How Africa got its green mojo
The largest continent-focused climate gathering will dominate the centre of Nairobi all of next week. The outcome is not a foregone conclusion.
1.🚁 Heli view: It’s showtime in Nairobi
New York theatre has Broadway shows (the main events), off-Broadway shows (smaller productions), and then off-off Broadway... meaning even less formal fare.
The Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi functions much the same way. Main events are attended by 20 or so heads of state. Expect the big announcements there.
Side events such as panels and working groups happen at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre alongside the main events.
And then there are the side-side events. Climate investors, innovators and operators will gather at various private and public sites across the city to network and add depth to their interaction.
List of side-side events: We have compiled a guide to who holds court elsewhere in Nairobi during the biggest ever get-together of African climate professionals. Click here for the full listing »
Side events: Delegates who stay at the convention centre rather than exploring the bustle outside it will have almost 100 side events to choose from.
Most are organised by members of the ecosystem and include speeches, panels and performances
An analysis of the schedule shows about half (49) are African-organised, around a quarter originate in Europe (24), while America follows with 16 and Asia has 4 (see chart)
The sessions break down as follows: Adjustment and resilience to climate risk (24 side events), renewable energy (20), sustainable agriculture (16), infrastructure (14) climate finance (12), nature (4) and green minerals (1).
Expectations: What motivates the delegates? What lures them to events? In short, to meet peers.
Detailed data: The Nairobi Climate Network (NCN) consulted 300 climate leaders and conducted 25 in-depth interviews across diverse sectors in 50 African countries ahead of the summit.
Enthusiasm for climate solutions ranged from renewable energy (36%) and carbon markets (24%) to sustainable agriculture (22%) and nature-based solutions (19%).
But when asked about outcomes, 57% sought networking opportunities at the Africa Climate Summit, 32% aimed to enhance their climate understanding, and only 12% anticipated concrete commitments or funding outcomes.
Asked about their most pressing challenges, 59% said they struggle with funding, followed by concerns about the policy environment (23%) and the need for consumer education (19%).
To overcome these hurdles, leaders seek tax incentives (36%) and transparent policies (33%) while advocating for predictable implementation and cross-sector collaboration.
Bottom line: This community of climate leaders is vibrant but far from satisfied with the current state of affairs.
2. Carbon finance reorders cookstoves
Source: Clean Cooking Alliance. The data relies on self-reporting by companies
Burn Manufacturing, a portable, natural-draft cookstove maker based in Kenya, has been dropping prices by up to 95%, including on its flagship products.
The retail price of a wood cookstove has gone from $40 to just $2 for targeted customers in rural areas.
The price cuts started small three years ago and have expanded.
Why it matters: The most effective climate solutions often operate far from citizens and instead play out in government, industry and finance.
But that’s not the case with clean and improved cookstoves.
The everyday choices of hundreds of millions of people could have a big climate impact – if they choose cleaner cookstoves.
Price and availability are key to this in Africa.
The impact: Lower prices are expected to shift market dynamics across the continent.
The (often rural) user base will grow significantly.
Destructive health and environmental effects decrease thanks to higher thermal efficiency (using 70% less wood and creating 81% fewer emissions than an open fire).
Quantifiable gender impact: Saving 1h per day of cooking and even more in wood collection time.
The driver: Price cutting is made possible by carbon financing. Burn and other manufacturers subsidise cookers with carbon funding, effecting an exponential growth in production.
Last year, Burn sold as many stoves as in the previous eight years (1.4 million).
The company says it is on track to sell 4.2 million stoves in 2023.
Burn will later this year open a production line in Nigeria, its first in West Africa.
The background: Burn started in Kenya in 2013 and is now exporting to 30 countries, mainly sub-Saharan Africa and a growing market in Asia.
Molly Brown, head of carbon strategy at Burn, says, “In Africa, 950 million people still cook on an open fire. Carbon finance has so far proved to be the only viable mechanism to unlock the funding needed for this scale.”
Behind the scenes: Cookstove makers have become significant players in the carbon markets.
Credits are released on average 18 months after the sale of a stove and last for the lifespan of a stove (7 years on average for Burn).
As has been the pricing. Tom Fannon, head of carbon finance at Burn, said, “The whole industry needs to advocate together for an increase in the prices of carbon credit in order to achieve more.”
3. Seeds of change: From banking to building Africa’s food resilience
PROFILE: Victoria Sabula is the CEO of the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund and was raised to lead. She talks to Green Rising about leaving the corporate banking sector in pursuit of a greater purpose
The eldest of nine children, Victoria Sabula was just 18 when her father died at 48 after a long illness. Her youngest sister was five. Her mother, a primary-school teacher, became the head of the family, but Sabula quickly adjusted to being her lieutenant. “She worked so hard to see us through school. But she also made sure we all had our chores,” she says. ‘And we all took care of each other, but especially the older siblings.”
Taking care of them, indeed taking care of her wider family and of her community, that was the way her mother taught her to think. “My mum was a teacher,” Sabula says. “That really helped make me who I am today.”
A trained lawyer with an MBA, the 43-year-old chief executive of the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) could have spent her whole career in the lucrative banking sector.
4. Media monitoring
Achilles Heel: The IMF says unequivocally that “Africa's Fragile States Are Greatest Climate Change Casualties”. The International Rescue Committee is also urging a greater focus on conflict-hit communities in climate debates. More than 200 million people, a third of those living in extreme poverty, inhabit “15 countries at the nexus of climate vulnerability and conflict, 11 of which are in Africa.”
Hiring news: The climate-tech venture fund Satgana appointed Anil Maguru, as partner. It said, “We are aiming to open two other funds within the next couple of years; one will focus on Europe and the other on Africa, in order to carry on the strategy of investing across the two continents.”
Long shot: Can Africa’s oil industry be “greened”? One can try. An attempt in Uganda.
Strong words: Controversy around the carbon markets continues to germinate. The Oakland Institute has now thundered, “Africa Climate Summit 2023 Set to Surrender the Continent to Green Colonialism”.
Golden opportunity: The Brookings Institution’s John Mulligan looks at how the gold industry can help confront the challenges and opportunities of climate change in Africa. “While global gold mine production has grown by 26 percent since 2010, in Africa it has risen by nearly 60 percent, and in at least 10 African countries it has more than doubled.”
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