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Obama leaders team up to address climate injustice in Africa

Beverly Ndifoin Niyang, a Black woman with a deep skin tone holds a microphone as she presents in front of a screen that reads, “Afrofuture,” “Climate Change,'' and “Obama Foundation.” On her right is Joseph Nguthiru, a Black man with a deep skin tone. To her left is Nassima Sadar-Gravier, a woman with a medium skin tone. All are wearing shirts that read, “”

Nassima Sadar-Gravier found more than leadership development in the Obama Foundation’s Leaders Africa program—she discovered a fertile ground for collaboration and innovation.

Teaming up with fellow Obama Leaders and Obama Scholars, the 2023 Africa Leader created AfroClimate (Opens in a new tab). The nonprofit is committed to empowering entrepreneurs for a sustainable and inclusive Africa, addressing climate change impacts, and to meet the needs of marginalized communities. 

“AfroClimate began during the Leaders Africa program,” Nassima reflected. “During the six-month Obama Foundation program, I actively engaged with fellow Obama Leaders to understand their work and motivations. My experience as an islander residing in Mauritius heightened my concern for climate injustice in Africa. These interactions deepened my understanding of climate issues across the continent, inspiring me to launch a nonprofit organization to elevate entrepreneurs dedicated to providing lasting solutions to the climate crisis and improving the lives of those affected by climate change.”

The organization aims to address climate injustice in Africa, where the continent remains most vulnerable despite contributing less than 4% to global greenhouse gas emissions. Africa faces severe ecological threats, with 40% loss of biodiversity in the past 40 years.

At the program's conclusion, Africa Leaders engaged in a capstone project, where they formulated afrofuturistic solutions for their specific issue areas. They then presented these solutions to their peers in the Leaders Africa cohort at the 2023 Obama Leaders Convening in Athens, Greece.

Nassima highlights that addressing this issue took a collective effort, building upon the rich technical support of diverse global experts and the exceptional insight of participating Obama Leaders."

Nassima Sadar-Gravier, a woman with a medium skin tone sits to the left of Susan Mbalu, a Black woman with a deep skin tone, and Joseph Nguthiru, a Black man with a deep skin tone. Nassima and Joseph are wearing shirts that read, “”

"At the end of the six-month program, our cohort was asked to develop a project within our respective issue areas for presentation at the 2023 Obama Leaders Convening in Athens," Nassima explained. "During the event, I introduced Joseph Nguthiru, Beverly Ndifoin Niyang, Susan Mbalu, and Chipo Zhou to this initiative. I presented my vision, and they not only embraced it but also began contributing their expertise. The name AfroClimate emerged during one of our brainstorming sessions. Today, we are fortunate to have Paul Ekuru, Usman Iftikhar, and Nishit Shukla actively involved in our efforts. Additionally, the Obama Foundation facilitated valuable support and the advisory of Elizabeth Ngonzi, played a positive role in aiding the growth and development of the initiative.”

AfroClimate collaborates with existing Entrepreneur Support Organizations who are engaged with and understand the urgent needs of communities. These include innovation, incubator, and accelerator hubs across the continent, such as SoteHub in Kenya and Oceanhub Africa in South Africa. One of the first entrepreneurs AfroClimate supported was Prechard Mhako, a 2023 Africa Leader, who co-developed a container-based solution to provide energy and water to low-income communities in Harare, Zimbabwe.

A Black woman with a deep skin tones holds a bucket over her head. She is wearing an orange patterned top and skirt. Two women with deep skin tones stand to the side and look on. A sign in the background reads, “Powered by Energyneering.”

“Together, we co-create and develop customized entrepreneur support programs dedicated to enhancing community livelihoods while addressing the pressing issue of climate change,” Paul explained. “Additionally, we leverage the extensive network of [the] Obama Leadership Network (OLN) which in Africa is composed of over 400 individuals from civil society organizations, the private sector, the public sector, incubators, and accelerators. This Network allows us to prioritize the communities we serve and place them at the forefront of our initiatives.” 

The organization benefits from the support of 16 global experts, eight of whom are members of the OLN. Since its launch in 2023, AfroClimate has assisted seven entrepreneurs in accessing funding, gaining media visibility, connecting with more communities in Africa, measuring and quantifying their impact, and improving their products and operations.

"As an entrepreneur and a contributor to the creation of AfroClimate, I hold a unique position" Joseph shared. "AfroClimate is actively supporting my startup, HyaPak, which focuses on converting the invasive water hyacinth into biodegradable alternatives to plastics. The AfroClimate team is instrumental in helping me realize the impact of this initiative. Consequently, HyaPak was recently recognized as the best innovation at the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, where Nassima joined me to receive the award."

Nassima says her goal for the organization is to expand both in scale and impact over the next five years.

“At AfroClimate, we hold the belief that collective effort not only inspires collective belief but also results in collective action. For us, it is the collaborative action—above all else—that will significantly amplify impact for those affected in the most meaningful way,” Nassima reflected. “In the face of climate challenges, AfroClimate stands as a beacon of hope, demonstrating the power of collaboration among Obama Leaders and their robust network of highly skilled professionals to drive positive change for the African continent.”

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