From Inspiration to Impact: Harnessing Africa's innovation for climate action

Meanwhile, We Care Solar provides portable solar energy solutions specifically for medical environments. The 2019 Zayed Sustainability Prize winner's 'Solar Suitcase' is a robust, easy-to-use solar electric system that provides last-mile health facilities with highly efficient medical lighting and power for mobile communication and small medical devices.

It is specifically designed to assist midwives and medical professionals in foetal monitoring while acting as a communication device.

After winning the prize in 2019, the initiative reached more than 4,000 healthcare facilities across the world, serving more than 3.9 million mothers and babies. Uganda has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world - at 343 per 100,000 live births. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa including Uganda, fewer than one-third of health facilities have reliable access to electricity.

Installing just ten solar suitcases in the village of Ntinda, near Kampala, in 2019, now means some 12,000 mothers and new-born babies have access to better healthcare.

Growing sustainable solutions

Agriculture is also being transformed through innovative climate-smart practices. Smallholder farmers are employing sustainable farming techniques that conserve water, reduce soil degradation, and enhance crop resilience to changing climate patterns. By integrating technology with traditional knowledge, farmers are embracing adaptive practices that help secure their livelihoods and contribute to carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.

The Okuafo Foundation, the 2020 Zayed Sustainability Prize winner in the Food category, helps farmers in Ghana improve crop production, thanks to an innovative drone mapping program which gives farmers access to real-time information about their land, allowing them to better understand and react to pests, reducing the need for chemical pesticides, and paving the way for more sustainable farming actions such as handpicking. Its smartphone application uses artificial intelligence to predict and detect crop diseases and infestations, leading to farmers reducing expenditure on crop pesticides and increasing crop productivity by up to 50 per cent.

Prioritising environmental stewardship

Beyond renewable energy and agriculture, African entrepreneurs are championing nature-based solutions to combat climate change. The continent's rich biodiversity and unique ecosystems offer a wealth of inspiration for innovative approaches. Initiatives such as reforestation projects, sustainable ecotourism, and the restoration of degraded lands are all contributing to climate resilience while promoting economic growth and job creation. By recognising the value of natural resources and ecosystem services, communities are adopting more sustainable livelihoods that prioritise environmental stewardship.

The Prize also supports school projects, with funding for student-led climate innovation. For example, one of the 2022 Zayed Sustainability Prize winners in the Global Schools category, Sayidina Abubakar secondary school in Uganda, is working on a UNICEF-driven project to improve girls' health and boost school attendance. The project plans to harvest raw plant materials from local farms to produce sanitary products for use in schools, which will benefit up to half a million girls of school age.

The remarkable progress in Africa's climate innovation landscape can be attributed to a variety of factors. Local entrepreneurs are drawing inspiration from their surroundings, blending traditional wisdom with cutting-edge technology to create context-specific solutions. Supportive policies and international collaborations - such as the UAE's long-term support through initiatives such as the Zayed Sustainability Prize - have also played a crucial role in fostering an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Africa's youth, with passion, creativity, and determination, are driving this movement forward, recognising the urgency of climate action and seizing opportunities to make a positive impact.

As Africa continues to lead the charge in harnessing innovation for climate action, it is essential to ensure these solutions reach the most vulnerable populations. Inclusivity and equity must be at the forefront of the sustainable development agenda, empowering marginalised communities to actively participate in and benefit from climate solutions. Collaboration between governments, the private sector entities, civil society organisations and international partners is critical to scaling up these innovative initiatives and driving meaningful change across the continent.

From renewable energy to sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions, Africa's innovation for climate action is an inspiration to the world. It demonstrates the power of local knowledge, entrepreneurship, and technological advancements in addressing environmental challenges while improving lives and protecting the planet. By embracing and supporting these innovative solutions, we can all contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future, one where Africa's ingenuity serves as a beacon of hope in the global fight against climate change.