Mizan Welderufael Massa - Productive Use of Energy (PUE) Manager at Energicity, in Sierra Leone, Benin, and Liberia.

Mizan was born and raised in Adigrat, Tigray, with a mom who wanted her to be an engineer and a dad who wanted her to be a medical doctor but nonetheless supported her with her education journey.


She finished her elementary school at St. Lucia Catholic School ranking first in her batch. Then she went to a public high school near her home called Agazi Comprehensive Secondary School, shopkeeping at her family’s business in her part-time. She gives an immense amount of credit to her mother and elementary school for the strong and resilient woman she is right now.


Immediately after finishing high school, she got into Addis Ababa University in the Electrical Engineering department, which was her first choice. She was the batch of 2007 where only <10% female students ended up graduating. In 2014, she started her Masters degree through an extension program at Addis Ababa University which she finished in 2017.


During her time at the University, the engineering field was male-dominated and she noticed that the community undermined the potential of women students. But she also mentions that she experienced true sisterhood amongst the female students where they helped each other out in any way. She is one of the founding members of EWiEN and volunteered as vice president of EWiEn for 2+ years. By creating a WhatsApp group, she managed to bring together a lot of strong women energy professionals in her network to engage and support each other.



After obtaining her BSc degree, she wasted no time in taking the EEPCo entrance exam and passing with flying colors. In 2008, Mizan was officially hired there as Junior Electrical Engineer at the Addis Ababa Region Distribution Center. Her contribution was digitalizing the distribution lines using Integra software to identify weak lines and redesign to avoid voltage drops and supervise the construction of the redesigned distribution lines.



In November 2009, she moved to a role that she was passionate about; ‘System Operation Engineer’ at the sole Transmission System Operator, National Load Dispatch Center of Ethiopia (NLDC). Operating and controlling every part of the power system, from generation, via transmission network then to substations and outgoing distribution lines was a very challenging yet rewarding as she was in her proudest moments when she felt like her contribution to Ethiopia was more hands-on. It was when a lot of developments happened in the Ethiopian power system, such as new power plants synchronized, new 400kV transmission lines energized, and energy exports to Sudan and Djibouti interconnected. But she started feeling burnt out and she seeks to explore more in the distribution system and was ready to face different challenges. When EEPCo split into two, EEP and EEU, she applied to the Energy Management position at EEU and started working as Energy Portfolio and Logistics Manager. She had an overall understanding of the power system from generation, transmission, to distribution because of her last role, which gave her an upper hand to excel in her new position at the moment.



Then she took on one last role before leaving EEU as the Automated Meter Reading (AMR) project lead which was mainly the installation of energy meters at incoming and outgoing feeders of substations for the purpose of energy loss reduction. She had a tremendous impact on the energy sector as she prevented a huge amount of energy from being embezzled and/or lost between EEP and EEU. She reflected on the hardships of this role she took as it involved frequent traveling, having to endure a lot of unfavorable conditions as well as a car accident that happened during one of her travels to and from substations.


Mizan is an avid believer in continuous learning, which was why she used to use her free time from work attending different fellowships like the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF): Pathways to Zero-net Energy: at the University of California, Davis (UCDavis), and YALI Regional Leadership Center, Eastern Africa: Business and Entrepreneurship, at Kenyatta University, Kenya again in 2016. And the Open Africa Power, ‘Regulation for Universal Access to Energy’ at Florence School of Regulation (FSR-Energy) and Women in African Power, YALI– Southern Africa, at UNISA, in 2019. Through these programs, she was able to connect with so many different like-minded people across Africa and ignite her passion for mini-grid solar solutions.



She also mentions how the energy sector was monopolized entirely by the government and seeing energy sector unbundling in other countries, she understood Ethiopia’s need for private power producers. That led to her getting her business license and starting her own company that aimed to work in floating solar solutions. She went to Ofla woreda in Tigray in hopes of solving the electrical problem of fisheries in the Lake Hashenge area. The fisheries in Hashenge don’t have freezing equipment to be able to distribute their produce to neighboring cities. She won a 25,000 Euro grant to do needs assessment but unfortunately, due to COVID and the Tigray siege she wasn’t able to implement it.



In 2020, she joined private company Veritas Consulting PLC as a Senior Energy Consultant. Consulting on the private mini-grids in Ethiopia, doing a feasibility study, designing the financial model, and so on. She got a good experience of what the landscape of the private energy sector looks like which gave her a well-rounded perspective of the sector within the seven months she worked in. After her brief experience as a senior energy consultant, Mizan joined another US based non-profit organization, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). She took on the role of ‘Ethiopia Energy Lead’ where she built relationships with key stakeholders, built the company’s network, identified new projects, and contributed to the execution of projects. She made an immense contribution to the energy sector by creating an enabling environment for the private energy sector to put their imprint.



The political unrest in Ethiopia was at its peak and Mizan had to move out of Ethiopia because it led her to endure a lot of adversity due to her Tigrayan identity which went as far as being detained for it. She moved to Uganda and took a long break for the sake of her wellbeing. After discovering Uganda she went back to work and joined Energicity, a minigid developer in West Africa. The company operates in five countries; Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria. It has only been seven months since she joined but she has traveled in most of the countries they work in. As productive use of energy (PUE) manager, her contribution in identifying productive use activities within rural communities, designing a strategy for energy-efficient PUE machine, designing a business model that suits both the company’s revenue and customer productivity. She contributes to the different appliances they make based on the needs assessment done by her leading a team of 15 people. In order to fully understand the community, she has to immerse herself in the way they live and that gives her a higher level of exposure and a unique experience to her journey in her professional life. Her fearlessness in the decisions she makes is a trait that becomes evident when she moves to French-speaking countries and she is in no way familiar with starting to live and work in West Africa. She joined this company in hopes of understanding what it’s like to work at a women-led company and also to be a private energy producer and distributor in the future.



Even though she has experienced the gender imbalance and bureaucratic environment that comes with being in a male-dominated field in Ethiopia, she also acknowledges the fact that other countries she worked at don’t have as many issues as Ethiopia does, especially the finance & regulatory space. And working in a woman-led company does contribute a lot to the gender balance as well. Reflecting on the challenges she faced while she was at EEU, she mentioned how confronting a male boss with technical discussions is considered disrespectful to her male colleagues. This comes from women being undermined and the misconception that they can only be in finance, HR or as secretary at EEU. However, this didn’t stop Mizan from pursuing whatever roles and projects she saw fit for her. Being confident in her potential, assessing her actions, knowing it’s not personal, and focusing her attention on the work only helped her get through those times.



Outside of her work, she actively and tirelessly served EWiEN with the founding members voluntarily trying to establish it as a civic society association. Saying she was the pioneer in initiating a platform for women in energy, would not be an exaggeration. In addition to that, she helps mentor different people who want to start businesses in countries she traveled to, which is a great initiative to informally create a supportive environment around her. She also facilitates financial and logistics help for internally displaced people or IDPs to rehabilitate their old lives.



Her plan for the future is to soak up all the knowledge she can get out of her experience abroad and use it to open back the company in Ethiopia or Sub-Saharan Africa. In five or ten years, she plans to make her own contribution through her company in the energy sector. 


Author: -EWiEn