Former Chairman of the Petroleum Institute of East Africa PIEA and former Managing Director of Galana Oil Kenya, Powell Maimba spoke at the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference about the need for economic freedom. Mr. Maimba recently re-joined Vivo Energy to oversee the integration of Engen into Vivo Energy in 8 countries.
In his vast years of experience in many countries, Mr. Maimba has noted that if you give a woman a filling station to run as her business, it is always successful. However, the same business in the hands of a man will have challenges, even though men are typically charged with operations.
If we develop more women in any part of the energy sector whether it is power, any part of a petrol station or distribution of LPG, we will find that the industry will succeed not only in Kenya but in Africa too. When an individual succeeds, then the society of that particular individual also succeeds.
Mr. Maimba asserted that Africans do not need any more political freedoms. We have freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, among many other freedoms. There is too much discussion of political freedom. Africa needs economic freedom. Women empowerment begins with economic freedom and forums like Women in Energy Awards and Conference.
When we consider women’s high utilization of energy to cook and take care of their families, we recognize that we have to empower as many women as possible because all parts of the energy sector have an effect on women. If we convert this knowledge into business understanding and innovation, we all win. To that end, we need to give women more opportunities and forums such as Women in Energy Awards and Conference.
Economic freedom is important. We cannot talk about women’s success, if they are not economically successful. Part of the conversation must be about how can we successfully introduce, encourage and support women to develop successful business ideas. Economically successful women are self-dependent—they do not rely on others.
We can successfully talk about women empowerment if after this conference, women will definitively say that they are more successful business professionals by having accessed financing and business ideas through knowledge and understanding acquired at the forum and employed more people.
In closing, Mr. Maimba urged participants to move past political freedom and focus on economic empowerment which will have an impact on women at the grassroots level especially ‘Mama Mboga’ the women running small roadside businesses selling produce, charcoal and gas.
In December 2017 the World Bank stated that beginning in 2019 it will no longer finance for oil and gas projects, but that does not necessarily indicate there will be no oil and gas exploration projects in Kenya. There is no need to be apprehensive about global movement on funding on bigger projects, because there are still many impactful projects at the household level.
The world today is changing. The use of electric cars is on the rise and society is demanding a cleaner environment. However, the rate at which the electric vehicles and other sources of energy are replacing fossil fuels is not sufficient to do away with oil and gas. It will probably reduce demand by an estimated 1 billion barrels per day, which is a conservative estimate as compared to the utilization rate of energy.
Kenya has discovered 750,000 to 1 million barrels of oil per day, which is not yet ready for use—it is still in its initial exploration phase and there is a lot work to be done. We need to build pipelines and tankage as well as modify ports, all of which will take time. The World Bank withdrawal of funding from oil and gas exploration projects will not impact these on-going activities because Tullow Oil and other investors have already made their commitments. Uganda discovered oil many years back, yet they are still struggling to get anything out of the ground.
What matters to the conversation today? What does the next frontier in the oil and gas, and the energy sector as whole, to the household level look like? It matters that we track it on a day-to-day basis. There are smaller projects that will impact life at the household level that we need to focus on.
If you go to Kibera or Makueni County, you will find that unfortunately, the poorer the community, the more expensive it is to secure energy at a household level. In Kibera, for example, a family, usually the woman will wake up very early in the morning to buy 50/= worth of charcoal to ensure her children are fed before school. At lunch time, she will spend another 50/= to 150/= for another small pack of charcoal to prepare lunch and repeat the same transaction to prepare dinner. It is a daily cash transaction on energy that on average costs 200/=.
Every 30 days, she will spend about 6,000/= on energy which is a significant amount for a poor person. In comparison, a 13 kg cylinder of LPG gas is 2,400/= which will last the whole month. Hence, the energy utilization at the household level is more expensive. If the energy costs for rural areas and informal settlements were reduced by 50%, the savings can be directed toward economic empowerment for the household.
Mr. Maimba submits women can find ways to distribute LPG. He proposed the shared cylinder principle is a viable option. A shared cylinder will allow a group of women to share one cylinder by wiring it across their homes. Taking the cost of LPG tank and dividing by 5 homes, will dramatically reduce the cost and time needed to secure household energy needs, availing more resources and time to other family needs.
We need to find a way through the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, women’s groups and other stakeholders to start installing LPG tanks in rural areas and informal settlements.
Comparing the Constitution of 2010 with the current regulations, one will observe that the regulations are not in compliance with the Constitution. There are at least three key issues. The first is the inclusion of women empowerment. The second is the rights of people from different levels. For example, the Act should stipulate how the communities in Turkana will benefit from the oil in the Turkana region. The last issue explores the equation of local content—at least 30%-40% of the resources should go to local organizations, not specifically to women. There have been proposals to align the Energy Act, Petroleum Act, and all other associated regulations with the Constitution of 2010.
The Acts in Parliament seek to empower the communities and citizens who are interested in participating in the energy sector through power generation, oil and gas, or renewables. The Acts also touch on the formation of bodies through regulation that will address grievances between parties, inclusive of appealing bodies and address revenue-sharing.
The new Energy and Petroleum Acts address the role women. Mr. Maimba encourages county leadership and First Ladies to see to it these regulations are utilized to empower women. The County Executive Commission should be able to train women on how to take advantage of the opportunities laid out in the regulations without contravening the law. These laws can be used to create small-scale women businesses in any part of the energy sector, from filling stations to nuclear energy.