Ms. Thabisile Ledwaba, a South African citizen born in Ga-Pila, Mokopane, Limpopo and a businesswoman who co-founded Ga-Pila Education Trust and has vast experience and interests in various sectors of the economy including circular economy, smart cities, green sanitation, energy, transport & logistics, consulting, mining, ICT, television production and skills development. She has vast experience in consulting in ICT projects in the regulatory, insurance, banking, financial, and public sectors.
She has self-published a self-help book titled “Procrastination” in 2015 which is published globally. Though her work at Ga-Pila Education Trust, she gets to mentor youth in their personal and academic development.
She founded Solar Stokvel trading as Etimbili Renewable Energy and Power in 2016, Ndala Energy and Liphezulu Energy in 2021, specializing in development, construction, operation, maintenance, commissioning, and financing of residential, commercial, industrial, and utility-scale renewable energy projects. She was appointed as Local Representative, equity partner and Executive by SEMCO International – a renewable energy company based in California US.
How did you end up in the energy sector and what advice would you give to other women wanting to follow a similar career trajectory?
I fell in love with energy after becoming a mentee of Dr Strive Masiyiwa who challenged us to take advantage of opportunities in green sanitation, energy, food security, telecommunications, fintech, etcetera and I challenged myself to study for renewable energy and sustainability studies at Stellenbosch University.
In your position at Solar Stokvel what are you doing to support the careers of other women in the municipality?
I am planning to establish an energy academy that will focus on bursaries, scholarships and imparting of skills to women by starting at grass roots levels.
How does your business actively encourage women empowerment and development?
I mostly prioritise working with women entrepreneurs in my projects before I consider men.
In your opinion, why do you think the energy sector in its current state has less female representation and do you see it increasing?
Gender mainstreaming is still an issue and gap as energy sector is still dominated by men and considered a male industry. More studies and research needs to be done to mainstream gender into the energy sector so that we see women taking lead across all the levels and decision-making of energy sector.
What are some of the major changes you’ve seen during your time in this industry?
Local companies can compete in utility-scale independent power producer programs by energy departments, municipalities, mining, corporate, and industrial.
What do you see as the role of women in ensuring energy security and resilience in the power sector?
Women are disproportionately impacted by energy security as they are primary caregivers and have to find creative ways to secure electricity in the midst of loadshedding. Therefore, are best placed to advise of the negative impact of energy insecurity and safer energy mix options to close the gap. With women forward we can have resilient energy policies.
What message do you have for other women entering a male-dominated sector?
The great place to start is to learn the industry by understanding energy policies, procurement frameworks, global trends, and development finance.
What unique opportunities do you see for women in your sector?
I see women dominating in the energy policy and financing landscape opportunities presented by just energy transition and climate action.
How do you hope to see women more included in the energy sector?
Energy studies should dominate the academic space so that it can be more visible to women without having to travel far to study.
How do you think men can support a more equal workplace as well as help accelerate women in their careers?
Men can support women by seeing them as their equal by having confidence in their ability and capability without seeing them as empowerment checklist.
What is the most important conversation we should be having in the sector?
Lack of access to inclusive financing for SMEs is an important conversation we should have because when you submit bid to build a power station you are required to have letter of intention to fund. A 100 MW solar project will cost around 1.5 billion rand minimum and access to land of 300 hectares is part of the submission requirement. So, without access of finance to fund the construction and land, women will be excluded from participating in just energy transition.
What recent legal or regulatory changes do you think have the potential to make a positive impact on energy access in Africa?
The lifting off licensing requirements for independent power producer projects of up to 100MW which department of energy and President Ramaphosa announced in August 2021 was a game changer as licensing authorisations take too long.
If you know of any amazing women in energy who should be part of this campaign please reach out to us by sending an email to [email protected].