By Tatenda Chitagu
NAIROBI, KENYA-The African Development Bank (AfDB) is set to launch a US$1 billion fund for African youth-led businesses and startups in the climate and agriculture sector, a top ranking official has revealed.
AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina said at the close of the inaugural African Youth Climate Assembly Summit at the Kenyatta International Conference Center Sunday that the seed funding was mobilised together with the Global Center for Adaptation.
The continent’s youth unveiled their declaration and contributions towards the Africa green growth pathway at the closing session of the Africa Youth Climate Assembly summit where Zimbabwe was represented by Chido Mpemba, the Youth Envoy at the African Union Commission. The conference, running under the theme, “African-led Solutions to Global Challenges,” was held from the 1st to the 3rd of September.
“At banks, they look at youths as risky because of lack of collateral. But the biggest risk is not investing in the youth. Our financial ecosystem should support youths. I feel so bad when I see youths migrating to other continents. I do not think the hopes and aspirations of the youths are in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Asia, Latin America or other places. Their hopes must be in Africa when we are able to grow wealth and be able to support them,” Adesina said.
He added: “We have to put our money where our mouth is. The African Development Bank, together with the Global Centre on Adaptation, has a program called Youth Adapt. We have actually been financing this, with an investment of $4 million, supporting the ideas and businesses of young Africans, providing seed financing. We have 33 businesses in 19 countries, and I can tell you that those businesses have increased their profits by 200%. Twenty percent of them are expanding their businesses to other parts of Africa.”
The AfDB boss said they will increase the funding to cater for more youth-led businesses from across the continent.
“I am happy to say that the AfDB and the Global center for Adaptation (GCA) will launch a US$1 billion funding for youths businesses called the Youths Adapt Initiative. This fund will basically provide seed financing and broad capital for big businesses for the youths, and that is a big thing for youths in Africa,” he said.
Adesina said the youths are ‘the best asset for Africa.’
“Youths are the biggest equity holders in this continent. It is not just talking about youth investment, it is about financing. Youths need investment, period! They need a lot of financing,” he said.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Forestry Soipan Tuya said youths should see opportunities to innovate in the face of climate change-induced disasters.
“As you go back to your different countries, let us use the misfortunes that climate change has handed us, such as the floods, droughts, and unreliable weather patterns, to jolt us into action and innovation. Let us imagine green jobs and find ways to make ourselves employable by exploring green technologies. Let us go down in history as the generation that harnessed the wave of climate change extremes and created green jobs, explored the low-carbon development pathway, and contributed to global sustainable development and African development,” she said
Kenyan President William Ruto, who received the declaration by the youths, urged them to venture into the agriculture and food sector.
“I am encouraged that youths are stepping forward boldly to say we do not want to be bystanders and attendees at events or ushers but are saying we want to participate, we have ideas, perspectives and suggestions that we can present
“Agriculture and food production is a space where we have great opportunity to create jobs, enterprises and wealth. I can see opportunities not just for Kenya, but other African countries to be food secure and create jobs. We want to use agricultural produce to create jobs, value addition and processing to create opportunities enterprise in agricultural production and create opportunities for export,” he said.
Ruto described climate change as ‘an existential threat to our future.’
In their declaration, the youths demanded, among others, that the assembly be constituted as the primary venue for consolidating and coordinating youth involvement and climate governance throughout Africa and beyond. They also called for the creation of a Global Green Bank to be expedited and for African youth and children, as well as their interests, to be properly represented in the bank. In addition, they demanded that the UN Youth Office be established in Africa, in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution.