The world is currently grappling with climate change and how to implement policies that promote more sustainable forms of energy. But bestselling author and energy expert NJ Ayuk argues one topic that isn’t discussed enough is how the next stage of energy development can benefit women.
As author of several books on energy, including his latest, A Just Transition: Making Energy Poverty History with an Energy Mix, NJ Ayuk understands the difficulties the energy sector faces when it comes to renewable sources of power. And, as chairman of the African Energy Chamber, he offers unique insight into the role Africa can play in expanding access to electricity and providing women with a better quality of life.
“In Africa, there is that silent majority that nobody talks about. Right now, there are 600 million people without access to electricity. There are 900 million without access to clean cooking technologies. Most of them are women,” he said. “Nobody’s talking about their issues, and nobody is talking about their causes.”
Africa Caught in the Middle on Energy Issues
Right now, most of the world’s energy markets are facing a shakeup. Europe is transitioning away from purchasing Russian fossil fuels because of the war in Ukraine. On the other side of the globe, China is buying more fossil fuels from Russia than it ever has before. And caught in the middle is the continent of Africa, which is home to vast reserves of oil and natural gas — and massive numbers of people living in energy poverty.
While some countries and businesses weigh the benefits of investing money in Africa to extract its fossil fuels, others are voicing environmental concerns. They argue that instead of pouring more money into polluting forms of energy, more effort should go into sustainable power, such as solar, electric, and wind.
NJ Ayuk thinks there is a middle way. As he points out, hundreds of millions of Africans live without any access to electricity. The continent produces only 3% of the world’s carbon emissions, despite being home to nearly 17% of the planet’s population.
He believes Africa should sell its fossil fuels, use the funds to expand access to electricity and build jobs, all while preparing the continent for a transition to more eco-friendly sources in the near future.
By leveraging Africa’s natural resources alongside smart policies, the continent will be able to lift the standard of living for millions of people — and solve some of its most pressing social problems, he said.
“Let’s be honest — the energy industry has done a horrible job when it comes to anything to do with women,” NJ Ayuk said. “It’s not even something we need to be proud of. We need to be ashamed. Women are still the last to be hired and the first fired in our industry. Women’s issues have just been very overlooked, and we really hope that when we are talking about a transition, this does not repeat itself, no matter if it’s with the grain economy or it’s the fossil fuel industry or green energy. We need to change that no matter where we go. We need to ensure that women have equal opportunities to benefit from foreign investments in the energy sector and have equal opportunities to benefit from the jobs by bringing industry to the continent.”
He speaks from experience. As the son of a single mother who worked to provide for her children, NJ Ayuk has long noticed the gender gaps both in education and the professional world. And he’s worked hard to change them.
“I was always told that, as a lawyer, you can be one of two things. You can be a social parasite or a social engineer,” he said. “That’s a choice. And I felt if you’re going to really be a social engineer, you’re going to have to really understand energy, understand energy law. And be on the table and be in the room to really change things and improve things.”
Helping African Women Who Want To Become Lawyers
For his part, NJ Ayuk has already started helping the next generation of women through the firm he founded, Centurion Law Group. The practice helps place bright young African students into American law schools to give them access to a world-class education.
“When you look at a lot of young Africans, especially the women, nobody gives them a shot. Nobody. Everybody looks down on them,” he said. But NJ Ayuk says that with the help of American law firms that work with Centurion, the firm has trained young Africans to become “amazing lawyers.”
“We have so many people who have come through our programs that today they are serving as prosecutors or serving as judges. Heck, some of them even serve as opposing counsel to us right now. But that’s a beautiful thing. So we’ve had this slew and a great group of African female lawyers that have gone through Centurion and they are general counsels in corporations and taking on the world.”
Leave a Reply