October 26, 2016 | By


The ECOWAS region has a population of over 300 million people and only about 42% access to electricity with only 8% access in the rural areas. However, 60% of the populations reside in the rural areas, where about 70% -90% rely solely on low quality fuels for their basic energy needs. By statistics, the ECOWAS region is rated among the lowest consumers of electricity in the world, and the poor households in the region spend more of their income on low quality energy resources in order to meet their energy needs (ECOWAS, 2013).

The energy crises in the region affect all peoples- men, women and children alike. However, energy preferences differ with the individuals who use it, the purpose of usage as well as the time of need (ECOWAS, 2015). Consequently, the energy challenges affect males and females differently.  Moreover, attempts to proffer solutions to the energy challenges in the time been, tends to exclude women due to the wrong view that modern energy technologies and businesses are men’s roles, which in effect  limits  women’s opportunities from engaging in sustainable energy enterprises, and consequently, broadening the inequality gap in the energy sector (ECOWAS, 2015). More so, according to Mahama Kappiah in (ECOWAS, 2015), “the energy sector is a job provider and an income generating avenue for economic empowerment and poverty eradication”. Hence, the scanty and lean representation of women in the energy sector obviously robs women of the numerous opportunities and potentials for financial empowerment and socio-economic well being.

On the other hand, there is a current lack of gender-disaggregated energy data (Mininni, G. M (n.d)), needed to give a clear perspective on the needs and the priorities of women to making reasonable contributions to modern and sustainable developments. The presence of which can enhance clear information that can inform more inclusive energy policy formulations and implementations for the purpose of ensuring that both women and men are accorded equal opportunities for participation to succeed in all energy related fields. The indicators selected for tracking ECOWAS commitments towards universal energy access for women and men are represented in categories and include;

  • Category 1: Energy and development
  • Category 2: Energy and gender awareness
  • Category 3: Agency and voice
  • Category 4: Access to resources and opportunities
  • Category 5: Policy landscape
  • Category 6: Social Norms and laws

These of course are aligned with the ECOWAS Policy for gender mainstreaming in energy access whose goals include addressing the barriers that hinder energy- gender inequality in the ECOWAS region.

This article is divided into three parts, Part 1 covers an introduction to the energy-gender databank for ECOWAS, the ECOWAS policy for gender mainstreaming in energy access and concludes with a description of the energy and development section classified as “Category 1”; which embodies some indicators used for tracking ECOWAS commitment towards universal energy access in the region. Part 2 shall cover description on Categories 2, 3 and 4 which are energy and gender awareness, agency and voice and access to resources and opportunities respectively and their corresponding indicators. The article shall conclude in Part 3 and shall provide more analysis on Category 4 and the introduction of Categories 5 and 6 which are the policy landscape and social norms and laws respectively as oppose progress to universal energy access in the region.


The ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access is one of the policies of the ECOWAS region with a committed mandate to fair and inclusive energy access made effective by 2030. It comprises of five achievable and strategic objectives whose achievement tantamount to the success of the goals of the Member States for inclusive growth and sustainable development. These strategic objectives are as follows:

  • Achieve widespread understanding of energy and gender considerations at all levels of society.
  • Ensure that all energy policies, programmes and initiatives, including large energy infrastructures and investments, are non-discriminatory, gender-balanced and directed towards addressing inequalities, particularly energy poverty, differentially affecting men and women in the region.
  • Increase women’s public sector participation in the energy-related technical fields and decision-making positions.
  • Ensure that women and men have equal opportunities to enter and succeed in energy related fields in the private sector.
  • Establish and maintain a gender responsive monitoring, accountability and review framework for objectives 1-4.

The policy is dedicated to universal access to modern and sustainable energy services for all citizens, women and men, regardless of their socioeconomic status, in order to improve the living standards and productivity of all ECOWAS citizens.  The Policy addresses gender related barriers and challenges that simultaneously pose limitations to the choices, capabilities and economic potentials of women (ECOWAS, 2015); (ECOWAS, 2015b).

The importance of documenting the progress that will continuously show the extent of the implementation of the policy cannot be overemphasized and underlines the importance of establishing a databank that provides baseline data for monitoring progress by 2020 and 2030.

The project is directly tied to objective 5 of the ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access, which is to “establish and maintain a comprehensive monitoring and accountability framework”.  And will, therefore, produce energy-gender databanks for the 15 ECOWAS member countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra-Leone and Togo).

Category 1: Energy and Development

Modern energy services  is needful in the region for meeting the basic needs of cooking, heating and lighting as well as the provision of basic energy services for schools, health centers and other community infrastructure and for income generation (IEA, 2013). It is said to closely correlate with socio-economic growth by stimulating the creation of jobs, reduction of useful man hours that are seldom spent on cooking and for meeting other basic and essential energy needs, as well as the improvement of health and education (REN 21, (n.d)). The sustainability of energy has been recognized as an essential requirement for production, subsistence and entertainment activities that are suitable for the enablement of socio-economic development.

Under certain circumstances, the lack of adequate basic energy services is a limiting factor that is susceptible to potentially impede human development particularly in women who are the most vulnerable. This is obvious and evident in the differences how women and men acquire and use energy, also how the duo groups benefit from official energy policies and programmes plus the respective developmental implications (ECOWAS, 2015).

Currently in the ECOWAS region, the availability, accessibility and affordability of modern energy services remains a major concern and there appears to be no possibility of the improvement of energy access from the low access rate in the next 10-15 years if the business as usual approach is followed in the development of infrastructure and the implementation of policies in the energy sector (ECOWAS, 2015). Under this category the following indicators will be recorded and measured:

  • Energy Access: electricity (urban and rural)
  • Energy Access: Household electrification (% of female and male headed households electrified)
  • Energy access: social tariff (% of female and male headed households accessing social tariff)
  • Energy Access: Modern fuels (urban and rural)
  • Energy Access: Cooking fuels (urban and rural).

It is worthy of note that West Africa has a generally low penetration rate of modern fuels required for cooking. Such needful modern fuels are either electricity, liquid and gaseous fuels such as LPG and kerosene. The regional penetration rate ranges from 1% to 63% for modern fuels. The share of the population accessing modern fuels ranges from 0% to 63% with the lowest in Mali and Liberia and highest in Cabo Verde.  Meanwhile, the regional share of the population cooking with solid fuels that uses improved stove ranges between 0.2% to 51.1% in Ghana and Guinea-Bissau respectively (Legros 2009 in ECOWAS 2015). At the national level for example, the penetration rate of the population with access to modern fuels in Nigeria who have a population of almost 180 million is currently 24%, the penetration rate of the national share of population cooking with solid fuels that use improved cook stoves in Nigeria from 2007 estimate is 6.2%, while the penetration rate in the rural and urban area is 6.2% and 6.3% respectively (ECOWAS, 2015).

For more information see the situation analysis of the energy and gender issues in ECOWAS member states 

Written By Marvelous Bam (Ms)

Marvelous Bam is an Intern at the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), working on the ECOWAS Programme on Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access (ECOW-GEN).


ECOWAS, 2013. Sustainable perspective of the ECOWAS region. entation_0.pdf. [2016, October 24].

ECOWAS 2015. Situation Analysis of Energy and Gender Issues in ECOWAS Member State. Available:http:/ [2016, October 10].

Mininni, G. M (n.d).Gender and energy issues in the global south: implications for the post-Millennium Development Goals agenda after 2015 Available: minary/issue5/issue5article4.htm [2016, October 10].

ECOWAS 2015b.  ECOWAS policy for Gender mainstreaming in Energy Access. Available:http:/www/ content/uploads/2015/11/ECOWAS-Policy-for-Gender-Mainstreaming-in-Energy-Access2.pdf [2016, October 10].

REN21 (n.d). The Potential Role of Renewable Energy in Meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Available:[2016, October 24].

[IEA 2013 World Energy Outlook. Available:http:/ /publications/freepublications  [2016, October 10].

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