Paving a Path for a More Inclusive and Diverse Power Sector

A Power Africa study examines the key factors affecting social exclusion and lack of diversity in Nigeria’s power sector and provides recommendations on how to build diversity and inclusion across power sector policies, workforce, and value chain.

A technician at Kaduna Distribution Company tests a meter to ensure all distributed meters are in good working condition.
Integrating social inclusion and diversity across the power sector is crucial to creating an equitable sector that responds to the needs of end users.

The dynamics of diversity and social inclusion in Nigeria’s power sector are largely unexplored. To fill this knowledge gap, Power Africa developed and conducted the Social Inclusion and Diversity in Nigeria’s Power Sector study, which examines the dynamics of social inclusion and diversity in relation to two groups: 1) end users (customers) and 2) those employed in (or excluded from) the power sector workforce.

Research found that several key factors influenced social exclusion across the power sector, including ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, education, age, and location (i.e. living in an urban or rural environment). Customers with disabilities are at a disadvantage because energy products and services typically are not developed with their needs in mind. As one study respondent shared, “Almost all the devices that people with disabilities use need electricity. For example, my reading machine uses power, and people with hearing problems cannot communicate without their mobile phone to send text messages. Power is critical for people with disabilities, including business owners.”

Meanwhile, stigmas and a lack of opportunity disenfranchise and exclude women and marginalized groups from power sector employment opportunities.

The Social Inclusion study focused on examining challenges and presenting recommendations to power sector stakeholders regarding legal, policy, and regulatory frameworks in Nigeria; workforce profile and practices; and value chain entry points.

Recommendations: Legal, Policy, and Regulatory Frameworks

While Nigeria is a signatory to numerous important and binding international instruments that highlight the country’s commitment to social inclusion and diversity, there is a need to incorporate more international provisions into domestic law.

To strengthen legal, policy, and regulatory frameworks, power sector stakeholders should implement service delivery and financing from a gender and social inclusion perspective, embed commitments to gender and social inclusion in program design and assessment, and strengthen interagency and cross-sectoral collaboration and institutional capacity on gender and social inclusion.

In 2021, Power Africa worked with the Nigeria Rural Electrification Agency to develop the Gender Mainstreaming in Nigeria’s Rural Cooperatives report. The report explores opportunities to increase gender mainstreaming in rural electric cooperatives with information on bylaws to create gender quotas for women in leadership roles and policies to protect women against sexual harassment and discrimination. Power sector stakeholders can use tools like this report to integrate gender and social inclusion considerations into legal, policy, and regulatory frameworks.

Recommendations: Workforce Profile and Practices

In Nigeria, women and persons with disabilities are minority groups within the sector workforce. Based on key informant interviews, it was determined this grouping is due to cultural perceptions of their capacities and the participation gap in science, technology, engineering, and math-related fields.

A man in a wheelchair working on a laptop.
By creating an accessible workplace, companies can build diverse, dynamic, and inclusive teams.

To create a more diverse and inclusive workforce, employers must invest in workplace infrastructure to be more accessible, develop inclusive policies, use an active labor market to increase employment of marginalized groups, and challenge the social and cultural norms impeding women and persons with disabilities from participating in the sector.

Among a plethora of ways to do this, employers can:

  • redesign outreach for vacancy advertisements;
  • optimize the visibility of women and persons with disabilities by highlighting them in media, websites, brochures, and other promotional materials; and
  • include provisions for disability-inclusive infrastructure in workplace budgets, policies, and workspace design.

Recommendations: Value Chain Entry Points

The power sector provides limited provisions to address the electricity-related needs of socially excluded communities. Further, of these provisions, many are not enforced. Power sector services and products are not developed, designed, marketed, or adapted to address the particular needs of diverse groups. Poor engagement of persons with disabilities, women, and other marginalized groups in power sector planning and development is a major challenge and although provisions address customer service and complaints, most communities said their efforts to get service or resolve complaints were ineffective.

One study respondent shared, “The community established a group of representatives from all the surrounding towns. Two years ago, the group wrote a letter to the power distribution companies reporting challenges the towns face. Another time, we visited the distribution company’s local offices and even the head office to complain about the poor power supply. However, none of these efforts yielded any meaningful result.”

The report made clear the importance of integrating gender and social inclusion across the power sector value chain. Some ways to do this are to analyze and develop policies for socially excluded and marginalized groups, implement social mobilization activities such as community forums and door-to-door outreach, and prioritize power access for entities that serve marginalized community members.

Stakeholders can also partner with investors to recognize women and persons with disabilities as potential energy entrepreneurs and independent power users and provide tools so investors can integrate gender into their work.

Nigeria woman looking at off-grid solar products.
In Lagos, Nigeria, our partner Solar Sister is promoting clean electricity access in off-grid communities and empowering rural women through entrepreneurship.

It is incumbent upon the power sector to seek out the opinions of socially excluded and diverse communities, as current and future customers, and integrate their specific needs into solutions. “When the opinions of some people are not considered in decision making, they will be excluded,” according to a study respondent. “Even when solutions come about, they are not a fit for those groups whose opinion was not considered. Once you have started excluding a group, it is likely they will keep being excluded.”

To promote the inclusion of marginalized groups across Nigeria’s power sector, Power Africa will disseminate research findings and recommendations to key government agencies, social inclusion actors such as the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs and Nigeria Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, and stakeholders. Communications materials will be adapted to ensure they are accessible to a range of audiences.

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Power Africa

A U.S. Government-led partnership that seeks to add 30,000 MW and 60 million electricity connections in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 > https://bit.ly/2yPx3lJ