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Climate change in Africa will above all be a medical crisis

Embracing the insight that healthcare and climate change are one and the same problem is a big step towards tackling both

Hello – Sometimes the obvious is still not obvious enough for stakeholders to take action. The connection between healthcare and climate change is such an issue. As we report this week, the link between the two is clear to see. But climate startups and med-tech ventures often labour in mutual isolation. New ideas are stuck on one or other side of a fence. That seems like a relatively easy problem to solve and would have significant impact. 

Today’s reading time: 4 mins

LOGISTICS UPDATE | Thursday 14 March

📚  Report: Women are underrepresented in clean energy

🔍  Job: ICF is looking for a Deputy Chief of Party in Nairobi

📖 Workshop: US-Africa Sustainable Financing in Abidjan (Mar 19-20)


⚡  Mini-grid: New report from CrossBoundary Innovation Lab

💰  Other job: World Resources Institute seeks a Finance Manager 

🌍  Apply: Halcyon Africa Climate Fellowship (deadline Mar 22)

1.🚁 Heli view: The missing link in Africa’s green economy

At least 15,700 Africans died last year in extreme weather disasters and a further 34 million were directly affected. That is only the beginning. 

  • Droughts, floods and storms will unleash disease and exacerbate medical gaps.

  • Climate change is expected to cost African healthcare an extra $2 trillion by 2050. 

  • Of the 60 countries identified by the World Bank as most vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change, 38 are in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Missing bridge: The biggest hurdle to tackling the health crisis stemming from climate change is a disconnect between the medical sector and the green economy. 

  • Both are growing fast, solving problems, but neither sees the other as a partner.

  • There are exceptions, but they only prove the point that much is missing. 

The numbers: Investment in climate-tech in the first half of 2023 was $530 million while medtech raised $390 million. Yet the overlap was minimal. 

  • Out of 313 African projects that received climate funding between 2009 and 2019, only two targeted the health sector. 

  • Even though sub-Saharan Africa will shoulder 80% of the global healthcare adaptation costs, very few medical startups directly address climate impact. 

Medical myopia: Innovation is driving the African health sector - from telemedicine to new supply chains and software solutions. But are the innovators interested in climate change? 

  • HealthTracka in Nigeria decentralises healthcare with at-home lab tests, virtual consultations and medication delivery. But no mention of climate-relevance. 

  • Tibu in Kenya connects patients digitally to primary care, wellness and disease management. No indication of this relating to climate change.

  • Bypa-ss in Egypt digitises patients’ medical records, including prescriptions and test results. Apparently, zero climate link. 

The exceptions: A few new healthcare companies do get the link to climate.

  • Zuri Health, a telehealth startup, incorporates climate-conscious initiatives.

  • 8Medical in Nigeria markets emergency services for climate-related heatstroke.

  • Medikea, another telehealth startup, received funding from Catalyst Fund on the basis that healthcare will face increased demand due to climate change.

Climate startups: Myopia is not limited to the health sector. Many climate innovators and investors focus more on carbon than humans, though there are exceptions. 

  • The Global Grand Challenges network in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation will spend $12 million to support innovators at the intersection of climate and health. 

  • A company such as Map&Rank, which collects weather data to forecast climate risks, could easily be plugged into healthcare planning.

Thriving merger: The clean cooking industry is an example of a sector that has successfully incorporated both health and climate benefits as key indicators of its impact. 

  • Stove makers trumpet reductions in indoor air pollution that would otherwise lead to respiratory diseases as well as reductions in global emissions. 

  • The Clean Cooking Alliance, an industry association, speaks of combating “environmental health risks”. 

Growing awareness: Insiders are taking note. Emilian Popa, founder of Ilara Health, which serves primary carers, says, “Climate is very wide and health is a bit more specific, so investment from climate into health is more likely than the reverse.”

2. Cheat sheet: Three major ways that climate impacts health

Accelerating changes in the natural world, including droughts, storms and floods, can have the following medical impacts on humans: 

  • Disease is the largest factor: Cases of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are likely to increase because of warmer and wetter conditions. This month, a cholera outbreak in Zambia was linked to climate change. Growing air pollution also increases the risks of respiratory infections. In 2019, air pollution contributed to the death of 1.1 million people across the continent. 

  • Additional medical impacts: Heat stress, malnutrition, blunt trauma and mental health issues can result directly from climate change. More than 29 million people are affected by a current drought in the Horn of Africa, resulting in major losses of livestock and water, creating malnutrition and stunting. 

  • Indirect impact: Floods and other increasingly frequent natural disasters impair access to healthcare by destroying vital infrastructure including transport. In the Libyan coastal city of Derna, two dams overflowed during Storm Daniel in September 2023, killing 11,300 people and washing hospitals into the sea. 

… is the amount pledged by the Green Climate Fund for action in Somalia from next year. Like many conflict countries, Somalia’s climate action falls well below its needs. In 2021, the government judged its own climate finance needs to be around $5.5 billion per year. According to estimates, climate finance in Somalia in 2019-2020 amounted to $321 million.

4. Network corner

French VC firm Ring Capital launched a €50m impact fund for francophone West Africa, targeting early-stage startups, especially ones tackling climate change challenges.

5. Q&A: Climate leader with answers

Tony Tiyou is the CEO of Renewables in Africa, which advises on the clean energy sector

Q. How can African entrepreneurs fund their green ventures? A. They need to shift focus away from traditional mechanisms. They need to start funding their projects through green bonds, carbon credits and International Renewable Energy Certificates. 

Q. What can African governments do to help? A. Renewable energy investments greatly depend on regulations. African governments need to make long-term policies in their countries. That may include allowing power purchase agreements, promoting skill development, and better tax treatment for importing equipment used in green energy production.

Q. What role do you see for carbon capture in Africa’s green transition? A. South Africa has started piloting this technology but it’s complicated. It can help mitigate climate change, but many projects are not realistic. A lot of CO2 emissions come from transport and heating instead.

Q. What advice would you give an aspiring African entrepreneur? A. They should consider their skills and competency. Establish clear goals and analyse the monetary aspects. Some may decide to indulge themselves in charity activities, while the rest pursue profitable ventures. 

6. Media monitoring

  • Partnership: Atlantic Power and Smart Trade Africa will be planting 1.5 billion trees in Africa.

  • Nigeria: The government launched an initiative to unlock $2 billion in potential carbon investments.

  • Kenya: A WWF report shows gaps in green financial regulation across the banking sector.

  • Forest: Loggers have ‘grabbed’ around 1m hectares of indigenous land in DR Congo.

  • Carbon: A Nigerian federal state invites a British investor to generate millions of voluntary carbon credits.

Don’t have time to read 100+ media sources every day? We’ve done the reading for you. Check out our full media monitoring here 

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Thanks to the Green Rising team for putting this together.

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