Girls more aware of power sector disruption than Women of Energy

Monday March 25 2024

What will the Ugandan energy officials respond to requests that $10,000 houses be imported tax-free to save the women, with whom we all claim to sympathise, from the harm of cooking with smoky wood, charcoal, wood or paraffin? ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH NYAGAH | NMG


The big women of Uganda’s energy sector were last week taken by surprise at the questions fired at them by teenage girls of St Mary’s school Namagunga located between Kampala and Jinja cities.

Energy sector leaders are conducting a series of sensitisation meetings called Women in Energy and are probably used to talking to older women who are eager to know more about lucrative opportunities in the emerging petroleum sector.

But the girls of Namagunga were not playing by the familiar script and, once the experts and dignitaries, who included a Cabinet minister, finished their presentations, they raised issue with what they considered anomalies in the country’s energy strategies.

Why, the teenagers wanted to know, is the government so intent on promoting petroleum at a time of so much concern over environmental destruction, pollution and the resultant climate change, which are directly related to oil exploitation and consumption?

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The big energy women were taken by surprise but were gracious enough not to put down the teenage sisters, and explained that safety measures are (being put) in place to ensure that the petroleum activities do not have adverse effects of the environment.


This was commendable, in a country where duty bearers tend to react harshly when called on to account and can even label those raising the queries about their offices anything from working for subversive anti-government forces to the bizarre and petty like being jealous of the office-bearers.

This is not to say the young girls were “put-downable”; for being more concerned about the future than immediate gratification, they demanded to know about measures to make available clean energy, since it is the women and girls who bear the brunt of cooking with pollutant smoky materials.

The big people talked about the expanding national electricity grid, but the girls queried the cost of the electricity.

The big people there and then announced a reduction in electricity tariffs that the public hardly knew about. But even the said new rate was not amusing to the girls, who asked what proportion of the population can afford it. And so on and so forth.

The big energy people are continuing with their mission criss-crossing the country, holding seminars to encourage women to invest in and join the energy (read petroleum) sector.

Hopefully, having interacted with the Namagunga teenagers, they will now think outside the petroleum box, lest they step onto other intellectual mines where they go.

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For their responses need to reflect more awareness as required of modern times where all sectors, including energy, are up for disruption.
Only recently, Money Man Musk (Elon) announced that his $10,000 houses are ready for the market. Now, who could have predicted a few years ago that the real estate sector was going to face such disruption?

Even in poor countries, a good house for ten thousand dollars is unbelievable, whatever its location. Now the Tesla people are not only making available the house, which is fireproof, at that price, they are also ensuring it is more user and pocket-friendly than what most people are used to, as it generates enough electricity from the sun to run all systems, including charging your electric car (which car is also able to tow the transferable house to another location), storing unused power and having almost all its operations controllable from the owner’s phone.

What will the Ugandan energy officials respond to requests that $10,000 houses be imported tax-free to save the women, with whom we all claim to sympathise, from the harm of cooking with smoky wood, charcoal, wood or paraffin?

Already, researchers have this year found that 20 percent of deaths in the country to have a link to air quality.

What will our energy officials respond to requests to ban importation of fuel vehicles, like Ethiopia just did?

The Namagunga episode should remind energy officials to be more prepared before they go out to address the masses.