U.S. African Development Foundation and GE Africa Announce New Partnership for Women & Energy Challenge

Photo: Morgana Wingard
Catherine Wambu uses her M-KOPA solar powered light to cook at night.
21 September 2016

NEW YORK  - Today, the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) and GE Africa launched a partnership for a new 2017 Off Grid Energy Challenge for women in energy at the U.S. Africa Business Forum.

  • The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) and GE Africa are pleased to announce a partnership for a new 2017 Off-Grid Energy Challenge targeted toward African women-owned and managed energy enterprises and innovations.  Since 2013, GE has partnered with USADF to fund a total of $5.0 million in awards and 50 African energy entrepreneurs who have leveraged their awards to power communities living beyond the grid.
  • In addition to the announcement of the Women & Energy Challenge, today USADF also congratulates the newest cohort of African energy entrepreneurs of the Off-Grid Energy Challenge. These 21 winners are across the continent, from Tanzania to Zambia. They are innovating renewable technologies to bring electricity, from solar micro-grids to biogas, to rural communities living far from the national grid.
  • The Off-Grid Energy Challenge is part of Power Africa's Beyond the Grid initiative, which aims to drive private investment in off-grid and small scale renewable energy solutions

The Women & Energy Challenge highlights the need to support technologies advanced by African women innovators and leaders who have lower access to finance than men in many African countries, where energy poverty disproportionately affects women. USADF President & CEO C.D. Glin said, "African women remain the cornerstone of the African family and community. They are leading their communities yet suffer the brunt of energy poverty. Ingenuity and innovation will be unleashed with these seed capital awards - and we can't wait to see the applications roll in."

Globally, less than 25% of the renewable energy workforce is women, a rate which is even lower in Africa. USADF and GE Africa are targeting the next generation of women entrepreneurs to provide financing and technical assistance for off grid lighting solutions. Joyce Gema, a winner in the 2014 Off-Grid Energy Challenge, said, "Women entrepreneurs have been disadvantaged for a long time as they do not have access to credit through the formal banking system, and also lack skills to grow their businesses." While women have lower access to credit in many African countries, they also bear the brunt of energy poverty. With high rates of health-related problems from smoke and indoor pollution, women have the most to gain from renewable and affordable off-grid energy solutions.

Jay Ireland, President and CEO of GE Africa, said: "I continue to be excited about the incredible innovation and entrepreneurship that is happening across the continent. GE has a rich history in Africa and we are committed to continue investing on the continent. We are very pleased to be a part of this Challenge to help identify and accelerate projects that will help African entrepreneurs to compete in the global economy." Women-led enterprises also have shown that investing in women or gender-diverse enterprises makes business sense. According to the 2016 McKinsey Women Matter Africa report, companies with higher female executive committee representation are 14% more likely to outperform their competitors. USADF supports African-led solutions and understands the importance investing in women, focusing on launching the next generation of women entrepreneurs to light the way for women in African energy.

The U.S. African Development Foundation is the only federal agency dedicated entirely to Africa, and solely funding 100% African-owned businesses and African entrepreneurs. Since 2013, the Off Grid Energy Challenge, in partnership with GE Africa, has aimed to promote innovative solutions that increase access to reliable, affordable and sustainable power – particularly for Africans who will have little to no access to grid power. These energy entrepreneurs are finding solutions to power the needs of rural communities including solar-powered mini-grids, home solar systems, and solar cold storage.


The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), a public corporation in the U.S. federal government, funds African-owned enterprises, cooperatives and community-based organizations to build capacity and expand economic opportunities. Approximately 20 countries with over 350 project grants, USADF is investing in nearly two million Africans. USADF is the sole government agency directly supporting African-led solutions for vulnerable communities to create pathways to prosperity. For more information, go to www.usadf.gov.


GE (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter. The best people and the best technologies taking on the toughest challenges. Finding solutions in energy, health and home, transportation and finance. Building, powering, moving, and curing the world. Not just imagining. Doing. GE works. For more information, visit the company's website at www.ge.com.

GE Africa, a subsidiary of General Electric, Inc., delivers innovative technology solutions for regional challenges to help its customers support growth throughout the continent. In particular, GE Energy is providing a host of advanced solutions in water, oil & gas, and energy delivery technologies, with a focus on innovative localized energy solutions.

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