Energizing Voices — Rekik Bekele, Founder and CEO of Green
Scene Energy PLC
With the Power Africa Off-grid Project, Rekik Bekele is bringing solar energy to Ethiopian off-grid communities; and she wants more women to come with her.
Finding Her Passion
Born and raised in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, founder and CEO of Green Scene Energy PLC, Rekik Bekele, grew up with the privileges of a big city’s infrastructure. Though she regularly experienced power outages, it never occurred to her that other families navigated the darkness of the night without the lighting she enjoyed as a child. It was not until 2008, when she graduated from Addis Ababa University with a degree in electrical engineering, that she encountered a world so different from the one she knew.
“Immediately after graduating I had the chance to work as an engineer for solar installations in some deep rural areas,” Bekele said. “One of my first assignments was to install a solar system for a hospital in Qoddaa, an area in Ethiopia’s Shishinda District. There was no electricity whatsoever. It was revelatory to witness situations in which nurses were delivering babies in the dark with a mobile phone sandwiched between their teeth, hoping that the battery life didn’t run out.”
After helping to finish the installment of the solar-powered lighting system, Bekele recalls the community’s celebration that carried on into the night. She remembers the blissfulness that permeated the atmosphere and an old man that compared the moment to shaking the hands of God.
As a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated sector, Bekele has faced challenges in getting the support to start and run her own solar company.
“Very few colleagues who I travel with don’t accept the fact that they are to follow my instructions as the leader,” Bekele said.
“Sometimes in the field some people may see me working and are very impressed with my work and appreciate me by saying ‘Look at her! She is amazing! She works like a man!’ as if success is not for a woman.”
The Power Africa Off-grid Project promotes activities, programs, and policies to reduce gender inequalities and support women like Bekele who are engaged in the off-grid energy sector at all levels of the value chain. A specific goal of the program is to challenge negative stereotypes about women working in the off-grid sector that often act as a barrier to their participation in the rapidly expanding energy market.
Power Africa provides technical assistance to companies like Bekele’s Green Scene Energy PLC that are working to extend access to off-grid energy. Specifically, the program supports Bekele to define and articulate her business model and provides assistance in grant writing. Bekele is excited that her success can inspire women and girls to enter the off-grid energy industry. She speaks frequently to young women with the hope she can motivate them to pursue and achieve anything they desire.
“Listen to the majority of people who encourage you rather than the few people who push you backwards,” she said.
“Go for anything which you think makes you feel happy. Even though it will be challenging, it will be rewarding.”
Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid (BTG) initiative supports Green Scene Energy PLC and other off-grid companies in sub-Saharan Africa by providing market intelligence, access to finance, and targeted interventions to improve sales and business performance. In Ethiopia, BTG’s work is carried out by the USAID-funded Power Africa Off-Grid Project; the four-year program was started in November 2018 and supports the United States government Power Africa initiative which seeks to achieve 30,000 megawatts of new generated power and 60 million new connections on the African continent by 2030.
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