Asma Rouabhia, a member of the Technical Working Group 3 of the United Nations High-level dialogue on Energy speaks on pertinent issues in the African clean energy space.
Kindly take us through your personal journey
I have Bachelors in Business Administration and Masters in Diplomacy and International Relations.
I am currently pursuing my Masters in Innovation Management. I started being active in the energy industry in 2016. It was a programme with a German entity. I am very keen on sustainable energy and renewable energy solutions that can address issues.
I founded a startup in Tunisia in 2017 which offers recylable bags. Unfortunately, this project is not currently running.
In 2020, I joined the Major Group for Children and Youth. I also joined the SDG7 Youth Constituency as the regional focal point for the Arab State and West Asia.
With this, I have participated in highlevel opportunities and interacted with other youths in the sustainable energy space.
I also got to know what is going on at the International, Regional and Local levels and tried to connect with experts in Tunisia even though this was a bit challenging.
I was invited to be part of the Technical working group of the UN High level dialogue on energy.
I was one of the youth experts which gave me an opportunity to make my voice heard as a young person who is active in the sustainable energy field which is one of the most important opportunities that I got.
What informed your interest in the energy industry?
Energy is important for every thing in our lives such as education, women’s empowerment, good healthcare system and of course to combat climate change. This is because energy contributes about 60 per cent to global warming hence the importance of using alternative sources of energy.
I had different experiences at regional and international levels like IRENA and the Maghreb exchange program which is for young practictioners in energy and environmental issues in Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria and Tunisia.
Why is it more difficult to network in Tunisia than in the international space?
This is because opportunities and information are limited. First is the access to information.
Specifically, for energy conferences and all energy related events, you don’t know where you can find such information because they are not publicly announced and not open to everyone.
Also, there is low opportunities unlike the international level where you will see many webinars , in-person events, energy summits where people can connect.
We don’t have many of such events in Tunisia where youths can participate.
However, youths are now becoming more active and there are more opportunities from government and civil societies to participate in climate change and focusing on energy topics.
What are some of the callenges to a sustainable energy future in Tunisia?
Tunisia still relies heavily on Natural Gas. I see that we don’t have much expertise in renewable and sustainable energy. So, we need to focus more on upgrading the skills of people in the energy sector and including more people in the sector.
Even if you are not someone that studied engineering or things related to energy, you can still be part of the energy transition if you studied law or business.
I think there should be more decentralization in the sector so that more stakeholders can be involved.
Another is the limited participation of young people. We should be given the space to participate in the transition.
How can more young Tunisians be encouraged into the alternative energy industry?
The government needs to raise the awareness amongst Tunisians in general especially youths. Also, issues like how to save energy in the home, energy access.
There also needs to be focus on human capacity development. It will be great to focus on energy education and environmental education in general becuase of its importance.
It is important that they are taught from a young age what energy resources are and how we use them and how they can be used sustainably.
Opportunities also need to be created for youths to have their internship at Ministries and energy agencies and making them have the space to practise their skills and what they have learnt in school so they can have job opportunities afterward.
The other thing is engaging the private sector. For instance , students who study energy engineering would not have as much opportunities compared to other engineering specialty because they can not find many stakeholders in the country that work on energy so thence opportunities become very limited.
The other thing is regional partnerships. In our region, Morocco is one of the leaders in sustainable energy. It would be good if Tunisia could partner Morocco on regional projects such as how to transport energy and to focus less on natural gas and invest in our sustainable energy mix.
Another would be on policies and how to make these policies effective. There needs to be youth inclusion in darfting those policies, making their views count and make those policies more inclusive.
This is because I believe that the policies of this generation should not be made by people who are in their 70s. It should be by youths and for youths.
I am very active at the international level but when it comes to the local level, I find it very hard because I don’t know where to go and who to talk to. How can I then make my voice heard?
Sometimes, I don’t know where to go and how I can really make my voice heard in my country. Sometimes, I also feel that there is a wall that doesn’t allow you get integrated easily in the energy sphere which makes me a bit disappointed. You feel like you have this high motivation but you really can not take action in your country. It is always good to start at the local level. It is also good that what we learn internationally we are able to implement in our country. But sometimes, you don’t find the opportunities.
However, I believe that we should be creating opportunities if we don’t find them because we can’t always wait for opportunities to come.
We should be the one taking action and creating those opportunities.
What are some of your career milestones?
I was a part of the Accelerate MENA project by GIZ. It made me understand more the energy sphere. When I founded my startup, I met other inspiring young peole who are doing well ion the energy spheres. This inspired me so much.
When I joined the SDG7 Youth Constituency – because I joined a larger network which enabled me to participate in different initiatives, I knew more about sustainable energy policy.
I also participated at the first IRENA Youth Forum as a delegate which enabled me to meet energy leaders and policy makers and parliamentarians from across the world.
I even met a parliamentarian from Tunisia which I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet her in my country.
I was invited to be part of the Technical working group of the UN High level dialogue on energy. I was one of the youth experts which gave me an opportunity to make my voice heard as a young person who is active in the sustainable energy field whcih is one of tge most important opportunities that I got.
This made me believe that there is nothing impossible if we believe in our dreams and work for it.
It made me realise the importance of the energy transition.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.