Africa is feeling the heat ☀️

Meet the startups fighting climate change in Africa

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Hey there! Welcome to this edition of Tech Safari.

Event season is in full swing! Last week we hosted our Tech Safari Nairobi Mixer and it was a time.

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Alright! Let’s dive in.

Not too long ago, climate change seemed like a distant future for Africa.

But today, it’s here.

As the heat wave spreads across the continent, water sources are drying up.

Weather swings are making farming hard and unpredictable.

And Africa's last three mountain glaciers are melting away.

By 2050, the UN predicts that the ice and snow on Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kenya’s Mt. Kenya, and Uganda’s Ruwenzori Mountains will all vanish.

Furtwangler Glacier near the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro

Africa has very little to do with our planet’s warming, but it gets hit the hardest.

The world’s least polluter, it contributes the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions: only (3.8%).

Compare this to the heavy hitters like China, the United States, and the European Union, which contribute 23%, 19%, and 13% each.

But in 2019, five out of the top ten countries most affected by climate change were in Africa.

Mozambique and Zimbabwe came first and second, Malawi was ranked fifth, while South Sudan and Niger came eighth and ninth respectively.

These countries had to deal with weather disasters caused by climate change.

Take Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, for example.

In 2019, they all got hit hard by the deadly Cyclone Idai. The UN calls it ‘one of Africa's worst weather disasters.’

It affected three million people and claimed over 1,000 lives, causing about $2 billion in damages.

Cyclone Idai aftermath in Mozambique

This deadly cyclone was set in motion by scorching temperatures, heating up the Indian Ocean.

As the ocean gets warmer, it releases more moisture into the air. That moisture, in turn, falls as heavy rainfall that causes flooding.

This supercharges storms, making them more powerful - and more lethal.

It's like pouring gasoline on a fire.

And this isn't just a problem for Southern Africa. In East Africa though, climate change is playing a different game.

East Africa is Getting Drier

Rising global temperatures have thrown off the rain patterns that traditionally make Ethiopia, Northern Kenya, and Somalia green.

Last year marked a record fifth rainless season in a row. And the aftermath is quite scary.

While droughts are not new in parts of East Africa, it’s getting worse.

High temperatures are drying out soil, causing drought.

Couple this with the disappearing rains, it’s now impossible to grow food in these areas.

The United Nations estimates that around 13 million people in the Horn of Africa are dealing with severe hunger.

It tells us one thing.

Africa can’t sit back and watch

And it’s not.

In September, Africa hosted its first-ever Africa Climate Change Summit in Nairobi.

The event brought together leaders from across Africa, winding up with the historic 'Nairobi Declaration' - a shared promise by African nations to combat climate change.

It called for increased climate investment, a global carbon tax, and climate-positive growth.

It's a big step in Africa's climate change action.

But there's more work to do.

And we're seeing tech step up to the challenge.

Starting with the money. Last year, Climate Tech funding grew 3.5x to over $860 million.

Climate-focused funds have brought in the dollars to help startups scale in the fight against climate change, like..

  • The Energy Entrepreneurs Growth Fund (EEGF), which raised over $100 million last year.

  • Equator raised $40 million earlier this year to support African startups in energy, agriculture, and mobility

  • E3 Capital (formerly Energy Access Ventures)’s Low Carbon Economy Fund for Africa (E3LCEF), which hit its first close in May at $48.1 million.

  • Catalyst Fund, which secured the first close of its fund for African climate startups - raising $8.6 million of its $40 million fund.

So climate tech funding is on the up.

But where is all this money going?

Electrifying public transport with BasiGo

In 2020, Kenya paused bus operations within Nairobi for three days to stop the spread of COVID-19.

And in those three days, Jit Bhattacharya, an investor in sustainable energy startups, couldn’t help but marvel at how clean the air was.

In Kenya, over 70% of commuters rely on privately owned buses (also known as matatus) to move around.

Seeing how combustion engine buses in Nairobi affected the air, he thought electric buses could be a fresher choice.

So he teamed up with Jonathan Green to start BasiGo, an electric bus company.

And last year, their first fleet of electric buses hit the road.

BasiGo leases electric buses to bus owners on a pay-as-you-drive model.

This means that they pay over time as they drive - letting them transition to electric buses without high upfront costs.

This drops the barrier to access clean (and cheaper) mobility, letting anyone get started driving electric transport.

The buses are charged at charging stations around Nairobi, which take power from the local grid.

A BasiGo charging station

And now they’re ramping up.

In November last year, they raised $6.6 million to start assembling their buses locally.

Led by Toyota’s Mobility 54, the round brought their total funding to $10.9 million.

Following their entry into Rwanda in July this year, BasiGo is at the start of its ride across East Africa.

But climate tech founders aren’t just building in mobility..

Cooking clean with Powerstove

Every year, more than one million people across Africa die from kitchen smoke.

And as we speak, over 970 million people on the continent still cook using dirty fuels like charcoal, firewood, and kerosene.

Nigeria is one of the hardest-hit countries.

Nearly 70% of Nigerian households, most of them in rural areas, still cook using charcoal or firewood.

And unlike cooking gas, they’re way cheaper.

But sadly, these fuels emit toxic greenhouse gases that cause household air pollution and global warming.

Plus, they’re a health risk too, causing more than 90,000 deaths annually in Nigeria.

This is why PowerStove exists.

Back in 2018, Okey Ibekwe Essey founded PowerStove to solve Nigeria’s clean cooking problem.

In Nigeria, this smokeless stove cooks five times faster and generates its own electricity.

And when it comes to fuel? Powerstove produces its own.

They transform unrecyclable paper, wood, and leftover agricultural materials into cooking pellets.

These pellets work just like charcoal and firewood, but they use 70% less organic material or biomass.

And these stoves have a tech twist.

With their strong fire, they generate enough electricity to charge devices like phones and lights.

And they’re fitted with a system that tracks your cooking and keeps carbon emissions in check.

By monitoring and measuring carbon credits, they sell them on the global carbon market.

Think of a carbon credit as a special token for removing one ton of CO2 from the air.

In carbon markets, companies or people can make up for their greenhouse gas emissions by buying carbon credits from others who are cutting emissions.

It’s like an eco-marketplace, where companies make amends for their carbon ‘sins.’

Powerstove tracks and sells carbon credits from its stoves - which means that their users can make money (up to $90 USD a year) by cooking cleaner.

Powerstove has found a cool way to play in climate tech - making a difference and profit at the same time.

We’re excited to see more cleantech startups follow suit in the fight against climate change.

Which startups and funds are you excited by in climate tech? Let me know here.

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