The Executive Chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency – Sierra Leone (EPA-SL), Madam Haddijatou Jallow has led a Delegation to the high level segment of the 16th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in the Gabonese capital, Libreville on the 12th – 16th June 2017. The session consisted of an expert group segment that was held from the 12 to 14 June and a high level segment that was held on the 15 and 16 June 2017.
Pursuant to the EPA amendment Act of 2010, all issues concerning the environment are part of the President’s portfolio and has oversight responsibility over the Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone. This is akin to the EPA in the USA, Liberia and Tanzania.
Madam Haddijatou Jallow, in her capacity as Chairperson of the African Women Ministers and Leaders of the Environment (AWMLE) chaired a workshop on “Women Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Energy in Africa” under the auspices of the sixteenth session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment and was attended by representatives from governments, non-governmental organisations, civil society, financing organisations, women entrepreneurs, multilateral agencies, private sector and Regional Economic Communities. The theme of the workshop was “Unlocking Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs in Sustainable Energy” and was geared towards identifying gaps as well as Africa’s enormous potentials in the energy sector and to work towards innovative solutions to empower African women through entrepreneurships.
In her opening statement, the Executive Chairperson stated that “in Africa, and particularly rural Africa, women are the primary energy managers in order to meet their household and community energy needs, but rarely have access to modern energy resources, leading to energy poverty”. She further noted that the heavy dependence on firewood for household lighting, heating and cooking has contributed significantly to climate change and the high prevalence of respiratory diseases as a result of indoor pollution from cooking with firewood.
Madam Haddijatou Jallow further noted that women “possess the requisite knowledge and skills that are critical to finding local solutions to environment and energy challenges”, and that women should not be seen as passive producers and users of energy but can be powerful agents of change in promoting sustainable energy technologies and their productive uses for socio-economic development.
She emphasized that if women are given the requisite tools and support, they can be a driving force to attain a new model of inclusive green growth which is both equitable and sustainable, and that including women into the design of policies and programmes across the energy value chain provides a better solution to energy solutions.
The EPA-SL Executive Chair concluded by calling for the empowerment of women in the sustainable and renewable energy sector and that current opportunities must be made gender-specific to break the barriers and challenges facing them in rural Africa.
She also called on African Ministers and Leaders of the environment to provide appropriate policy and strategic guidance in order to strengthen the role that women can play across the energy value chain in the decision-making processes in order to accelerate sustainable energy for all in Africa in particular at the local and national levels.
Madam Haddijatou Jallow succeeded in having a provision for the “development and strengthening of policies to empower women to engage in sustainable, affordable and clean energy development and to enhance their entrepreneurship skills” incorporated into the final Libreville Declaration on Investing in Innovative Environmental Solutions. Madam Jallow also succeeded in recognizing the need for an AMCEN policy and strategy for mainstreaming gender in environment in Africa, which has already been developed and awaiting adoption.
Presentations were made by various representatives in the workshop on Women Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Energy in Africa and in the end, a number of recommendations were made for action by the African Governments. These recommendations include:
Environmentally sustainable and gender responsive energy policies;
- Access to finance and markets for women energy entrepreneurs across the value chain;
- Capacity Building, skills creation and empowerment for women entrepreneurs.
The existence of AMCEN has had a positive impact in the way environmental issues are conducted in Africa. It also contributed significantly to strengthening Africa’s participation and active involvement both in global negotiations and in international agreements on the environment. Since its establishment, regular sessions have been convened every two years and special sessions have been held in between regular sessions to consider specific issues.
The theme for the Sixteenth AMCEN Session was “Investing in Innovative Environmental Solutions to accelerate implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 in Africa”. The objective was to provide a platform for African Ministers and Leaders of the environment to deliberate on the strategies, plans and investments required for the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals as well as Africa’s Agenda 2063. The conference also provided an opportunity for Africa to prepare for the 13th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, to be held in China in September 2017; the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Germany in November 2017 and also key issues to be discussed at the 3rd session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), to be held in Kenya in December 2017.
Among the other issues considered by the Conference were the status and use of the general trust fund of AMCEN, which was reported to be grossly underfunded and for which member states were urged to honour their annual contributions regularly for the sustainability of the conference; climate change; illegal trade in wildlife; managing pollution in Africa; ocean governance; migration and environmental security; environment and youth engagement and renewable energy.
The opening of the high level segment of AMCEN was chaired by the out going President of AMCEN, Mr. Khaled Fahmy, who is also the Egyptian Minister for the Environment and formally opened by the Prime Minister of Gabon, Mr. Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet. The AMCEN Presidency was passed on to Gabon for the next two years. The next conference would be held in South Africa in a future date.