Keynote Address Delivered by Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, TEF CEO at ACMI Forum
Today, the adverse effects of climate change are all around us. There are thinning glaciers & melting ice caps, desertification and famine, floods and landslides, rising oceans levels, heatwave induced wildfires not to mention all manner of severe weather and natural disasters.
It is no surprise that the worst effects of climate change are expected to be borne by under served regions, countries, and communities in the developing parts of the world like Sub-Saharan Africa with the attendant risks of mass migration and displacement.
However Studies show that while the world is trying to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century, total emissions across Africa are projected to increase 250% by 2050. Majority of the continent don’t see this as a problem because Africa still has by far the lowest Green House Gas Emission on the planet and should not be penalized for the emissions of others. Whilst there is a valid point in this argument the question is can Africa really afford to be thinking like this?
Have we really counted the potential cost Climate Change could have on the continent if left unchecked. The impact this will have on migration and displacement thus exacerbating an already existing crisis currently caused by the lack of economic opportunity for our burgeoning youth population. If we add Climate Crisis to this, Africa could very well be the epicenter or ground zero and this is quite frankly unthinkable.
But therein lies our dilemma, a vast majority of African Youth are not thinking about the unthinkable and this simply renders the unthinkable inevitable if we don’t start thinking about the unthinkable.
The truth is African SMEs are too busy trying to stay afloat to be bothered with the thought of adaptation or Climate Action. Their attitude is my firm may not survive the next fiscal year so what’s my business with the earth dying in 50 years or more. And that is just the stark reality.
Having said that, recent research by the Center for Strategic and International Studies states that addressing climate change in Africa presents a $3 trillion economic investment opportunity in the continent by 2030. The private sector in Africa is critical to adapting to, as well as mitigating, climate change. This is especially true of SMEs, given that they make up a significant part of the continent’s private sector. It is critical that incentivization exists for SMEs to function in a sustainable manner and achieve green growth.
African SMEs’ lack of access to financing unfortunately often forces them to behave in ways that are not sustainable. It is harder for SMEs focused on sustainability and green business to gain financial support because there are typically higher up-front costs and the markets are underdeveloped.
And this is where we come in… At the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we recognise the importance of entrepreneurship empowerment as the roadmap to lasting and sustainable economic development and Climate Adaptation is fast becoming an integral part of this.
In 2015, Our Founder, Mr. Tony Elumelu made a $100m commitment to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 African entrepreneurs over ten years. To date we have trained, mentored and funded over 15,000 entrepreneurs across all 54 African countries. Our online digital platform TEFConnect has over 1.5million subscribers and counting.
The good news is that many of the entrepreneurs trained and funded by the Foundation are already addressing these climate change challenges through their businesses. For example,
- We have Zafree Papers in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, manufactures 100% tree-free pulp, paper and paper products using Agro-waste. Also in Ethiopia we have Helina Tekiu who is a seed bomb manufacturer that provides affordable, fast growing, light weight, and easily available seed balls to increase farmers’ productivity and reforest the deforested parts of Africa. Seedbombing is a man-made method of spreading colonies of trees and plants by using the three basic things needed for a plant to sprout—seed, soil, and nutrients. This increases green space, reduces the labor of ploughing and digging holes, can be thrown in inaccessible places, preserves the health of the soil, among other benefits. Helina has collaborated with the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia (as part of Ethiopia’s Green legacy to plant 4 billion trees), actively trains farmers on ways to manufacture seedballs, and once donated over 500 seedballs to a climate movement.
- We have Libegreen a social enterprise in Tanzania which focuses on reducing waste by repurposing plastic wastes into flower vases, manufacturing plastic flakes and pellets, and conducting recycling trainings and awareness programs.
- Also in Recycling we have award winning Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola Co-founder of Wecyclers—a business whose mission is to help the poor communities of Lagos, Nigeria reclaim their neighbourhoods from the scourge of pollution and waste by creating collection points for recyclable waste creating employment whilst fostering a greener environment.
Plans are in place to prioritize Climate Consciousness as an integral part of our curriculum because the next generation of African entrepreneurs must meet the challenges of the 21st century with a dual mentality which is 1.) a job creating mentality in contrast to the previous generation who were raised with a job seeking mentality and 2.) a Climate Smart mentality which is in contrast with the previous generation raised with a book smart or street smart mentality. The new smart is clearly Climate smart…and we are poised to raise up a generation of climate smart foot soldiers to mitigate the climate crisis on the continent.
Initiatives such as the ACMI, in partnership with the Africa Union, the United Nations and the World Bank is bringing climate awareness to Africa’s doorstep. With platforms such as this combined with our reach at community level we are rising to address these challenges collectively and pragmatically by integrating Adaptation and Climate Mitigation Education into our training and capacity building interventions…our commitment at the Tony Elumelu Foundation is to leverage our vast network to raise the awareness of millions of young people across all 54 African countries which will have the desired knock on effect of a more climate conscious Africa by 2030.