The African continent faces many environmental and climate challenges. In 2019, air pollution caused 1.1 million deaths across the continent, making it the second-largest cause of death. The Niger River, a water source for millions of people in West Africa, is filled with oil, trash, toxic substances and other contaminants. In the second half of 2021, Douala, Dakar, Abidjan were hit with massive floods. At the same time, droughts, insect infestations, and jihadist attacks are threatening Niger with a hunger crisis. In August 2021, wildfires ravaged Algeria and Tunisia due to high winds and hot, dry conditions. At the time, Tunis hit a record 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit). Since Africa is so affected by climate change, many
entrepreneurs have developed businesses that promote sustainable development.
For example, Jeremiah Thoronka in Sierra Leone, founder of Optim Energy, uses kinetic energy to provide power to 150 households and 15 schools in Kuntosh. Nigerian scientist Godfrey Nzamuju started a zero-waste farm in the Benin region and has trained more than 30,000 farmer-entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. His model of using farms to offer food, employment and energy (in the form of biogas) could revolutionize agriculture in the region. A group of women in Tunisia is following a similar model. Local groups such as the Sidi Bou Zitoun association and the Observatory of Food Sovereignty and Environment are working to replace imported, hybrid seeds with local ones and favor agricultural models that prioritize local farmers and communities.
Since climate change is a large challenge, addressing it can be overwhelming. Emphasizing local and scalable solutions makes the issue much more manageable. For ADG, it is also essential to emphasize African solutions to African problems. So many African entrepreneurs recognize and have developed unique solutions to climate challenges in energy and
Agriculture is a testament to this.
As the third session in a series of three events, the African Development Group, Columbia University in Partnership with Columbia Global Centers | Nairobi and Columbia Global Centers | Tunis will demonstrate that the African continent is far from helpless in the face of the climate crisis or a simple victim of reckless emissions from Western countries. Through the examples of these entrepreneurs, the panel will show unique African approaches to the challenges the continent faces.
Matthew is a third year student at Columbia University studying Sustainable Development. Before coming to Columbia, he studied Economics in the Europe-Africa Program at the Paris Institute of Political Science (SciencesPo).
Edna is a senior at Columbia University majoring in computer science and African Studies. She is originally from Mogadishu, Somalia and is interested in the role of technology in new urban development practices. After graduation, she will be joining Blackstone as an analyst in the real estate group.
Jit Bhattacharya is the co-founder and CEO of BasiGo, a company looking to revolutionize the public transport sector in Africa through the introduciton and financing of electric buses. Jit has been a technology leader in EVs and Li-ion batteries for over 12 years. He previously served as CEO of Mission Motors, CTO of Fenix International, and as a Principal with Factor[e] Ventures.
Jeremiah Thoronka is an award-winning Innovator, Researcher and Scholar in energy, environment, sustainability and development. In 2021, he was awarded the inaugural Global Student Award and the Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work - Africa; cited for demonstrating exemplary academic excellence and for innovating clean energy systems, promoting locally sustainable solutions and youth involvement in energy, climate change and policy.
Hamza Abderrahim is a Tunisian mechanical engineer and co- founder and president of the association " Vélorution Tunisie" . This project aims to change the urban mobility practices of the citizens od Greater Tunis and to guide political decision- makers towards the adoption of sustainable mobility.