As Europe looks for alternatives to Russian energy, the European Union has set a target of producing 11 million tons of green hydrogen by 2030 and importing another 11 million tons.
Green hydrogen (hydrogen produced by renewable energy) is being proposed as a clean alternative to fossil fuels that can power heavy industry and transportation. EU officials said this summer they hoped to reach a deal to help Namibia develop its green hydrogen sector. The southern African nation will open the continent’s first green hydrogen production plant in 2024, operated by the French company HDF Energy.
The First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos, has participated in her country’s policy advisory committees and advocated for gender equality. CNN’s Melissa Mahtani spoke with Geingos last week at the UN General Assembly in New York, and emailed her with additional questions about Namibia’s progress in green energy and the role of women in the country’s economic future.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Namibia’s first hydrogen plant is expected to be operational in 2024, and there is also a potential plan to collaborate with the EU on green hydrogen. Where do you see sustainable energy in the future of the country’s business climate?
Geingos: It is clear that Namibia’s green hydrogen plans extend beyond domestic energy self-sufficiency. It is also about intra-African trade, as Namibia has the opportunity to export clean energy to regional electricity markets. In addition, there is an opportunity to export clean (energy) to a country (South Africa) which is the largest carbon emitter in Africa.
Namibia has also been identified as a strategic player in the European Union’s decarbonisation agenda, which facilitates the ability to export energy to Europe. This means that Namibia can go beyond the traditional relationship of being an aid recipient to becoming a strategic trading partner.
Among many other benefits, I am excited about the strong economic mobilization that the business sector will benefit from (Namibia) as it will be able to channel its resources into private sector investment, which also increases risk appetite for sectors that foreign investors tend to invest in. move away
Before you were first lady, you were an entrepreneur. How did that experience prepare you for this role?
Geingos: My career was in capital markets, corporate finance and private equity, so it prepared me well to work under pressure, hold my own and handle difficult conversations. It also helped me develop a strong ethical compass, which is helpful in navigating gray areas and understanding areas of impossibility.
What obstacles remain for women to rise to positions of power, especially in business fields?
Geingos: Namibia’s gender equality legal and policy framework is very progressive. Barriers are invisible and relate to how women are perceived, spoken to, treated and made to feel when they are in positions of influence or trying to climb the ladder.
Basically, our way of thinking is not as progressive as our laws. Although the leadership of the public sector has not reached gender parity, the leadership of the private sector is, which is still far behind in ensuring gender equality. This is an indication of the gains made in some sectors, but also how much work still needs to be done.
The African Continental Free Trade Area It entered into force last year, and Namibia is part of it. How important is it for women to take the lead in this, and have a seat at the table when major decisions are being negotiated?
Geingos: It is very important that women sit at any table where decisions are made, because it would be to the detriment of society to focus on big opportunities without diverse thoughts.
Women bring different thinking and ability to the table. It makes no sense to sit around the table and make important decisions while neglecting some of your intellectual capital. The ease of movement of goods and people to facilitate intra-African trade has risks for women to manage—(for example) human trafficking—but also great opportunities. There are tailor-made capital bags aimed at women entrepreneurs that can be applied to gain expanded market opportunities, creating exciting times for women entrepreneurs.