WOMEN running businesses in the energy sector convened at Avani Maseru on Friday to discuss the many challenges they face in the industry.
The women, whose businesses also revolve around the production and distribution of solar-biomass hybrid energy systems to developing countries, discussed complexities hounding their members in the sector.
African Clean Energy (ACE) Country Director, Rethabile Mafura, and Technologies for Economic Development (TED) founder, Mantopi Lebofa, were part of the women participating in the roundtable discussions. The two executives highlighted the importance of networking and engaging relevant people to overcome the challenges they face and grow the sector.
According to Ms Lebofa, people from the rural areas should be part of decision-making in energy-related issues as they would affect them in the long run.
"There is a need to educate people who live in the outskirts of Maseru and rural areas, that they should be involved in discussions like these because they are the ones who are greatly affected by energy-related issues," Ms Lebofa said.
Speaking at the same event, 'Marorisang Makututsa from Women in Sustainable Energy Lesotho (WISE), said her organisation's fight was for the empowerment of women so they could participate more in the energy sector.
"It is our mandate to enhance equity, empowerment and quality and intensify the energy opportunities they can venture in and will educate them to perform better in needed spaces," Ms Makututsa said.
"Most women are in unsustainable and seasonal energy enterprises.
Women-led energy enterprises remain in the informal sector, and some do not even have trading licenses, while others are registered in the name of their husbands," Ms Makututsa said.
Most women-owned energy enterprises, Ms Makututsa further noted, depended on informal finance-lending structures, adding there was also need to build the capacity of female entrepreneurs to participate in more effective clean energy initiatives.
"There is need to increase employment and enterprise opportunities for women in the renewable energy sector and increase opportunities for their access to credit," Ms Makututsa said.
"The strategies to bridge the gap on inequalities that may exist in the sector ought to be policy reforms promoting gender-equality. The proposed gender unit within the Department of Energy (DoE) should serve as a collective, unfiltered voice of gender issues in the energy sector nationally and internationally."
Speaking at the same event, the Minister of Natural Resources, Mohlomi Moleko, said government's vision was to invest more in the energy, water and mining sectors.
"We need to sort our energy needs and be self-sufficient in Lesotho. That will spur the country's economy and there is need to ensure that businesses, households and industries have adequate energy," Mr Moleko said.
The minister added government was doing its best to ensure Lesotho was counted among the world's "self-sufficient and net transporters of energy".
"Lesotho's energy consumption is 200 megawatts while the country can only generate 72 megawatts produced by 'Muela
Hydropower plant in Butha-Buthe. That leaves a deficit of 128 megawatts which we import (from South Africa and Mozambique).
To close that 128 megawatts gap, we must look at the generation side of the energy spectrum," Mr Moleko said.
The minister also said the government was constructing a 100-megawatt solar energy plant at Ha Ramarothole in Mafeteng.
He also said there are two other ongoing energy projects being undertaken under a Chinese consortium and 1 PWR (OnePower Lesotho).
"Looking at the projects, there is opportunity for some contractors to work. It just depends on how you can take advantage of them. However, people who often come to negotiate contracts are men, but women should also be involved because they have the capacity to do so."