Advocacy endeavors paying off: Working behind the scenes with the President’s Office

By Thabit Mikidadi and Tjarda Muller

At the 28th UN FCCC Conference of Parties in Dubai in December, 2023, the President of Tanzania launched the Africa Women Clean Cooking Program (AWCCSP). This initiative aims to empower women and girls across Africa, by providing access to clean cooking technologies. President Samia Suluhu Hassan emphasized the program’s critical role in mitigating climate change and fostering inclusive sustainable development, stating that “clean cooking energy is the heart of climate change mitigation for inclusive and sustainable development in Africa.”

ENERGIA and partner TANGSEN played a prominent role in the launch of the program. Year-long meticulous advocacy endeavors and engagement with the Ministry of Energy and other stakeholders made this possible.

With 80% of Sub-Sahara African households relying on unsustainable wooden biomass for cooking, fostering clean cooking fuels and technologies is crucial. The recently launched Africa Women Clean Cooking Program (AWCCSP) will predominantly benefiting women and girls, but also will have profound positive impacts on both the environment and health.

Traditionally, women are responsible for fuel collection and cooking, whether for household purposes or in their enterprises. This means that women typically spend the majority of their productive time on unpaid activities related to cooking and in addition are exposed to harmful fumes resulting from burning biomass. By providing access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, the recently launched program can have a major positive effect on women’s wellbeing as it offers an option to a healthier, more equal and more sustainable future. It empowers women by freeing up their time for economic activities, combats environmental degradation and diminishes the adverse health effects of biomass use in cooking.

Building trust takes time

The Tanzania Gender and Sustainable Energy Network (TANGSEN) and ENERGIA played an crucial role in the launch of the program. Their extensive expertise, network and knowledge in gender mainstreaming within the energy sector positioned them as the central point for both national and international support on gender mainstreaming in energy issues. This prominent role stemmed from their years of engagement with various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Energy (MoE), other ministries at the national level, local governments, and various organizations.

Over the years, TANGSEN has supported the Ministry of Energy and other energy actors in the country with capacity building, knowledge sharing, and strategy development; all of which aiming at making energy policies and practice more inclusive and equal. It has been successful in developing a Gender Action Plan with and for the Ministry of Energy and has worked with partners, including the World Bank, the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO), the Zanzibar Utilities Regulatory Authority (ZURA), and the Zanzibar Electricity Corporation (ZECO), to develop Gender Action Plans for their operations and workplaces. Moreover, TANGSEN has played a role in increasing awareness of the importance of gender integration among energy companies in the country, specifically those predominantly in the renewable energy subsector. Additionally, along with partners, TANGSEN has been pivotal in developing and sharing a variety of publications, including research, position papers, and policy briefs, to enhance knowledge on the subject of gender integration in energy.

Working behind the scenes pays off

It was this long trajectory of achievements and collaborations that prompted the Ministry of Energy to approach TANGSEN requesting support to develop the concept note for launching the Africa Women Clean Cooking Scale-Up Program (AWCCSP).

Following the concept note’s completion, MoE staff approached TANGSEN again, this time exploring the possibility of engaging ENERGIA to support the organization of the event, ensuring its success by identifying key participants for the AWCCSP launch event in Dubai. ENERGIA and MoE closely worked together in identifying crucial institutions and individuals for participation, who were officially invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responsible for event logistics and protocol arrangements, ensuring the event’s success.

Among the high-level participants were the President of South Africa, the President of the African Development Bank, CEO of CRDB Bank of Tanzania and international institutions such as Sustainable Energy for All.

The President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa commended Dr Suluhu Hassan for taking a leading role in calling for clean cooking energy which is an urgent development issue. African Development Bank Group’s (AfDB) President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, highlighted the urgency of transitioning to clean energy in Africa, saving lives of women and girls from the plight of using unclean fuels for cooking.

The event was a success as Dr. Hassan reiterated the commitment of the continent to spearhead reduction in emissions. “We decided to launch this program to show our own commitment to mitigations,” she said. “We want to show that even though our emission levels are relatively low, we will also act and deliver”. She called upon fellow Heads of State and other stakeholders, including the United Nations, to collaborate with Tanzania in fast tracking realization of positive results from the program.

IEA Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa

In the wake of the event, ENERGIA facilitated a meeting between Dr. Hassan and International Energy Agency Executive Director, Dr. Fatih Birol. This meeting led to an official invitation of to Dr. Hassan to co-chair the IEA Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa. The summit builds on the Africa Women Clean Cooking Support Program and will be held on May 14, 2024. It will bring together high-level government officials, international organizations, civil society and the private sector and aims at elevating clean cooking on the global agenda, mobilizing financial commitments and developing a roadmap of concrete, action-oriented strategies.

Proud and privileged to have played such important role in the launch of the program, TANGSEN and ENERGIA would be honored to continue their contribution to the initiative in the future