Africa’s Optimis...

Africa’s Optimism in the Midst of Climate Change

The Climate Change Innovation Conference

In their efforts to take climate change innovation and turn it into green growth opportunities for Africa, the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC), in partnership with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Japan Patent Office and Kenya Intellectual Property Institute, hosted a conference on June 24-26,2013 at the Strathmore University Auditorium in Nairobi.

Africans are currently faced with common environmental challenges, such as land degradation, declining biodiversity, deforestation, rising pollution and the effects of rapid urbanization.  African nations are especially vulnerable to these threats because of limited local capacity for disaster mitigation and a general lack of awareness on how to overcome climate challenges. Climate change increasingly threatens livelihoods, food supplies and water resources. In addition, extreme weather puts African homes and lives at risk.

Nonetheless, there are unrealized opportunities for innovators and SMEs to develop locally appropriate climate technologies to address these challenges. However, few support systems are in place to help SMEs (plus many of these systems don’t offer business and technical training), and there is a lack of coordination between government and institutions on policies that can hinder businesses.  Moreover, significant information generated by the scientific community becomes inaccessible due to the absence of information channels in the region.

It is in this context that the KCIC mobilized resources to bring together industry actors in an urgent call for regional cooperation in climate change adaptation and development. The theme of the conference was “Climate Change Innovation in Africa: Advancing Knowledge, Technology, Policy and Practice.” The 3-day conference’s overall objective was to build consensus among policy makers, academics and key stakeholders regarding future efforts to address climate change in the region.

Kenneth Ndua (right) demonstrates his energy-saving cook stove to Prof. Judi Wakhungu (left), Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and natural Resources and Edward Mungai (middle), Kenya Climate Innovation Center, Chief Executive Officer.

Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, officially opened the conference to 200 participants representing different countries across Africa, including Ghana, South Africa, Benin, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo.  In an exciting showcase of innovation, clean technology entrepreneurs exhibited their products during the opening activities.

The conference also offered an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn from industry experts and from each other. The series of talks and activities, including a plenary discussion, focused on: (1) Climate change policy and the legal landscape in Africa, (2) Climate change and its threat to agriculture, food security, sustainable energy and water access, (3) Intellectual property rights in facilitating innovation in climate change and (4) Identification of appropriate climate technologies for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

One of the highlights of the conference is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between KCIC and WIPO.  The two parties agreed to work together to develop streamlined approaches to creating an enabling environment for accelerating technology transfer and protection as well as the use of intellectual property rights to effectively promote green innovation and successful transfer of green technologies. This collaboration aims to strengthen the capacity of both organizations to respond to green technology acceleration and development.

Invited speakers represented notable institutions like the Ministry of Environment and Water and Natural Resources (MEWNR), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), East Africa Climate Innovation Network (EACIN), Minerals and Allied, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT), The Innovation Hub, National Agriculture Research Oganisation (NARO), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Heinrich Boll Stiftung.

In addition to better understanding Africa’s climate change challenges, the conference spurred collaboration in national and regional levels in hopes of creating sustainable impact through innovation and cooperation. 

Picture above: Signing of the Memorandun of Understanding (MOU) between the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). From Left: Edward Mungai, Chief Executive Officer, KCIC; Yesim Baykal, Senior Program Officer, Global Challenges Division, WIPO; Geneva and Ernest Chitechi, Outreach and Partnership Manager, KCIC 

Photos courtesy of Kenya Climate Innovation Center

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