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Women in energy sector face funding and accelerators scarcity

While there is funding available that is aimed specifically at women-led businesses, not enough is done to publicise their efforts or how to access them.

This was the consensus reached during the most recent Women in Energy webinar, which concentrated on how and where to find financing if you are a women trying to start a new business in the energy sector.

A poll run on Twitter before the webinar corresponded with audience and speaker responses, split down the middle. The question was ‘do you know of funds specifically aimed at women-owned business?’ The 50/50 answer highlighted much can still be done to tell potential business people what is available.

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Guest speaker, Lande Abudu, executive secretary of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria, said she really had to scramble to find anything specific. She was able to point out the Bank of Industry in Nigeria is very proactive with their gender desk which answer very specific funding questions. “They have disbursed through the gender desk in the region of N65million ($170,000) to women-led businesses according to their figures in the last 18 months,” said Abudu.

Fellow guest speaker Faith Chege-Schooley, EEP Africa portfolio coordinator, said she too had to really dig deep to find specific funds and it made her think about the whole funding ecosystem. “The challenge is at the early stage, of $250,000 and below. There’s room for more accelerators. We need more incubators and more women-focused early stage funding, and grants as well,” said Chege-Schooley.

Accelerating the participation of women in the energy sector requires constant information sharing

Abudu said the fact that she and her fellow speaker, who both deal with the investment side of the energy sector on a daily basis, had to spend so much time looking for information, was telling: “It should be shouted from the rooftops, it should be a major part of any financial institutions. A lot more work needs to be done. It’s the kind of information REAN would love to have, to say at the click of a button ‘this is what is available and we can facilitation the first point of contact if you are eligible’. More work needs to be done by all stakeholders.”

The lack of incubators and accelerators that specifically target women was highlighted as a big stumbling block in the second poll that asked about reasons holding women back from entering the energy sector. Both speakers agreed though, that networking was key to overcoming a lack of information around available funding opportunities as well as how learning how to structure your business plan so you can access funding when you find it.

“Remember to ask for help, reach out. There are a lot of people out there who are willing to help,” said Chege-Schooley. She did mention several funds she discovered online as a good place to start asking questions.

 Hosted in partnership with Women In Energy webinar series

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a conference producer for Clarion Events Africa.