Olga Johnson: Energy for Africa

Franco-Beninese, Olga Johnson steers the “Energies for Africa” foundation. As adviser to Paris and vice-chair of the mobilization committee for the World Day of African Culture, she is one of the figures of the diaspora that stands out both in France and on the continent. In this capacity, she joined the Women In Africa Initiative as an ambassador.

Since her tender childhood, Olga Johnson has been shuttling between Africa and Europe. «I was born in Porto-Novo, Benin before going to France, Toulouse, at the age of two. My parents returned to Africa, Benin, and then Ivory Coast where I spent all my childhood. I came back to France at the age of seventeen to study. Since then, I have been shuttling between my two beloved continents».

An all-out commitment

She started her active life at TRIM International, a press and financial information agency where she remained for seven years before joining, in 1999, Regards International where she was responsible for the design, financing and the organization of institutional symposiums and forums until 2007. From 2008 to the end of 2015, she headed the networks and events section of HEC Alumni, the Association of Graduates of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC), an association of 56 000 graduates, with more than a hundred nationalities and present in more than seventy-five countries. «I was in charge of activities of the network in France and abroad». She is also politically committed. Since 2014, she has been an adviser to Paris in charge of citizen cohesion and equal opportunities, including women’s rights. In this context, she met Jean-Louis Borloo, former Minister of State in France, and founder of “Energies for Africa”which advocates the electrification of the continent. «He asked me to join him to assist him. He knew my activism and my interest in social issues, women, development aid and cultural cooperation between France and Africa. I accepted without hesitation because I find it scandalous that a continent like Africa – with more than three hundred days of sunshine a year – does not have power in this 21th century. »

The energy challenge

The sector which she focuses her action on is a challenge for Africa. «Indeed, I am fortunate to be Executive Director of Energies pour l’Afrique, which works to accelerate access to energy on the African continent, a prerequisite for all human and economic development. It is a fundamental right. More than 700 million of the 1.2 billion Africans do not have access to electricity. And of course, women and girls are the ones first impacted. They travel miles to fetch water and wood. And the situation is getting worse. Every year, an additional ten million Africans do not have access to energy. Adding the growing population – Africa will have more than 2.5 billion inhabitants in 2030 – We will need to feed, care, train and house a billion new inhabitants. It is a considerable but attainable challenge with real political will. »

« A new gorvernance is possible with women. »

For this, women are the heart of her commitment. «In my opinion, no future is possible without women. They make up half of humanity. Providing them with access to essential and basic services, education, health, culture are paramount and essential to fight against poverty. Women, even today, enjoy a central place in society. They manage the education of children despite progress towards gender equality. Everything happens during childhood and during the school orientation of girls. We must pay attention from the onset. New professions are emerging, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Which offer job opportunities. States must put in place public policies that support women’s access to these decision-making positions. A new governance is possible with women. »

Olga Johnson with the CEO of Energies pour l’Afrique, Jean-Louis Borloo, former French Ministre d’Etat

Learn to dare

A commitment that led her to join the adventure Women In Africa Initiative. «When I met Aude de Thuin and Caroline Boudergue, I immediately joined! Of course, many other initiatives exist and Africa has not waited for the WIA Initiative to seize gender issues. Nevertheless, the approach of this network avoids the confrontation between women and men and proposes a constructive approach. Together, through the promotion of women entrepreneurship, we can reduce prejudice and federate people towards the same goal: the participation of women in the economic and social development of the planet. But, it depends largely on our ability to dare! »