CNN London —
The European Union has set a goal of producing 11 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030 and importing another 11 million tonnes as Europe looks for alternatives to Russian energy.
Green hydrogen (hydrogen produced using renewable energy) is touted 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 industry. The southern African country will open the continent’s first green hydrogen production plant in 2024, operated by French electricity company HDF Energy.
Namibia’s first lady, Monica Geingos, has served on the country’s policy advisory board and has 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 other 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 power plant is expected to be up and running by 2024, and there is also a potential plan to collaborate with the European Union on green hydrogen. Where do you see sustainable energy in the future business environment of the country?
Geingos: It is clear that Namibia’s green hydrogen plans go beyond domestic energy self-sufficiency. This is also relevant for intra-African trade, as Namibia has the opportunity to export clean energy to the regional electricity market. In addition, there is an opportunity to export clean (energy) to a neighbouring country (South Africa), which is also Africa’s largest carbon contributor.
Namibia has also been identified as a strategic driver of the EU’s decarbonisation agenda, which contributes to our ability to export energy to Europe. This means that Namibia can go beyond traditional recipient country relationships and become a strategic trading partner.
Among many other benefits, I am excited about the dynamic economic mobilization that the business sector will benefit from, as (Namibia) will be able to channel its own resources towards private sector investment, which also increases foreign investors’ traditional interest in the industry. risk appetite to keep a distance.
Before becoming first lady, you were an entrepreneur. How did this experience prepare you for the role?
Geingos: My career has been in capital markets, corporate finance and private equity, so this prepares me to work under pressure, stand my ground and handle difficult conversations. It also helped me develop a strong moral compass, which is helpful in navigating grey areas and understanding off limits.
What barriers remain in advancing women into positions of power, especially in a business environment?
Geingos: The legislative and policy framework for gender equality in Namibia is very progressive. These barriers are invisible and have to do with how women are perceived, talked about, treated and felt when they are in positions of influence or trying to climb a ladder.
In essence, our way of thinking is not as progressive as our laws. While leadership in the public sector has yet to reach gender parity, it leads the private sector, which is still far behind in ensuring gender parity. This is an indicator of progress in some sectors, but also confirms how much work still needs to be done.
The African Continental Free Trade Area came into force last year – Namibia is part of it. How important is it for women to take the lead on this and have a seat at the table when negotiating big decisions?
Geingos: It’s critical that women have a place at any dinner table where decisions are made accordingly, because targeting such a huge opportunity without diversity thinking would be detrimental to society.
Women bring differentiated thinking and capabilities. It doesn’t make sense to sit at a table and make big decisions while excluding a portion of your intellectual capital. The easier movement of goods and people that facilitates intra-African trade creates risks for women who need to be managed – (for example) human trafficking – but also significant opportunities. There are bespoke capital pockets for women entrepreneurs that can be used to pursue expanding market opportunities, creating exciting times for women entrepreneurs.