of Power Africa’s Beyond The Grid initiative, aimed at driving private investment in off-grid and small-scale renewable energy solutions.

Since 2013, GE has partnered with the USADF, providing $5 million in awards to 50 African energy entrepreneurs, according to a statement released on Friday. In the 2016 awards, there were 21 winners from across the continent with renewable technologies such as solar micro-grids, solar cold storage and biogas solutions for rural communities living far from the national power grid.

“I continue to be excited about the incredible innovation and entrepreneurship that is happening across the continent,” said Jay Ireland, President and CEO of GE Africa. “We are very pleased to be a part of this challenge to help identify and accelerate projects that will help African women entrepreneurs to compete in the global economy.”

GE said the initiative is designed to highlight the need to support technologies being developed by African women innovators who have lower access to finance than men. Women in the region also have high rates of health-related problems from smoke and indoor pollution, putting them in a position to be the biggest beneficiaries from renewable and affordable off-grid energy solutions.

“Women entrepreneurs have been disadvantaged for a long time as they do not have access to credit through the formal banking system and they also lack skills to grow their business,” said Joyce Gemma, a winner in the 2014 Off-Grid Energy Challenge.

There are still 600-million people in Africa who lack reliable access to electricity. Most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have electrification levels below 30 per cent. Only seven countries – Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Namibia and Senegal – have electricity access rates that exceed 50 per cent, according to GE – which is working with customers and local communities in the region to develop and execute innovative and sustainable solutions to business challenges across the continent.

According to a recent McKinsey report, the most significant effect of the lack of financing for Africa’s power generation needs is the stalling of the continent’s long-term economic development and growth. GE said a sustained increase in investment initiatives – such the scheme being run in partnership with USADF – will go a long way to ensuring that significant progress is made in the formation of much-needed renewable energy and off-grid tools to drive economic growth.

“African women remain the cornerstone of the African family and community,” said C.D. Glin, USADF President and CEO. “They are leading their communities yet they suffer the brunt of energy poverty. Innovation will be unleashed with these seed capital awards and we can’t wait to see the applications roll in.”


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