“It is the tortoise’s shell, ugly and hard, that protects its lifelong journey on Earth”. This African proverb highlights the divide between public policy and its implementation in Africa. Public policy is the biggest driver of change, and the people who implement policy are ordinary Africans.
Regardless of their cutting edge, policies, institutions, regulations, and procedures will remain unrealized as long as ordinary citizens continue to relegate implementation to governments alone. Ordinary citizens are the proverbial tortoise’s shell to Africa’s economies. They are the missing link in making specific policies that already exist work as intended to improve the lives of ordinary Africans.
One area in which the public policy divide plays out spectacularly is in the climate change space. Africa has invested significantly in enabling legal and policy frameworks than Europe and North America. For example, 52 out of 54 countries in Africa have ratified their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), making Africa the most compliant region globally.
NDCs balance both mitigation and adaptation commitments. As countries submit their second-round commitments, 9 African countries have already submitted theirs, with 2 submitting more vital targets. Over 40 more have committed to enhancing their 2020 NDCs. Through internal policy prioritization, Africa has invested in climate resilience at a rate of about 2% of GDP every year. All of this is in addition to enabling sectoral policies, such as climate-smart agriculture policies.
What Africa needs to bridge the implementation divide is not development dollars alone. Still, a bold, visionary, and selfless citizenry to devise enterprise solutions to challenges that affect every corner of Africa. The catchment for this citizenry is the informal sector, which already accounts for over 80% of all employment in sub-Saharan Africa. Another catchment is African youth, which constitutes up to 60% of Africa’s population, making them the most significant non-state actor constituency in size. It urgently needs to be tapped to drive climate action policy forward.
#Innovativevolunteerism offers climate action solutions throughout Africa. Through innovative volunteerism, lessons accrued from youth in one corner of the continent are cross hybridized with willing actors in another corner of the continent without physical engagement. This is accomplished by leveraging on the passion and willingness of the volunteers themselves and digital technology. We see how this dynamic can play out practically but at a micro-level with this tool.
For example, Africa’s NDCs commitments include emissions reduction and resilience building elements. While Africa has contributed the least to global emissions, it is the most disproportionally vulnerable region globally. Through innovative volunteerism, young people are being structurally guided to step up to the plate, and implement elements of Africa’s NDC policy provisions, informed by socioeconomic realities. For example, most emissions from sub-Saharan Africa are land-based, accounting for up to 56%, driven by land degradation. Agriculture is a leading source of this degradation.
A significant portion of the land in Africa is cleared for agriculture. However, a substantial portion of the harvest ends as post-harvest losses, estimated to be close to $48 billion. This means the goods and services expended in producing this food is lost, fueling further land degradation. In addition, a myriad of income and enterprise opportunities that would have arisen from value addition to increase the socioeconomic resilience of communities are also lost.
However, these young people are being structurally guided to leverage their skills and passion for working with local farmers, clustering them into local cooperatives to leverage economies of scale, and decentralizing simple climate action solutions of solar dryers to enable value addition. These solar dryers enhance food safety by lowering incidents of dangerous aflatoxin by 53%, allowing the farmers to increase the shelf-life of perishables, thus cutting post-harvest losses to ensure efficient utilization of the ecosystem services used to produce the foods Africans consume.
From these practical steps, data has been generated on the financial, market, environmental, and social benefits of youth actions and the gaps that need to be addressed to sustain and upscale these successes. This data is then used to recalibrate policy and make it more implementable. For example, data showing solar dryers’ benefits, applicability, and popularity in preventing aflatoxins among informal food producers were used to recalibrate national food safety and food production standards to achieve specific food safety and production standards. This integration means that any actor willing to be certified in these standards must apply the solar dryers as a tool for compliance. And by this, we see climate-smart agriculture policies that address food security issues throughout Africa.
“Being in the forest and failing to see trees is a curse,” this African proverb is a reminder that we cannot afford to fail to tap opportunities that are within reach. Citizen participation in public policy implementation is one area that the continent must urgently leverage to bridge the policy implementation gap. This is urgently needed to drive transformational #climateAction and Development.
"Don't procrastinate, or you will be left in between doing something, having something and being nothing".
This African proverb aptly captures the marching order of Innovative Volunteerism, which uses what you already have to start delivering climate action solutions that touch many lives and not wait for elusive perfection. An honest audit of our lives reveals that we all have what it takes to get started. We have sound minds. We have energy & healthy bodies. We have skills & talents. We have ubiquitous internet connectivity to access the wealth of knowledge and information on the internet at the comfort of our phone devices. We have free guidance and backstopping within EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism. And we have 24hours every day within which to flexibly plan our time and do something. There is no reason to postpone climate action for one more second.
Not when we still have 257million people going to bed hungry every day in Africa. Not when 700,000 of our mothers and their children chock to death every year from indoor pollution, arising from their use of charcoal & firewood, the only source of fuel they have. Not when over 12 million of our youth are getting into the labour market each year to compete for every diminishing job. Not when up to $48billion worth of economic opportunities would have ensured more food secured homes, more income opportunities, more money in more pockets, and more economic growth opportunities are lost every year as postharvest losses (PHLs). Not when climate change, the elephant in the room, with Africa heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world and this escalation only implies a compounding of socio-economic misery, which is already at a breaking point and will diminish continental GDP by 15% in less than nine years and shrink our incomes by up to 75%.
Moved by these realities, Innovative Volunteerism actors have listened to their conscience and taken praiseworthy actions. They have devised climate action solutions that work for the community and trained communities to take up and benefit from these solutions. They have embodied the epitome of Climate Action entrepreneurship – or what I like to call climatePreneurship, to nurture our communities from being just passive beneficiaries to being a market. They have worked with our mothers in the villages and engaged young people in learning institutions to be propagators of these climate action solutions that work for the community. They have not only made an impact at the ground level but at the policy level through anchoring solutions on relevant governance structures that will last. They have not only worked to impact communities within their jurisdictions but shared these lessons continentally to catalyze similar Innovative Volunteerism mindsets in other jurisdictions. From west to central to east Africa, Innovative Volunteerism actors have demonstrated incredible selflessness, dedication, and fidelity to the course of delivering climate action solutions that touch many lives.
In Nigeria, thanks to the selfless efforts of Innovative Volunteerism actors, they have worked through the structure of local governance under the emir of Nasarawa to impact local communities. A women cassava farmers group has increased earnings by 100%, thanks to the decentralization of climate action solutions of solar dryers, enabling them to increase the product value of their cassava harvest through hygienic, efficient drying. Up to 500kgs of clean cooking fuel briquettes have been distributed to families across Nasarawa. These have proven to be up to 2 times cheaper than fuelwood and three times cheaper than kerosene. These market advantages have seen demand for clean cooking projected to increase to 2000 – 3000kgs in a short period. These lessons from Nigeria have been shared with over 200 additional young people in Uganda, Togo, and the DRC to take up and apply them to benefit communities in these additional jurisdictions.
Beyond sharing lessons for operational level uptake, these lessons have also been shared with academic institutions to influence decision making towards prioritizing climate action both operationally and at the policy level. The Nasarawa State University at Keffi (NSUK) has taken up the data on enterprise & market benefits that directly benefit the communities and used it to establish a climate action entrepreneurship centre. This centre, which trains people from different disciplines – both policy & non-policy- to become entrepreneurs, now has a segment that trains students to devise enterprises that drive climate action while impacting communities. This is s significant structural development towards ensuring climatepreneurship becomes the norm and not the exception in Nigeria.
In Kenya, Innovative Volunteerism actors have worked with a group of farmers who were losing up to 600kgs of the harvest to enable them to reverse these losses and increase their earnings by 50%. Decentralization of clean cooking fuel briquettes to replace charcoal and firewood have seen a steady average market growth of 20% and the generation of up to $1000 in sales in less than five months.
In Cameroon, youthful Innovative Volunteerism actors have complemented their technical skills and expertise in making biodigester plants, with in-kind support from local communities, towards building portable biodigesters to enable clean cooking access for our mothers. Through this collaboration, local communities have been mobilized into groups to build and run biodigesters. They are offering in-kind support in the form of unskilled labour, material, and waste – the feedstock to run the digester and their time towards building and operating the biodigesters. Through this collaboration, these local communities are also set to market the gas to generate revenues that they will use to pay the young people for their skills & expertise in developing the biodigesters. The communities will also have access to clean cooking gas to substitute the highly polluting charcoal & firewood that they traditionally use.
In Uganda, young people have leveraged the structure of local governance in the Buganda kingdom, and the local financing structure of local cooperatives called Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLAs) that is anchored in the CBS-PEWOSA bank, to drive uptake of climate action solutions from an opportunities dimension among local communities. Accordingly, local communities have been trained and guided to take up climate action solutions of nature-based approaches to produce food – popularly called Ecosystems Based Adaptation (EBA) approaches. They have been trained and guided to take up solar dryers to add value, cut postharvest losses and enhance their incomes. Over 8000 community members have benefitted from these climate action solutions in less than six months. The social, economic, and environmental impacts have been taken up to influence institutional structures. The CBS-PEWOSA cooperative has established an additional programme to finance investments in these climate action solutions of EBA & solar dryers. The national standards body – the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), has taken up data on the effectiveness of solar dryers to use in developing a stand-alone affordable solar dryer standard to enable broad market uptake in designing and use of solar dryers, a climate action solution as an effective tool for stakeholders in the economy to use to achieve food safety and hygiene standards.
These are just a few examples of what Innovative Volunteerism actors have done in driving uptake of climate actions through the market dimension leveraging two of Africa's powerhouses – the youth & the informal sector. Going forward, as we look forward to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement based on the accomplishments of COP26, the work of Innovative Volunteerism actors has shown us how implementation can be realized using what we already have, not what we hope to get. We celebrate you Innovative Volunteerism actors, and let us continue on this glorious path because the biggest individual action is collective action. This is how we can genuinely build a climate-resilient Africa.
Carbon emissions know no boundaries, and #Africa, a negligible emitter, accounts for 2 – 3% of global emissions, suffers disproportionately from #climatechange arising from actions of others. Carbon sinks apply universally globally. Africa’s carbon sink serves the entire globe. Countries in the tropical rainforest belt like Gabon are net carbon sinks at the country level.
While Africa may be no direct quantification as a sink, compared to the global average, #Africa’s per capita car Africa’side emissions can be estimated at 4.8 times lower than the worldwide average. This already would imply a region that is a relative sink – being below the global average. Some studies do note that the net carbon budget of the African continent is a sink. African rainforests are the world’s best carbon sinks: https://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2021/0520/Why-African-rainforests-are-world-s-best-carbon-sponges
The question is, how can Africa maximize benefits from being a natural carbon supply market?
At the core of how Africa can benefit is a realistic take of the continent’s climate change scenario.
And this is defined by two significant realities.
The first is that while the region has contributed least to the climate change crisis, it stands out as disproportionately vulnerable. While climate change is global, the poor are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects because they lack the resources they need to afford the goods and services to buffer against the worst of the changing climate effects. In Africa, our economies are up to 20times less productive than competitors in the global space. As an example to illustrate the intersection between climate change & poverty, while North America experiences Category 5 cyclones quite regularly, they don’t experience the level of damage experienced during the recent cyclone Idai in Southern Africa. The message then is that the continent’s climate change efforts need to centre around one core principle – socioeconomics. And this applied to the carbon trade efforts. We need to ask ourselves – how can carbon trade efforts translate to enhanced food security, creation of inclusive income & job opportunities that are accessible to the majority of the population, enhanced economic competitiveness.
The second reality is the urgent need for the continent to rebuild better, more resilient and inclusive economies under the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 global emergency. While the region’s economies are up to 20times less productive than competitors worldwide space, because of COVID, Africa is facing a potential first recession in 25 years. While the region already faces a very precarious food security scenario, with 257million people going to bed hungry, a spike in food prices of up to 300% is projected because of the COVID slow down and the extreme climate events, droughts and floods impacting yields. While the region already needs to create no less than a 13million jobs each year for its ballooning youthful population, the COVID-19 has been projected to drive the loss of nearly 50% of all jobs on the continent.
As a way out, the 2020 UNEP emissions gap report underscores the need to prioritize a “green pandemic recovery”. This implies an urgent need to increase global climate action ambition – including in carbon trade, by re-prioritizing investments, in trajectories that lower emissions but drive the much-needed socio-economic bottom-line benefits. Following this approach will unlock income opportunities to drive post-COVID recovery and do so while cutting emissions by up to 25% by 2030. This is the prism we need to view carbon trade as well.
Making carbon trade work for Africa
The Paris Agreement under Article 6 on market mechanisms provides a statutory regime of carbon trade. Specifically, article 6.2, whose rules of operationalization are being refined, provides a principle referred to as “internationally transferable mitigation outcomes”. This principle allows countries considered the highest emitters to partner with low/negligible emitters across the globe – including in Africa – and agree on how their high emissions can be offset through investing in supporting a low emission action within the territories of low emitters. This is the essence of carbon trade. Due to its negligible emissions, Africa is likely to be a supply market. But to make this principle work for Africa, the region needs to remember one word – “selective”. African carbon supply market players must be selective on the kind of investments they choose to partner on. The region needs to partner in areas that catalyze the growth of competitive low carbon enterprises accessible to informal sector players – where up to 80% of the continent work is created. And this selectiveness starts with a change of mainstream “narrative” of carbon trade across the continent.
A new narrative for carbon trade in Africa
All actors engaged in the carbon trade arena need to have “selectiveness” and “green pandemic recovery” as the foundational premise informing their investment or partnerships decisions. To illustrate – while specific areas of investment have been in reforestation, African actors should ask themselves how such reforestation actions have helped to increase economic productivity, create jobs for youth, enhance food security, and drive a trajectory of competitive economies. A precise analysis should be undertaken to ensure that only areas that maximize the continent’s socio-economic priorities are selected for investments.
Africa accounts for only about 2 – 3% of the global carbon trade. Even as genuine efforts are made to increase this market share, a more urgent need is to determine how proceeds from whatever is coming into the continent can be re-invested in areas where socio-economic impacts can be maximized. This implies investments targeted at maximizing earnings in the informal sector, where the majority draw their livelihoods from. And considering that land-based actions are the focus of Africa’s carbon supply markets and emissions sources, re-investment should target land-based areas that are also most accessible to informal sector actors.
Here, agriculture, which provides livelihoods for over 60% in Africa and which is also highly vulnerable to climate change, continues to be Africa’s primary socio-economic sector and a land-based area where Africa’s carbon trade strength lies. Investing to maximize its productivity by injecting accessible mitigation actions to power value addition and maximize incomes should be at the core priority of re-investing any proceeds trickling into the continent from any carbon trade partnerships the region chooses.
For example, investing in decentralizing solar dryers to cassava farmers – where Africa is the largest producer – can not only reverse postharvest losses running into billions of dollars – but can ensure value chain actors at the primary level earn up to 30 times more by being able to preserve their harvest and sell during the offseason when demand is highest. As opposed to selling during peak seasons under an entire market glut for fear of losing their harvest due to spoilage. This will happen without emitting, ensuring the environment remains intact while positioning the continent to tap an over $20billion global allergen-free foods market. This would be a much optimal investment for the continent instead of planting trees – where benefit goes beyond abating emissions – to include key socio-economic aspects of income creation, food security and accessibility to informal sector players.
Climate Change is already with us. Consequently, it can be easy for people to fall victim to doomism: so overwhelmed by despair that they feel they should give up. But we cannot let that happen. Apathy and inaction, induced by the false belief that an impending apocalypse is inevitable, are just as dangerous as science denial. And we cannot forget that there is a reason for hope! We all need to understand that the world can change for the better and that despite the destruction, as long as there's are people leveraging on their passions to turn challenges into opportunities, we can make a difference!
We, therefore, need a new perspective. One critical aspect that remains missing in discussions on climate change is human capital, which is the sovereign capital urgently needed for #ClimateAction #NDCs implementation. That is the perspective we urgently need. You cannot address any challenge while ignoring your powerhouse. African #youth are Africa's powerhouse and how they can become drivers of enterprise opportunities through the climate lens is critical in increasing implementation ambition. We have developed an incubation approach called #InnovativeVolunteerism; we are structurally guiding and inspiring will young people of different backgrounds to turn their passion into profits and retool their skills in developing and decentralizing climate action solutions to address on-demand areas among communities. From turning waste to #cleanenergy fuel #briquettes and # biofertilizers to simple climate action solutions of #solardryers, the #youth are rolling up their sleeves and making a difference across the continent. They're inventing new ways to cut carbon emissions and drive transformational climate action solutions in communities, and data from what they do is informing and reforming policies for NDCs implementation. This is the #mindsetchange that InnovativeVolunteerism inspires across the continent and the world. If they can do it, you can do it. Start where you are and with what you have. Always remember that change doesn't start on a global scale.
We must use our voices to inspire others to take action. We must hold our governments accountable for inactivity to increase climate action ambition. Citizens need to be all-in. We must use our spaces, be it our churches, classrooms, universities, and groups of various sorts, to inspire each other to take action. It must start happening in our cities, churches, villages, schools, and everywhere. As individuals, we must realize we have the urgency to do something, and it starts with us. Engage your communities and start using your heart to discuss important things. Everyone — corporations, investors, and civil society — must play their part because climate challenges will only be solved if we take collective action, agree on a common path, and make each area of necessary focus come to life, checking seasonally on whether we are making adequate progress and taking steps to fill gaps as they appear along the way.
Food on the table is not just an environmental issue. The health of your children will be affected by climate change. If we don't act now, security, economic aspects, and everything you can think of are in jeopardy. Be the one who can start moving the needle and become the pressure point to push action from your community. The youth have become the pressure points, and they are doing what they can to use what they have as they leverage the spirit of innovative volunteerism. Getting trapped in despair and anxiety because of inaction will only make us helpless. The most significant antidote to helplessness is action, and that action starts with you and me. We urgently need active and rational action as that is what inspires hope. As we all move to act and hold our governments to act, the following are some levers to strengthen implementation.
First, prioritise turning NDC commitments into investment tools.
While Africa is a leader in NDCs ratification with a 98% rate, over 70% of African countries have not converted their NDCs into investments that demonstrate a clear return on investment. For example, few countries have expressed a costed expectation of finance from the private sector. This is just the first natural step to attracting market implementation resources that are more sustainable. Countries should, therefore, clearly elucidate the projected return on investment for individuals or institutions who invests in actions that drive the NDCs priorities of governments.
Second, incentivise youth and the informal sector as critical drivers of NDCs implementation.
In Africa, up to 80% of labour is engaged in the informal sector. Over 60% of the population is youthful. The key is how this critical constituency can be tapped to drive NDCs implementation. And for this, targeted fiscal and non-fiscal incentives such as tax holidays for youthful entrepreneurs who engage in actions that implement NDCs will be critical to catalyzing a shift of incentives by these critical groups towards NDC areas.
Third, targeted policy incentives, especially fiscal incentives.
We have favourable fiscal policies across Africa. For example, we have budgetary policies exempting value-added tax on clean cooking, including sustainable fuel briquettes. Affordable financing for the youth engaged in developing the climate action solutions needed by the informal sector, tax holidays to youth entrepreneurs who establish climate action enterprises to enable them to minimize their tax burden during the formative years of their initiatives.
Regardless of how timely they may be, policy incentives will accomplish very little if they fall on passionless citizens. This calls for the right mindset- a mindset of discipline, purposeful passion, unborrowed vision, and selflessness. We must never lose sight of the "soft aspects." We owe ourselves the task of doing so to inspire active and rational hope in others to turn climate change challenges into investment opportunities that work for the many.
“Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it chased it.” This African proverb is a timely reminder of what we must all do to take our chances to drive the implementation of the NDCs.
I grew up in a village setting like millions across Africa do. Our village called Jinkfuin was a typical African setting with a chief for an entire community. Every child is everyone’s child, and there is this African proverb that says, “it takes a village to raise a child”. We grew up in a communal way of interacting with each other and supporting the community.
I went to school in the same village. After primary school and secondary school, I later went to High school in Bamenda, where I did my General Certificate Of Education (GCE) Advanced levels.
I studied education and physics at the university. So I was trained to be a teacher. After my university studies, I volunteered for one year. The experience gained from this volunteering helped get me a scholarship to study at the University of Nottingham, where I did my Masters and later on my PhD in Climate change and Development Policy. Today, I am a climate change Action and Development Policy Expert. More importantly, my passion is to inspire young people to find purpose and retool their skills to drive transformational #ClimateAction solutions to benefit society. They see themselves as problem solvers turning their passions into profits. When we were growing up, we were not as vocal as today’s young people, and I think one of the reasons is the social media platforms they have today like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok etc. With these opportunities, many of our #youth have the advantage of saying anything they what to say. This is an excellent opportunity we never had 40 years ago.
The reality is what I have noticed is that many young people, especially today, seem not to get inspired guidance to inspire them to use their skills to solve problems but instead, they look up to people who have wealth and are popular. It is more about optics and not solutions to the challenges we face as a continent. I have learnt that dealing with the youth; you need to guide them to make them see value in themselves. Most of them follow inspired guidance when they are told it is valuable to build themselves. Inspiring the youth to a self-belief that they have what it takes is one of the essential aspects.
When you show them an example of how life experiences can help shape you from nothing to something, this becomes a compelling message for them to believe they can make it. It is super important that people showcase the good of others, starting from themselves to inspire others so that at least they can also know that if they are good and do something nice, they will become role models for others. I think that kind of value system approach to engaging people, building on values of respect humility, is urgently needed in our society to drive transformational #ClimateAction solutions. A value-based systems approach is what is urgently needed in our community today.
The reality is, if you look at any community, there are so many multifaceted challenges afflicting them. Many cannot afford food not to talk of a roof on their head. They cannot even afford to send their kids to school. These are realities spotted across the world. However, at the same time, if you look at one challenge that wires throughout all these challenges, it is climate change. The changing climate is already turbocharging and supercharging extreme weather events – from droughts to floods, hurricanes, sea-level rise, etc. When there is a drought, there is no food. When there is a drought, those who depend on livestock gets affected significantly when the livestock dies. When there is no food, those who rely on food to feed their family will not provide for them. So, climate change only helps make a problem that is already big bigger. If you are not addressing climate change, then the injustice aspect becomes even more significant because no single citizen should be poor in a world that is so rich. So if there is an environmental issue like climate change, we must all pull together to do whatever we can to address it.
Young people taking up #climatechange activism worldwide are doing the right thing. However, activism is important but alone is not enough. Activism is a means, not an end. Therefore, there need to be specific actions that young people can take as much as activism. We developed and championed the innovative development model called #Innovativevolunteerism, which centres on engaging the entirety of society in providing structured inspired guidance to tap into #climate opportunities building on the willing.
Like anything worthwhile, volunteering needs incentives and enablers. In my experience, two things are critical to this end. First is a structure for volunteering where potential volunteers are engaged through a structure to guide their efforts and ensure optimal impacts for themselves and the environment. The second is a clear beneficial return that needs to take on a socio-economic lens in most cases. Young people as we see in Africa are finishing school and urgently & desperately looking for jobs. The last thing they want to hear is that they need to start doing some pro-bono work, yet they must take care of it. To this end, volunteering becomes attractive if it shows a clear trajectory of future socio-economic benefits to be achieved.
This is the essence of our approach to climate action and volunteerism. Through this incubation approach, we innovated, Innovative Volunteerism, ushering willing young people and the young at heart to retool their skills and align them with tapping income opportunities that arise from the development of climate action solutions to engage the informal sector that constitutes up to 80% of livelihoods in Africa – in the areas of agriculture & clean energy. This has yielded fruits from across the entire continent. We have learned that #skillsretooling of citizens is the best low-risk path to drive transformational #ClimateAction. The inspired structural guidance has showcased that when people are passionate about an issue, they can do wonders when they get added skills.
The non-cost intensive areas we are engaged in include waste recovery to clean cooking fuel briquettes to substitute charcoal. Another is waste recovery to biofertilizer to replace chemical fertilizers that destroy ecosystems and provide affordable, accessible alternatives to the many who cannot afford fertilizer soil treatments. Other areas include developing and decentralizing climate action solutions solar dryers made from locally available material to preserve harvests and lower post-harvest losses that waste ecological resources and finances.
The key to all these innovations is that they should be built on a passion for profits while solving a community challenge. People are motivated to engage in anything because they get out of it. In this case, the innovations showcased must be on a trajectory of profitability (not just social endeavours) while delivering value to the community & nurturing to become a market. Let’s not forget that if it offers value to the community & is affordable, the community will pay for this value. This is the lesson we learn from mobile telephony & its entire supply chain - be it handsets, phone credit, mobile money, phone repairs etc. Even villages with little income set aside something for the phone.
EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism has become the most prominent climate action incubation hub interactive where youth transformational climate action solutions initiatives are showcased to provide lessons for the masses on how to run enterprises in Africa, the essence of #ClimatePreneurship. This also ensures climate action solutions and accountability traceability, crucial for transformational development for individual youth and the continent. Let’s embrace Innovative Volunteerism as the tool to drive transformational climate action as we usher everyone into the solutions space.
If the rhythm of the drum beats changes, the dance steps must adapt”admonishes an African proverb;
We live in dynamic times never experienced before across Africa and the globe. Consider this - the global population is at its highest ever – having crossed 7.9 billion as of December 2021. Africa is the most youthful continent on this planet. The world is at its most enlightened with the rate of information exchange & explosion of new ideas at its highest. Climate change has become formidable – with the average global temperature rise hitting historical highs. Markets are increasingly converged more than ever before, with threats & opportunities now becoming globalized.
Colleagues, this is just a sample of a myriad of fundamental changes sweeping across the globe. The “rhythm of the drum” of global development has changed by all measures. The goodness is that this change has brought a myriad of opportunities to develop our countries, build our professions, for our youth to lead in enterprises that change country, continent & the globe and the list goes on. But to tap into these opportunities, just as the African proverb admonishes, we now must adapt. And this is the essence of my discussion with you.
Tapping into the overlooked qualities latent in each one of us
Passion, dedication, determination, resilience, hopefulness, humility & readiness to learn – these are among critical, often overlooked qualities latent in each one of us. They are the foundation for progress in any venture of life. But the paradox is that while these qualities lie latent in us, they can never be unlocked with money & material things that society places the highest premium on. No salary, no amount of financial & material compensation, can ever unlock these most critical qualities in us. Qualities are fundamental if we are to tap into the opportunities that the current global dynamism presents. So, what will? You may ask. The answer is simple – finding purpose.
This book, "Making Africa Work through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism", is not about me. Instead, it is about inspiring all of us towards finding our purpose. And once we do, apply the energy, dedication, passion, resilience that will follow, to drive inclusive Climate Action and transformational development. This is the long and short of it. And I am encouraged that this is good news to our charge as a global community in pursuit of the SDGs. Because let’s face it – if we go down the materialistic path, meaningfully actualizing the SDGs will cost dizzying sums of money, an estimated $4.5trillion each year. The message is simple – an alternative route is needed. And that route is what I discuss in the book. If we are to tap into the talents, ongoing work, skills of passionate, purposeful people across the globe, we will have the enterprises that will drive the realization of the SDGs. This is the paradigm we will tap into the myriad of opportunities that today’s dynamic world presents.
And this paradigmis what motivated me to write this book in the first place—unlockingAfrica’s paradox of desperate lack amidst plenty. A scenario replicated in many deprived societies across the globe. How is it that a continent blessed with plentiful resources is not first in economic development, overtaken by countries not nearly as resourced?. Over time, I have realised that the most significant causative factor is that, in Africa, attention has always been on physical resources – the minerals, oil, monetized resources, etc. – as the most significant resource the continent has to offer. This is a big misconception. Attention has to be on the people and what they can do to drive the continent’s transformation. So, taking the spotlight away from minerals and directing it squarely onto the people as the sovereign capital and what they can, need to and must do to accelerate the continent’s transformation to erase this paradox is the inspiration behind my book.
To make the book readable, I weave in my own story – of finding a purpose that drives my pursuit of addressing Africa’s challenges and seizing the opportunities these challenges present. Because, while the enormity of the challenges Africa faces are humbling, yet more inspiring are the opportunities camouflaged in these challenges.
As I elaborated in the first two chapters of this book, my birth and early growth circumstances were not glamorous. I was born forty-three years ago in a small village called Jinkfuin in the rural north-western part of Cameroon, and I grew up in a humble background by all accounts. Walking long distances to school without shoes, bearing the brunt of crop failures from time to time, studying under trees at times - these were some of the challenges I faced growing up. But I was surrounded by loving people who disciplined and encouraged me to be better and a rich cultural heritage that taught me the importance of unity, hard work, respect of elders, diligence, passion, perseverance, humility from an early age. This is where I started.
But more important was my moment of epiphany. What started as a simple search for answers to the dwindling yields in my mum’s small farm was as paradoxical as it is – my watershed moment. My moment of purpose. From when no distance was too far, no mountain too high, no subject too hard, no discouragement – I took all in stride—driven by passion, dedication, determination, resilience to actualize my purpose. These are the inherent, latent qualities that must be inspired in all of us if we are indeed to make this world we share a better place, as implied in the UN founding charter.
Over time, I realised that millions of other men, women, mothers & fathers across Africa and the globe face the very predicament that confronted my mum. I realised that solving this challenge at a wide economic scale opens more extensive opportunities for accelerating socio-economic transformation and climate resilience in the most vulnerable region of the globe – Africa, where we are today. With such self-realization, my purpose was cemented. And I carry it with pride everywhere I go. It is my sincere hope that all of us prioritize establishing our purpose. We take it further by aligning our purpose with what we do here. That is how the passion, energy, determination, resilience that we need to achieve the SDGs and climate action will be unlocked – and see us meaningfully accomplish these goals for ourselves and those yet to be born.
"even in extreme drought, the lion does not succumb to eat grass because that’s against its nature” – admonishes an African proverb.
As I transition in chapter 4 of the book towards the book's thrust in chapter 5 and beyond, I use this proverb to elaborate the resilient mindset we should all have as we move to seize opportunities inherent in Africa’s &, indeed, the global challenges. The logic is simple: even when we have our purposes aligned to what we do, it will still not be a walk in the park. We must take on the mindset of a lion to surmount obstacles that will come our way. I mentioned outstanding Africans who have demonstrated this resilience that we should emulate.
In chapter 5, I elaborated how Africa’s core challenges are opportunities to accelerate socioeconomic development & build climate resilience towards unlocking the SDGs. As a typical example, I pointed out that in this era of global competition, African economies are up to 2000% less productive than competitors in developed regions. This is further exhibited by the fact that manufacturing has stagnated at an average of just 10% of GDP since the 1970s. Coupled to this is climate change, which threatens to constrict the continents economy by a massive 70%. While this is indeed humbling, the inherent economic prospects in reversing this dismal scenario are much more inspiring.
From basic economics, we all know that any business, any economy worth its salt, thrives first and foremost on turning its areas of comparative advantage into a competitive edge to pull ahead of the competition. Africa also holds the comparative advantage of being the global leader in Cassava production. This crop is not only climate-resilient, to stand out as strategic for climate-proofing our economies, but it also fuels one of the most lucrative food subsectors globally – the allergen-free foods subsector, which is projected to generate over $20 billion each year. While Africa holds a remarkable comparative advantage, having 65% of the global arable land, the region loses up to $48 billion annually as postharvest losses and spends up to $35 billion each year to import food. This is a monstrous $83 billion of income, enterprise & economic opportunities that can be tapped into each year. Cumulatively, we are talking of over $200 billion of opportunities each year.
Foundational economics dictates that a focused determination to turn such comparative advantage into a global competitive edge and maximize the productivity of agriculture will catapult Africa’s rise. Making this sector Africa’s development engine, as I elaborated in chapter 5, is an area that presents opportunities for all of us to tap. But tapping will require that we be driven by passion, determination, dedication, by resilience – all qualities that will be unlocked if we are driven by nothing but purpose. If we chose not to focus on physical & financial resources but ourselves, especially our youth, as this continent's most sovereign capital. And proceeding to fuse the diversity of purposes, expressed through our skills, talents, and ongoing initiatives across multiple complementary disciplines and sectors we engage in towards maximizing the productivity of this engine sector, Africa’s area of comparative advantage. This is the underpinning principle of Innovative Volunteerism, which I discuss in chapter 7.
Chapter 7 opens with an intriguing proverb – that “cross a river in a crowd and the crocodiles won’t eat you”. This proverb encapsulates the essence of innovative volunteerism. Which is that Africa’s & indeed the world sovereign capital, its people, us, & the purposes, skills, talents, ongoing initiatives we represent will only be optimally engaged if we divest from individualism to embrace collectivism. Innovative volunteerism is premised on a straightforward idea: engaging the entirety of human capital in Africa in its diversity towards a shared goal of maximizing the productivity of the continent’s catalytic sectors, as discussed in chapter 5. In this pursuit, this ideal calls for a paradigm shift well embedded in African culture and appreciated worldwide. That of divesting from individualism to embrace collectivism, banishing selfishness to take on selflessness, rejecting hopelessness for hopefulness. This is the philosophy and paradigm behind innovative volunteerism, where the skills, experiences, talents, networks, and initiatives of diverse complementary stakeholders (state and nonstate, individual, and institutional) are engaged in mutual partnerships that meet the respective business and organizational interests of these actors but converge towards a common goal: bridging policy and operational gaps to establish sustainable industrialization of the agriculture sector, powered by clean energy.
As Nelson Mandela would say, “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” Never in Africa have these words rung as true as they do presently. The urgency to solve Africa’s and indeed the globe developmental challenges have reached a fever pitch. We now need to yield and align what we do with our life purposes. And it is never too late because this is a life-long undertaking. Let us embrace this mindset. And considering the wisdom of the proverb that opens chapter 8 – that “it is the young trees that make up the forest”, this will mainly be so when this mindset change is inculcated among youth across the continent & the globe. This chapter also moves further to place the responsibility of mindset change on us as individuals. As morally free agents, the bulk of the responsibility for mindset change rests purely upon every one of us as individuals. I admonish us to choose right.
Time and opportunity happen to all of us; what makes the difference is executing a plan of action. True to the proverb, “Rain does not fall on one roof alone.” The thing that distinguishes is how one uses the rain. The ingenuity and potential in an individual only represent opportunity, which is not enough to achieve transformation and, if not harnessed, will remain a missed opportunity. Harnessing it calls for the application of passion, dedication, determination – qualities latent in everyone, but which will be unlocked when we stop working for material and instead start working to fulfil a purpose. This is what Innovative Volunteerism is about, and this is what this book sets out clearly. Let’s apply it together.
Every day, the thunderstorms seem more violent. Flooding is more frequent, and droughts more severe. Around the world, forests are razed. Crops are failing, and people are forced to flee their homes, becoming climate refugees. Sea levels are rising, drowning cities and entire countries. The oceans are turning to acid, and salt is penetrating croplands, causing further severe challenges to food security. As this is happening, Africa has contributed just 3 per cent of global emissions but is the continent that will pay. Indeed, which is already paying the highest price.
Young people and future generations will inherit the worst impacts of the climate crisis and bear the future costs of today’s decisions. As countries implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), there is a unique opportunity to engage and include young people in the process. This is not only in line with the Paris Agreement principle of intergenerational equity but will also bring diverse, innovative perspectives to the table, recognising and valuing youth as key actors in advancing ambitious climate action.
Therefore, we must structurally guide and inspire youth and the young at heart who are the most significant climate action non-state actors constituency to improve, refine, and adapt their enterprise action to deliver climate action solutions – specifically clean energy solutions for affordable agro-value addition.
It is out of this that Innovative Volunteerism came about to be one of the most significant mindset change tool alliances ever to drive Climate Action by inspiring and ushering youth and young at heart across the continent and globe to retool their skills and apply them selflessly to turn their passion to profits in driving climate action as they turn challenges into opportunities.
Through leveraging on Innovative Volunteerism, thousands of youth have been reached engaging them from a bottom-up approach, where actors forge collaborations to drive climate Action solutions directly at the community level to co-create solutions. Innovative Volunteerism is about tapping into people’s passions and helping them turn those passions into profits. That model is working, and we see the impacts and transformation. It’s not a textbook coded matrix or paper sheets projects based on no reality on the ground that informs it. We must never start to build a house from the roof. Most of the time, we have failed to ready people with what they have to get more prepared and seize opportunities.
The most significant resource is people’s skills. To tap into the resilience of minds and heart as the source of wealth for the continent, we cannot use the traditional approaches that have hiver inside us but one that is disruptive. As seconds turn to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, days to months, and months to years, all people of goodwill towards Africa need to ask some tough questions. Each of us needs to assess what Africa has achieved to date and what could be done differently to make a better outcome. For instance, it is documented that an excess of $15 billion has been invested in Africa’s agriculture over the past two decades. Yet, we still grapple with the same challenges we did twenty years ago. Africa still cannot feed itself. Cumulatively, there are a total of fifty-eight major energy initiatives in the continent. Through such initiatives, a total of $30 billion has been invested from multilateral and bilateral sources in just four years (excluding the private sector). Yet over 60 per cent of Africa is not productively energised.
We must face reality as we see it. It may not be hard to imagine why this is so. Do we even have the skills, and are we willing to learn?. My experiences have taught me that empowering people across the continent is the best bet to accelerate socio-economic transformational climate action and ward off vulnerabilities. Empowerment is not just money alone. It’s the ability for each of us to use what we have to start. The answer lies in one critical attribute – choice.
For example, we have guided youth to work with the informal sector and develop clean cooking solutions through waste recovery to fuel briquettes. Indoor pollution kills up to 700,000, mostly women and children across Africa, using unclean cooking of charcoal and smoky biomass.
With structured guidance, youth are converting agricultural waste to fuel briquettes that prove socially, economically, and environmentally more beneficial than traditional charcoal. Household energy savings of up to 50% have been recorded, with briquettes being two times cheaper than traditional charcoal and three times cheaper than kerosene. This is in addition to the benefits of reducing toxic indoor smoking/pollution while preserving forests.
The youth have also been guided to work with traditional informal sector finance structures of cooperatives to deliver more capital-intensive climate solutions of solar dryers. We are seeing many youths developing solar dryers using local materials and delivering them in a pay-as-you-go model, as a drying service helping cut postharvest losses, reducing aflatoxins by over 50% and increasing earnings up to 30times.
Innovative Volunteerism stems from the fact that many always think they cannot do anything without money alone, which is false and has crippled us for many years. With motivation and innovative structured guidance leveraging passion and inspiration for the willing, we are debunking that myth of money first attitude. The structural guidance also ensure traceability of climate action solutions and accountability, which is critical for transformational development both for individual youth and continent
- start with mobilising willing youth and young at heart who have an interest in touching the lives of many by solving challenges in the community;
- identify challenges/gaps in the community, including gaps related to an economic activity that engages most in the community;
- the mobilised youth are clustered according to their areas of interest towards solving these challenges;
- each cluster of mobilised youth trained and equipped with skills in solving the challenges in their chosen area;
- youth work with the community in solving these challenges. By working with the community, I mean that those in the community who need a solution to a given challenge are clustered to work together and co-operate around accessing the solution they need being delivered by the youth.
Innovative Volunteerism is the needed solution for simple, innovative actions that are already making a difference in communities. Let embrace this in 2022 and beyond as we drive transformational climate action to become our way of life.
"Where water is the boss, there the land must obey". This African proverb reminds us of the universal importance of water. When it rains, every life-form on earth – from plants to animals, and on to us as human beings, rejoice. We do so because of one thing – opportunity. Water represents an opportunity for every life form on the planet. In the context of our discussion today, the lifeline of any business or enterprise on the earth is one – the opportunity for market growth. Like water, new market opportunities are a lifeline for any enterprise. A discussion on opportunities for growth that environment and climate action present in Africa is like life-giving water to enterprises.
Africa has experienced a negative 5.1% GDP growth, up to 7.8% contraction in smaller economies, a 5% loss in public revenue, a 17% decline in exports, a 50% increase in food losses, and a loss of up to50% of all jobs due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Compared to previous years, about 93% of firms experienced a sales decline at the enterprise level. Innovative Environmental solutions and climate action stand out as a bastion of these much-needed new opportunities that are impossible to ignore, especially now that Africa is already heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world and this escalation only implies a compounding of socio-economic misery, which is already at a breaking point.
But we know that every $1 invested in ecological restoration creates $30 in economic benefits. Any investment that returns 30times is a high-value catch. But this benefit goes beyond the socio-economic dimension, as science tells us. For example, Investments in Ecosystem-Based Adaptation (EBA) will adapt food systems to climate change with a return of investment of 400%. Healthy pollinators have increased yields by up to 180% in Africa and incomes by $168 per farmer per season. These benefits go beyond theory.
As we speak today, there is a growing market segment of consumers ready to pay up to 3 times the price of conventional foods for certified organic, healthy, and environmentally compliant food. One does not have to be a farmer to tap these opportunities. Whether a trader, a hotelier, a transporter, a banker – all can tap into a "chain reaction" of opportunities that start with ecological food production. As a hotelier, you can charge more for organic diets. A food trader can sell organic produce at a premium. A transporter can charge more for transporting higher valued food products – and the chain goes on. As a banker, you can target entrepreneurs engaged in this area as a target niche market. But this is not the only example. More broadly, integrating sustainability in three socio-economic production and consumption systems that underpin nearly every business – food, infrastructure, and energy – can create business opportunities worth more than 10 trillion dollars globally and create 395 million jobs. For example, prioritising using paving blocks and tiles made out of recycled plastic waste instead of conventional concrete blocks will see you pay up to 30% less for a product that is five to seven times stronger than concrete and much cheaper to transport. This means you can save more and put your money in key revenue centres of your enterprise. Switching to solar power from grid power is good for the environment and your income statement. On average, firms cut up to 30% of their power bills by switching to solar. These are a cross-section of business opportunities from the environment and climate action available to enterprises in Kenya and Africa to drive their business growth. But doing this calls for some fundamental tenets that I will share today as follows:
First, align your investments with national & global climate policy signals. In November 2021, COP26 concluded with a road map to the full ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement, the global compact governing climate action. One of the critical aspects covered is under Article 6, which sets forth market mechanisms to implement this agreement. Article 6.2 provides cross-border collaboration in implementing the agreement through the "Internationally Transferable Mitigation Outcomes (ITMO)" system. It means that corporations anywhere across the globe are now permitted to collaborate with corporations and invest in actions that lower global emissions while creating business opportunities. It is an opportunity for firms to prioritise partnerships that green their operations while creating tangible income opportunities. From energy transition into solar to energy efficiency, all these are areas where capital can be raised through collaborations with corporations from anywhere across the globe.
Second, maximise finance. It is estimated that Kenya has invested up to $2.4billionannually in climate-related activities. This is one-third of Kenya's financing annually to meet its NDC targets. Of this amount, private sector finance represents up to 41%, which is $979 million, with about 34% originating domestically from Kenyan companies. The focus should be on investing these monies in areas that maximise financial returns.
Third, tap the informal sector. The informal sector accounts for up to 80% of informal employment. For example, right here in Kenya, the informal sector accounts for 83.6% of employment. Up to 70% of Kenya's retail shopping is done in informal outlets. Considering that markets are people, the private sector in Kenya will not drive climate action without directly engaging the informal sector. The estates' small kiosks, also called the "kidogo economy", are the primary market for business-to-business trade. Up to 90% of sales in Africa's major economies come through informal channels like markets and kiosks. Therefore, the primary market and private sector success in driving climate action will hinge upon how best they collaborate with these informal sector players to provide climate-proof products and services. This sends a clear message that the opportunities for market growth are in the informal sector. Partnerships and collaborations between the corporate and informal sectors can go a long way to tap both demand & supply markets and grow businesses.
Fourth, youth need to graduate themselves into the private sector. The private sector in Kenya and Africa goes beyond the corporate world. It includes the informal sector that engages up to 80% of our people and young people transitioning to the labour markets, constituting nearly 70% of our population. In Kenya, up to 75% of the population is below 35 years, and the country needs to create no less than 1million jobs each year for these people. These jobs will come from the youth who graduate into the private sector by leveraging the climate lens solutions to the informal sector. The best bet we have is for these youth to engage in non-capital-intensive climate action solutions that meet on-demand areas for the informal sector while aligning to policy. How these youth can be tapped to become drivers of economic competitiveness while implementing climate action needs Skills retooling –improving, refining, and adapting young people skills regardless of their backgrounds to align with tapping economic opportunities in Africa NDCs implementation. We have developed an incubation approach called Innovative Volunteerism. We have leveraged this to guide and inspire willing young people of different backgrounds to turn their passion into profits. The language that attracts youth is the income, enterprise opportunities they can get, and skills retooling equipping them to tap such opportunities through non-capital intensive actions.
For example, Waste recovery to fuel briquettes is an area that is a non-capital-intensive area. The fuel briquettes have found a market niche among charcoal users because they are up to 2times cheaper than charcoal. They are non-smoky to reduce indoor pollution and the accompanying health risks. With this, they prevent deforestation and the attendant land-based emissions. Youth are engaging in producing briquettes to tap the $20billion charcoal market & the 20% market growth rate. With such socio-economic incentives, we can get young people willing to retool their skills to establish a climate action derived enterprise that delivers solutions to serve the informal sector as their market. By this, we can guarantee their livelihoods while simultaneously driving the climate action.
Fifth is targeted soft incentives. Hard policy incentives that we already know will accomplish very little if they fall on uninspired citizens. This is where non-policy incentives which I called soft, comes in. Cultivating the right mindset among the constituency of implementers, mostly the young people and igniting them to turn their passions into profits is our urgency of now. This calls for a new perspective because regardless of the amount of money or policies we have in place, turning NDCs, plans and policies into action will not work if people do not have the passion and self-drive to change their behaviour. Without passion, you throw money at every problem, and you will waste it and end up with no result. A distasteful joke, which reflects part of what we see, is usually said of Africa being a cemetery of good policies.
A good example is NDCs – 98% of countries have ratified their NDCs. But implementation has been slow. Passionate people who find a purpose in driving NDCs will be a significant capital for implementation in Africa. The real winner inspires youth to develop passion as they find their purpose around climate actions to leverage them as investment and entrepreneurship opportunities. Regardless of what we contribute, if it falls on passionless youth, then no transformation will occur.
TRANSFORMATION is not about how we look or where we come from.
In a few days, we will cross to 2022, and I deemed it necessary to highlight how we can leverage our strengths, NOT weaknesses, to drive transformational #ClimateAction solutions starting with what we have.
Listen to my take on how we can change this herewith from https://youtu.be/0FV5svgMedY
Transformation is not about how we look. It's about what we exist for. Are we doing what we live for? The purpose of life is to be useful. We must become useful and turn challenges into opportunities to touch many lives positively. Anything less than this is not transformation. Understanding challenges and devising solutions to solve them is transformational development. We must always push substance over form. That's how we can transform.
The fact that you have a voice to complain means that you have agency. Some people don't just have the opportunity to get information. So if you can complain, know that others don't even have the chance to complain. We must become excellent in whatever we do. We must make it a habit to be excellent. Steer off excuses and blame game.
We need excellence to drive transformational #ClimateAction #ClimatePreneurship
Human capital, embodied in the skills, talents, energy, aptitudes, creativity of the human race, is the most significant component of wealth globally, constituting 62% of the wealth. It is the basis of knowledge economies that have propelled the global north to the pinnacle of global competitiveness. Studies show that a skilled person capable of turning challenges into enterprise opportunities is four times the value of produced or manufactured capital and 15 times that of natural capital. Africa is the youngest continent – with 60% or up to a 720million of its people being young, has a significant comparative advantage in harnessing this sovereign capital. This is a critical consideration for a continent that needs to create no less than a 13million jobs each year for the youth joining the labour market each year. One of the areas where these jobs can come from is the fashion industry.
Social Media Effects
With the advent of social media and the convenience of e-commerce, the popularity of the fashion industry in Africa is growing significantly. Through social media, young people with hundreds and thousands of followers instantly communicate the latest fashion trends drawing attention and influencing their peers’ attitudes and decisions towards fashion. With the convenience of e-commerce, spending decisions are made swiftly. The largest segment of Africa’s e-Commerce is fashion, with a projected market volume of $8.345 billion in 2020. The youth are the most significant source of this market. These trends lay bare the interest of Africa’s youth in fashion. Studies show that fashion – specifically textile and clothing, is the second-largest sector after agriculture in developing regions like Africa. This sector is dominated by informal sector actors and is documented as potentially creating jobs for millions of women and youth across the continent. Cumulatively, the market value of fashion in Africa is estimated at $31billion. With interest and a ready and growing market, the fashion industry stands out as significant for creating income, enterprise and job opportunities for the millions of youth joining the labour market each year.
Conventional Fashion Impacts on the Environment and Climate Change
However, as lucrative as it sounds, the impact of conventional fashion on the environment is extreme. For example, to make one pair of jeans takes close to 8,000 litres of water. This amount is equivalent to what a person drinks over seven years. A cotton shirt requires close to 3,000 litres of water. These jeans and shirts are discarded for newer, trendier items within ten uses. They end up contributing to the 21 billion tons of textiles sent to landfills each year. In addition, up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes. The fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon emissions, contributes 20% of wastewater and consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined.
Ripe Time for Sustainable and Climate Resilient Fashion in Africa
With increasing consciousness of these impacts, there is a more significant push for the industry to adopt sustainable practices. A strategic shift towards sustainability is beckoning. Africa is already contributing to this push, but through circumstances rather than design. And this is through the second-hand clothes market. A staggering 80% of people in Africa wear second-hand clothes. While this market is fuelled by unfortunate circumstances, with those looking for low-cost clothing unable to afford any better than second-hand imports, this contribution to sustainability in fashion qualifies as “re-use” in sustainability parlance. But the continent can do much better.
The first is through competitively marketing Africa’s traditional sustainable fashion practices. From bark cloth making in Uganda to woven textiles of Nigeria and Ghana, traditional Berber weaving in North Africa, and beadwork from Maasai and Ndebele artisans in Kenya & Tanzania and Zimbabwe & South Africa, respectively, sustainable fashion has been a part of the continent’s cultural heritage. These practices need to be prioritised in a new push to bring sustainable fashion to the mainstream of fashion on the continent. Yet another opportunity comes from recycling & re-using other inorganic waste generated in the continent. For example, even as the push to ban plastics is looked at from the dimension of reducing waste, another alternative can be in the form of re-using the 180million tonnes of waste plastic bags & bottles to manufacture synthetic apparel, shoes, bags etc.
To get us started in this dimension, prioritisation should be on retooling youth skills who are already engaging on a small scale in turning waste plastic into fashionable, trendy items. Leveraging on the Ecosystem-based Adaptation for Food Security (www.EBAFOSA.org) #InnovativeVolunteerism tool, youth engaged in this sector will be targeted to refine, retool, and adapt their skills venture into this climate action is driven fashion enterprises. In addition, these already existing and soon to be youth climate action driven fashion enterprises should be targeted from a policy level with several incentives – be it tax breaks to enable expansion of their enterprises, affordable & low-risk financing through incentivising cooperatives, increased awareness-raising on opportunities surrounding sustainable fashion and aggressive enterprise incubation opportunities for youth – who should be structurally guided to launch such innovative climate action enterprises. By this, Africa will leverage the first-mover market advantages into local, sustainable fashion. With minimal to zero raw material costs, fashion items made from recycled plastic waste, e.g. apparel, are likely to be much more affordable to graduate the continent from dependency on second-hand clothing and other apparel.
Fashioning with Waste as a Resource - a Faster Driver of Youth Climate Action
If our youth retool their skills and drive this paradigm shift, the resultant benefits of cleaner air, climate resilience, and a healthier environment are unmissable. By upcycling and recycling plastics for apparel, the need to manufacture new clothing using the heavy energy needs approaches will be reduced, and the attendant emissions will offset. In addition, the recycled and upcycled plastic waste is intercepted from ending up in dumpsites and acrid bonfires where it is disposed of through burning. A process that adds to outdoor air pollution has caused 60% more deaths in Africa in the last two decades.
Key practical steps to drive Innovative Climate Action Enterprise Opportunity for Youth in Africa
Product development is crucial, and this should target the youth / young adult market as the more adventurous segment of the population that will be the lead consumers of the apparel. Hence the products developed should be popular among this niche – be it dresses, handbags, shoes, etc. Leveraging social media and e-commerce platforms as affordable and ubiquitous in nature capable of reaching the target niche market – the youth is a game-changer. Hence actors need to enhance social media activity. Price is critical, and the clothes and other fashion items should be priced matching the second-hand clothing and apparel market, which currently clothes up to 80% of people on the continent. Knowledge is power, and for this lesson, sharing becomes crucial. Being a creative area, young Africans venturing should be ready and willing to learn from peers across the continent and globally to improve continuously. The internet is flush with examples. Social media is also a convenient tool to leverage in forging networking opportunities. The talk of no money, no action should be a thing of the past. Innovative financing is there and what is needed is that financing should be seen through the lens of cooperatives. Leveraging communal cooperatives to raise low risk, affordable capital to invest in the expansion of these ideas should be done by the youth and others. Competition is evident, and the primary competitor should be the online clothing scene and the second-hand clothes market. The market pitch should offer an exotic, locally available and more affordable alternative. This will be timely in tapping the youth who place a premium on exotic fashion. Your biggest asset is what you can offer, and with these youth skills, retooling becomes instrumental. Retooling willing youth skills who are already engaging in small scale fashion actions as early adopters so they can adapt and refine their ongoing work to tap into sustainable fashion – and especially plastic waste recovery to apparel is what should happen. Innovative Volunteerism tool offers this structured guidance for the willing youth. Diversification is the most significant security of a system. With this in mind, fast-mover youth who diversify to this area and establish innovative climate action enterprises should be selfless to train their peers in complementary areas to strengthen the support structure of their sustainable fashion enterprises and value chain. For example, they can train peers in selecting & sorting the waste plastic used as raw material.
Ms. Adejoke Lasisi is leading by example how waste can be turned into wealth opportunities for youth. @AdejokeLasisi graduated with a degree in Economics, but instead of roaming for jobs and complaining and blaming, she studied how to turn #WasteToWealth. This is the hallmark of #InnovativeVolunteerism
The fashion industry, being the second largest sector in Africa after agriculture, offers timely opportunities to diversify innovative climate action enterprises for youth in Africa. The socioeconomic opportunities lens provides the best context setting for climate and sustainability efforts in Africa. Through this sector, willing youth can establish innovative climate action enterprises that will enhance their liquidity and ability to invest in other equally promising climate action enterprise areas like clean energy powered agro-value addition, which remains the most catalytic in the continent. Fashioning with waste as a resource is a sure hidden gold mine that needs to be explored starting now. Innovative volunteerism is the tool to be leveraged to engage willing youth for such wealth-creating space that is underexploited in the continent
Dr Richard Munang is a Climate Action and Development Policy Expert, Renowned Inspirational Public Speaker, Award-Winning Innovator, Author of #InnovativeVolunteerism
As we close the year 2021, I have been thinking of the most important aspect to talk about. It was a hard nut to crack, but I settled on one word “ATTITUDE”. We need an urgent imperative, which I call a change in attitude perspective—an attitude perspective on seeing things. We need to cultivate the “I can do it attitude”—seeing opportunities in challenges even when everyone doesn’t. If we miss this new perspective, the many complaints in 2021 will follow us to 2022. We can’t afford to allow this to happen. Listen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1PSC5iDPjM
Shifted ground- the need for urgent change in our Attitudes
While the urgency for remedial steps is unquestionable, the most important is the nature of the steps. Like a dancer responds to changing music, we urgently need to realize that the ground has long shifted. For example, some years back, graduating from college and university in Africa was a guaranteed ticket to a ready job. You stepped out of college into a ready entry-level position. Your future was set. But over time, this right to work turned into a privilege for a few, then to very few, and now to a select few, if any. Unemployment among Africa’s youth is now unbearable. Only one in six, a minority of about 16%, are in stable wage employment. While over 13 million youth enter the job markets each year, only 3 million get jobs. Leaving vast numbers – up to 10million unemployed. In a decade from now, Africa will have the most significant number of youths joining the labour market than the entire globe combined. If we say getting a job nowadays is hard, then with the current trends, in ten short years, it will be nightmarish. The thinking that it is up to the government to create these jobs needs to be replaced by the understanding that it is our individual responsibility to create these jobs.
Another example draws from Africa’s astronomical costs to implement the SDGs and climate action. It is estimated that the total direct financing needed to implement the SDGs and climate-proof Africa’s economies is equivalent to the continent’s entire GDP. When divided among all the countries in Africa, this cost translates to about $60 billion per country. Notwithstanding these exorbitant costs, Africa cannot rely on traditional public assistance alone – popularly referred to as official development assistance (ODA). ODA to the entire continent peaked at about $40billion – which is $20billion less than one country needs. Hence, the thinking that Africa’s development can be reduced to budgets and public financing is also no longer tenable.
The “how”: responding to shifted grounds - a personal responsibility of every citizen and resident
Despite grim economic statistics, a global study found that African entrepreneurs stand out as the most optimistic about their ideas with the lowest fear of failure in the world. While this display of faith is applaudable, we must be reminded that faith alone without positive, provable actions is meaningless. The biblical verse on “faith without actions is dead” says it all. While competitive enterprises converting Africa’s challenges into opportunities stand out as the most promising strategy to respond to shifting grounds, the most fundamental question to ask is what such enterprises should be founded on. These cannot be run-of-the-mill enterprises driven by profit maximization alone. Instead, they must be based on work attitudes geared towards problem-solving. We start appreciating the best people have to offer and giving our best in return, where we begin co-creating competitive solutions to the challenges we face. We must begin to understand society’s needs and work with them to address them. And above all, we must become selfless enough to focus on the quest for solutions, not only money. These realities become even more profound; in the context of the current political economy dispensation, we live in today. Therefore, we must check our attitudes against the realities we face and evaluate our characters and ask the question of what one is helpful for. This is because if you succeed alone, you have failed. Success is measured in terms of the number of lives one touches with every deed and act. Without this, we might mark time and think we are progressing while failing. Comfortability without handwork is a failed strategy and sometimes deceive many to wait for things to be done. Institutions are not building. Institutions are people, and if we cannot inspire the right work attitude, we might never get the best out of the things we do regardless of the institution. Hard work is genius, but passion and dedication are even better. We must fight against the logic that says sitting, waiting and complaining is a strategy as millions sleep hungry. Therefore, we must think out of the box and leverage a new approach to drive actions that touches lives. This called for what I call an Unborrowed Vision -where impactful actions that touch many lives and lift millions out of poverty and build a better planet are a core objective.
How to craft an Impactful Unborrowed Vision
First; A different kind of Work Attitude: Working hard is not necessarily about work attitude. Seizing opportunities and strategizing amid adversity while thinking beyond individual benefit constitute the kind of work attitude we need today. We cannot afford me, myself, and I syndrome in the current political economy. This has caused many to seize opportunities only when they benefit them and neglect those who directly help them. As a result, an entire populace is left at the mercy of deprivation. This means we must think beyond self and embrace kindness and nurture selflessness. To drive an unborrowed vision, our temperaments and individual actions must be sacrificial towards the collective benefit of all. Therefore, we must move away from the “what is in it for me” mindset and start putting in more hours in solutions thinking and doing something to benefit the many. This way, we would have succeeded. Anything less is called FAILURE.
Second, entrenching a narrative that values people, not materialism. Human capital is the most significant component of wealth globally, constituting 62% of the wealth. It is the basis of knowledge economies that have propelled the global north to the pinnacle of global competitiveness. Studies show that a skilled person capable of turning challenges into enterprise opportunities is four times the value of produced or manufactured capital and 15 times that of natural capital. This means that the quality of the people drives development and global competitiveness, not the natural resources or built infrastructure. Africa is the youngest continent – with 60% or up to a 720million of its people being young, is favoured by providence to be on track as the node for next-generation knowledge economies. The focus must be on harnessing the energy, creativity, talents, skills of these youth – not looking to discover the next mine. Let the inventions and innovations of our youth turn challenge into opportunities be the source of headlines, not materialism. Many innovative actors possesses various technology skills such as digital marketing, social media and many more skills.
Third, entrepreneurship cannot be for “profit” alone. “Do not allow the belly to make you useless”. In context, this African proverb reminds us that while the traditional goal of entrepreneurship is “profiteering”, a lot more is called upon an entrepreneur in Africa at these times. In a region that risks not realizing the SDGs, our entrepreneurs cannot be driven by money-minting alone. They must primarily be driven by the solutions they develop in solving the pressing challenges facing the continent. And doing this calls for an “unborrowed vision”. Enterprise Ideas and visions need to be premised on devising intrinsic solutions equal to profit. A very recent example from the climate lens can illustrate this.
Fourth, skills retooling. “If a child washes his hands, he could eat with kings”. In context, this African proverb reminds us of the invincibility of adapting our skills to solve pertinent challenges and leverage current opportunities. For this, what we ought to ask is – where do you see the skills you have, fit in the broader agenda of developing Africa? Where do your skills fit in creating competitive enterprises in Africa? Where do your skills fit in solving foundational challenges in this continent – food insecurity, unemployment, declining economic productivity? Here value addition in Africa’s agro-value chains – projected with potential to inject up to $1trillion by 2030, and clean energy offer a potential shortest route to drive competitive economies that solve such foundational challenges. For instance, decentralizing solar dryers to cassava farmers – where Africa is the largest producer – can not only reverse postharvest losses running into billions of dollars – but can ensure value chain actors at the primary level earn up to 30 times more by being able to preserve their harvest and sell during the offseason when demand is highest. But such a trajectory requires that our skills, talents, initiatives – regardless of disciplinary background – be refined, improved and adapted to tap the multi-disciplinary opportunities that arise – not only making money.
Fifth, selflessness is irreplaceable. Going beyond traditional entrepreneurship towards being solutions providers requires going the extra mile. It calls for selflessness, where one realizes that it is not about themselves but urgent solutions for ailing economies and populations. It calls for diligence, humility in listening and learning - a realization that working with others for the success of the many is worth much more than succeeding alone.
Six developing an appreciative attitude. “Ingratitude is sooner or later fatal to its author”. This African proverb may explain part of the reason a mentorship culture has not taken root. While such a blanket allegation is not entirely unfounded, some potential mentors decry the unappreciative attitudes – especially among the millennial youth. It is worth knowing that while being appreciative is hardly taken as a serious consideration, it is the key that may enable one to enjoy the best vested in others. A mentorship culture may simply be waiting for an appreciative culture, especially among the youth.
Listen to my take on why we urgently need a change in our “attitudes” from the current state to a new perspective where we cultivate the needed attitude that can help us win the 2022 challenges we have faced before and now. To drive transformational #ClimateAction solutions, we need a change in perspective, which boils down to “attitude”.
An insightful African proverb reminds us that "what you help a child love can be more important than what you help them learn".
This proverb sends one message – the importance of tapping into the inner fuel, tapping the currency called passion to drive climate actions.
So why passion and not inspiration alone? Way back in the year 2000, the global headlines were that Africa was a failed continent. Just ten years later, around 2010, the narrative changed to Africa as a rising continent – a narrative that was fueled by the temporary boom in global oil and commodity prices. As this boom fizzled, so did the narrative, and now, we hear Africa is a limping continent.
But the point to focus on in the context of passion and inspiration is that many were inspired by the narrative of "Africa rising". We could see Africa featured in media headlines as the fastest-growing region of the globe. But this inspiration did not translate to having the population being fueled to be drivers of this rise. And that is why with deflation of the global commodity prices, the "Africa rising" narrative also fizzled out. Why? Because regardless of how inspiring this narrative was, it did not translate to citizens taking different actions that would make the rise realistic, inclusive, and sustainable to weather economic turbulence in the long run. We were inspired by an external narrative but not passionate enough to act on what is realistic.
This example brings out the difference between passion & inspiration in the context of Africa's transformational growth and transformational climate action – that while inspiration excites the mind and emotions, it is not strong enough to fuel a change in behaviour, a change in actions. The attainment of individualistic objectives primarily drives it. In this case of the "Africa rising" narrative, the inspiration came from self-pride for Africans, as these headlines were a welcome break from the stereotypical negative bad news habitually projected about Africa. However, this inspiration could not fuel change because it did not elevate individuals to living a life of purpose much greater than themselves. To most of the 1.3 billion citizens, this was an accolade that we could not attribute our tangible input to. This is what inspiration does – it excites the mind but without substance.
Passion, however, is a different ballgame. It is the currency for action because it taps into the intrinsic emotion of every human being to live a life of purpose, which results in a strong and extravagant enthusiasm to do that which exceeds an individual many times. And real, unadulterated purposeful living causes a person to do that which touches lives way beyond their immediate cycles. It is what causes individuals to bestow upon themselves the responsibility of doing that which touches many lives even when they do not see a direct personal benefit.
Difference between passion and inspiration
The distinction comes down to a set of critical values present in a passionate person and lacking in someone who is only inspired. While a passionate human being is an inspired human being, an inspired human being is not necessarily a passionate human being.
With passion comes humility because the focus is not on self but on the positive difference being made in others. Inspiration, on the other hand, is driven by self-importance and accomplishing for self, which leaves very little room for humility.
Passion attaches more to emotion as well as mental state. But inspiration remains largely a mental state. And because of this attachment to emotions and thoughts, a passionate person loses their self-centeredness to a bigger vision that far exceeds them.
Passion is fulfilling as one acts on a life purpose. Inspiration is not because external factors drive it. Most time, people are inspired to attain what they have seen, not that which has arisen from within then.
Passion must be searched to be found. It entails a purposeful search to drive an objective that far exceeds an individual. To be inspired, on the other hand, there is no purposeful searching that one needs to undertake. Anything can inspire someone based on what one wants. So, for passion, one must search to find it. And passion is found in things that are beyond self. Inspiration is found in anything one encounters that elevate their self and borders close to greed.
Passion unlocks what I called "stubborn opportunism" – where one leverages every opportunity in their reach to take actions that drive their purpose, and they are unquenchable in this pursuit.
A place highly needed in passion
One of Africa's monumental challenges that urgently needs a dose of passion in every citizen is youth unemployment. From country to country, it is hard to come across any country in Africa that does not have a job creation plan, strategy, policy, initiative etc., or even a series of them. But the big question is, why isn't this problem being solved? Or, at the very least, why don't we see a trajectory towards betterment? As a matter of fact, the numbers of unemployed increase every year, with each subsequent year seeing more job seekers scrambling for fewer jobs. Why is this so?
The reality is that a focus on job creation is akin to focusing on treating symptoms of a disease without first diagnosing the disease itself. And this does not work. Treating symptoms cannot lead to full healing, as the symptoms keep recurring.
When looking at the landscape of Africa's job creation possibilities, there are two main options. The first is the immediate jobs approach, primarily driven through political sloganeering and quenching political thirsts. This approach introduces a divide and a debate, with one side "demanding for jobs" as a right and the other side responding in kind by making unrealistic promises to deliver jobs. The second option is one where jobs are a consequence, an offshoot of a self-sustaining process. And that process is called wealth creation. This is an effective way to go about it.
And how do we create wealth? By demonstrating value in turning challenges into opportunities leveraging our strengths, not weaknesses. And what are these strengths?
First is the people themselves. They are endowed with talents that can be refined into skills in diverse areas that can then be deployed to turn our climate change challenges into climate opportunities.
The second is policy processes. These need to be moved from board rooms to be more focused on incentivizing climate actions that have proven to work by the actors on the ground – who are informal sector and youth players across Africa.
The third is what we call catalytic sectors. These are the most accessible, inclusive sectors that a majority in the continent can engage in. Africa holds a global comparative advantage in resources and drives both climate and socioeconomic benefits. For example, Africa registers up to $48billion each year as postharvest losses (PHLs) and imports up to $35billion to cover losses. This is $83billion that can be recouped annually by decentralizing simple climate action clean energy solutions like solar dryers to power value addition to converting the hitherto PHLs into more finished consumer goods.
If job creation efforts can be coalesced around investing into these areas – be it through youth skills retooling and training to ensure they are focused on solving the PHLs & food imports challenge. By devising different solutions, be it in clean energy, ICT, logistics etc., incentivizing finance, primarily through accessible, low-risk structures like cooperatives to encourage more informal sector investment in this area, among other incentivizing actions. Africa will see the creation of self-sustaining climate action enterprises because they are driven to solve pertinent challenges in the community competitively. And this will be how losses will be converted to wealth and sustainable jobs.
Purpose – passion – unborrowed vision: this is the triple play that Africa needs to drive transformational climate action and development. Anything less is short-lived at best and only compounds the already dire scenario on the continent.