Energy Use and Enterprise Performance in Ghana: How Does Gender Matter?


The potential impact of electricity use on enterprise performance has a gender dimension that has been overlooked by the energy and development literature. This omission disregards the evidence of a gendered division of labour and the different energy consumption patterns of different productive activities. To address the gaps in the literature, this paper analyses an enterprise development programme that jointly provides improved electricity supply, business services and enterprise clustering in Ghana. The paper aims to understand: the gender awareness of the intervention; the different energy use patterns in men and women’s enterprises; the different benefits men and women obtain from the productive use of energy; and the reasons behind the differences observed. We adopt a multi-methods approach combining gender differentiated firm level data from 400 microenterprises, with in-depth semi-structured interviews to enterprise owners and employees, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions. The results, which are specific to the research region, show clearly differentiated energy use patterns in enterprises owned by men and women. Men’s enterprises display higher electricity consumption, while women dominate the use of cooking fuels, mainly charcoal. The use of electricity shows a positive correlation with business profits, regardless of the owner’s gender, which is higher for enterprises owned by women. The main reasons for women’s lower electricity consumption are: the gendered division of labour, which limits women’s economic activity to a narrow number of sectors and to smaller scale operations; the lower value of women’s work which creates disincentives to mechanisation; social norms determining the types of jobs men and women can do; and women’s lower access to starting capital. We conclude that, in the absence of gender considerations, interventions for the promotion of productive uses of energy are likely to target electricity intensive activities dominated by men. We finalise by offering policy suggestions to improve the gender equity of these interventions.


L’impact potentiel de la consommation d’électricité sur la performance des entreprises a une dimension de genre qui a été négligée dans la littérature sur l’énergie et le développement. Cette omission ne tient pas compte des preuves d’une division sexuelle du travail et des différents modes de consommation d’énergie selon les différentes activités productives. Pour combler les lacunes de la littérature, cet article analyse un programme de développement des entreprises qui fournit conjointement un meilleur approvisionnement en électricité, des services aux entreprises et permet le regroupement d’entreprises au Ghana. Le document cherche à comprendre : la prise en compte du genre dans le cadre de l’intervention; les différents modes de consommation d’énergie dans les entreprises appartenant à des hommes et dans celles appartenant à des femmes; les différents avantages que les hommes et les femmes tirent de l’utilisation productive de l’énergie; et les raisons qui expliquent les différences constatées. Nous adoptons des méthodes mixtes de recherche, combinant les données d’entreprise sexo-spécifiques de 400 micro-entreprises, avec des entretiens semi-directifs et d’autres approfondis avec des patrons d’entreprise et des employés, des entretiens avec des informateurs clés et des discussions de groupe. Les résultats sont spécifiques à la région de la recherche et montrent des tendances de consommation d’énergie clairement distinctes entre les entreprises appartenant à des hommes et celles appartenant à des femmes. Les entreprises appartenant à des hommes ont une consommation d’électricité plus élevée, tandis que les femmes utilisent essentiellement des combustibles de cuisson, principalement le charbon de bois. Il existe une corrélation positive entre l’utilisation de l’électricité et les bénéfices des entreprises, quel que soit le sexe du propriétaire, et cette corrélation est plus forte pour les entreprises appartenant à des femmes. Les principales raisons pour lesquelles les femmes consomment moins d’électricité sont les suivantes: la division sexuelle du travail, qui cantonne l’activité économique des femmes à quelques secteurs seulement et à des opérations à plus petite échelle; la valeur plus faible du travail des femmes, qui les dissuade procéder à la mécanisation; les normes sociales, qui déterminent les types d’emplois que les hommes et les femmes peuvent faire; et un accès réduit des femmes à un capital de départ. Nous concluons qu’en l’absence de prise en compte du genre, les interventions pour la promotion d’une utilisation productive de l’énergie sont susceptibles de cibler les activités à forte intensité électrique dominées par les hommes. Enfin, nous faisons des suggestions en termes de politiques publiques pour améliorer l’équité entre les sexes dans le cadre de ces interventions.

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Fig. 1

Source: Authors’ construct

Fig. 2

Source: Authors, from GIZ monitoring data

Fig. 3

Source: Authors, from GIZ monitoring data

Fig. 4

Source: Field survey 2018

Fig. 5

Source: Field survey 2018

Fig. 6

Source: Field survey 2018


  1. 1.

    After piloting the FGD, we realised that mixed groups were able to provide the information we required, because men and women felt comfortable expressing themselves freely with good facilitation.

  2. 2.

    Every individual not born in the same village in which the business is located is defined as migrant.

  3. 3.

    Only for those with positive number of workers.

  4. 4.

    We do not present differences in the automotive sector because only two women report ownership of specialised assets, making the sample too small for comparison with men.


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The preparation of this publication was supported by the ENERGIA Gender and Energy Research Programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), but the views and opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors and should not be attributed to ENERGIA or DFID. The research was possible thanks to the support of GIZ office in Ghana, and particularly to Mr Samuel Adoboe. We also thank Mr Innocent Agbelie for excellent research assistance throughout the project and Samuel Dakey, Theodora Asiamah and Mavis Agyeiwaa for their invaluable research assistance during fieldwork.

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Correspondence to Ana Pueyo.

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Details of Participants in Qualitative Data Collection

See Tables 14 and 15.

Table 14 Key informant interview details.
Table 15 FGD participants per township, tool and gender.

Descriptive Tables

See Tables 16, 17,Footnote 418, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23.

Table 16 Share of men and women’s businesses using each type of energy.
Table 17 Average number of electrical appliances per men and women’s business.
Table 18 Characteristics of power supply per location and gender (averages).
Table 19 Assets available for the business.
Table 20 Most-important constraints for doing business (two selected per respondent).
Table 21 Education of business owner.
Table 22 Reasons for the selection of the business location.
Table 23 Motivations for running a business. Share of enterprises.

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Pueyo, A., Bawakyillenuo, S. & Carreras, M. Energy Use and Enterprise Performance in Ghana: How Does Gender Matter?. Eur J Dev Res 32, 1249–1287 (2020).

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  • Energy
  • Productive uses
  • Enterprise
  • Gender
  • Ghana