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Green Enterprises are the future to a climate-resilient Africa
With only one day remaining of the UN Climate summit COP24 in Poland, countries are still negotiating how the Paris Agreement should be implemented, and developing a detailed rulebook that will limit the rise in the global temperature to below 2 degrees, and thus avoid catastrophe.
The African Development Bank has hosted a number of events during this UN climate conference as a way to highlight the initiatives that work on climate change in Africa. Many of the Bank’s initiatives show the importance of more collaboration and linkages between the private sector and communities in respect of climate change adaptation and mitigation projects. It has also highlighted the importance of youth involvement in these initiatives.
In an event hosted on 13 December, a selection of young entrepreneurs and environmental activists were invited from several different countries, including Sudan, the Seychelles and Canada. They were joined by a government representative from the Cote d’Ivoire and a business expert from Morocco to discuss the opportunities and challenges of climate resilient entrepreneurship in tackling climate change.
Africa has the most positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship compared to the rest of the world. 7 out 10 young workers in Africa are self-employed. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are of great importance to the growing challenge of climate change, and are also a powerful way of addressing underemployment and unemployment. But as policies and programmes continue to emphasise entrepreneurship to encourage Africa’s youth to become job creators instead of job seekers, it is also important that SMEs can contribute to reducing climate change impacts, since SMEs constitute 95% of Africa’s private sector, the main energy user and greenhouse gas producer.
In order for young people to succeed at running their own enterprises, they need to be provided with an enabling environment. “We have noticed that the mistakes of the past were mainly about inadequate training. You can always have a good idea but you need training to turn that idea into reality.” noted Said Chakri, a supervisor and trainer at the Proponents Project in Morocco.
Government can play a major role in creating an enabling environment for green entrepreneurship by having a national strategy that focuses mainly on supporting the sector. Marcel Fodjo from the Government of Cote d’Ivoire said: “We certainly need a national policy. If you are a job seeker, and you can't find a job, create one for yourself, as there are many projects that you can be created, especially in the green entrepreneurship space. We have investments that work on encouraging and helping green entrepreneurs, so although we do work on this at the national level, we of course need a national policy.”
The high level of innovation and creativity among young people in Africa needs to be utilised more in order for countries to be able to deal with current and future climate change impacts. Yannick Memee, a young entrepreneur from the Seychelles who is a leading blue economy entrepreneur enabler in his home country, said that young people in Africa and other regions need to learn from each others’ experiences and be open to new ideas: “As young people we are afraid of failure and we need to learn how to accept and ensure that we have passion. You do not go into business because of money. Money is good but it is not everything and if it is your only motivation you will quit after the first setback you have.”
One of the key challenges for youth-led initiatives is the availability of adequate training, access to markets, mentoring, and access to innovative financing schemes. The African Development Bank, through its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy and Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-Donor Trust Fund aims to equip 50 million young men and women of working age with the skills they need to help them join the formal sector and create their own businesses. By supporting young African entrepreneurs with the means to innovate and create millions of high-quality jobs and promote inclusive economic growth continent-wide, the Bank hopes to drive forward the next generation of climate-resilient enterprises.