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Harnessing youth entrepreneurship power to tackle climate change issues

Opinion

Nairobi recently hosted the 59th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), just weeks after the global agency completed its Sixth Assessment Report.

Part of the findings of the report includes the concern that the pace and scale of climate action are insufficient to tackle climate change and that multiple, feasible and effective options are available to help economies cut greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the report, enabling conditions to help adapt to climate change include finance, technology, capacity building and international cooperation.      

A World Bank Climate Change Status Report for Kenya indicates that temperatures in the country are projected to continue rising by 1.7°C by the 2050s and by about 3.5°C by the end of the century.

The report also cautions that extreme rainfall events are expected to increase in frequency, duration and intensity, with the proportion of heavy rainfall occurring in heavy events set to increase.

Worryingly, rainfall in the arid zones is generally projected to decrease and the period between heavy rainfall country-wide could increase.

These projections notwithstanding, Kenya has already lived through the adverse effects of climate change and taxpayers have paid the attendant costs directly and indirectly.

According to the World Bank, the drought that hit the country between 1998 to 2000 cost an estimated $2.8 billion (394 billion), mostly attributed to losses of crops, livestock and fisheries sectors, forest fires, reduced hydropower generation, reduced industrial production and reduced water supplies.

One of the tools at our disposal is to tap into the potential of our young entrepreneurs as part of the fight against the threat of a warming planet.

In the first place, young people have a bigger stake in ensuring the threat of global warming is kept at its barest minimum. This imbues them with a passion for climate change action and fresh perspectives often aided by the technological know-how that can lead to transformative solutions.

Driving sustainability

Young people‘s participation in entrepreneurial ventures addressing climate change is particularly vital for fostering innovation, driving sustainability, and shaping a more resilient and environmentally conscious future.

Encouraging this entrepreneurial activity among the youth has been cited as a defining strategy in integrating them into the workforce and channelling their potential to contribute meaningfully to sustainable economic development.

Young entrepreneurs possess a unique ability to think outside the box and challenge conventional wisdom. Their innovative ideas and approaches can revolutionise the way we address climate change.

According to a report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, youth-led startups are more likely to introduce disruptive technologies and business models compared to their older counterparts.

By harnessing their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, we can unlock new solutions to mitigate climate change.

Entrepreneurial ventures led by young people have the potential to drive sustainable practices across industries.

They are more likely to integrate environmental considerations into their business models and supply chains, reducing waste, and promoting resource efficiency.

A study by the UN Environmental Programme found that sustainable startups led by young entrepreneurs achieved a 37 per cent decrease in their carbon footprint compared to traditional businesses.

Irri-Hub KE is a pioneering venture founded by Eric Onchonga, a YGAP (Organisation that creates positive change by making entrepreneurship more inclusive) Kenya alumni whom we have been fortunate to work with.

Irri-Hub KE harnesses the power of technology to provide climate-smart irrigation solutions to smallholder farmers, who are most vulnerable to climate change.

The climate-smart irrigation solutions offered by Irri-Hub KE bring multiple benefits as they not only conserve water resources but also minimise soil erosion, leading to improved crop yields and enhanced crop quality.

Employment opportunities 

Roka Bags Africa is another example of a youth-led enterprise that has improved livelihoods of young people at the Coast region by creating internship and employment opportunities where they harness their skills.

A design and fashion brand that makes trendy bags by upcycling redundant billboards and banners, Roka Bags Africa has since attracted an investment to facilitate increased production and expansion to an international market.

The start-up has further attracted partnerships with brands such as Juicy Fruit to upcycle their used banners.

The fight against climate change and the efforts to meet our targets means that it will take a concerted effort - from government, private sector and academia to develop a road map towards sustainability.

In the 2023/2024 budget, Treasury has allocated Sh3.6 billion for the Kenya Financing Locally Led Climate Action Project and Sh1.5 billion for the Climate Smart Action Agricultural Productivity Project. 

The private sector could match this funding and ensure those entrepreneurs working at the forefront of developing innovative solutions to safeguard our plant are well-resourced. The success stories of companies like Irrihub and Roka Bags exemplify the transformative impact that youth-led entrepreneurship can have in mitigating climate change.

As a society, we must provide the necessary support, mentorship, and resources to empower our young entrepreneurs to pioneer sustainable solutions.

Together, we can forge a path towards a greener and more sustainable Kenya, leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Let us seize this opportunity to harness the power of youth entrepreneurship and build a better tomorrow.

The writer is the Country Director, YGAP Kenya

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