African countries are home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Yet sustainable strategies to support green innovation, address the issue of gender inequality and ensure job creation for African youth and women green entrepreneurs remains a complex challenge on the continent. Furthermore, it is a priority policy question that requires the development of solutions that are innovative and adaptable to different contexts in the region. To address this challenge, the Pan African Cooperation and Educational Technologies (PACET) at the United Nations University Vice Rectorate in Europe (UNU-ViE), in collaboration with the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Science (including Climate Change) (PAUWES), AfriLabs, VC4A, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), is in the initial phase of the implementation of the project “Empowering African Youth and Women Green Entrepreneurs” (Greenovations).

Launched in May 2022, the project is set to run for two years during which, it aims to set up a framework that brings together actors and stakeholders of the green innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Africa to identify and ideate solutions, organize, and support innovators and entrepreneurs, with a focus on women and youth. The project pays specific attention to the promotion of gender equality in innovation and entrepreneurship by leveraging existent research and generating knowledge to meet sustainability targets. Additionally, the Greenovations framework will create partnerships beyond the project with diverse stakeholders such as researchers and academia, innovators, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and policy makers, to develop structures that enable African youth and women innovators and entrepreneurs develop solutions in five green sectors namely: renewable energy, climate action, climate smart agriculture, waste management and water management.

Flaubert Mbiekop, Senior Program Specialist, Sustainable Inclusive Economies at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) emphasizes that the project “promoting women and youth leadership in business is of critical importance for a successful transition to net zero. To have women and youth creating employment opportunities for other women and youth while advancing climate action is the best scenario one can dream of. Key stakeholders need to come together and provide an enabling policy and business environment for that to materialize.”

William Otieno, Regional Lead at the UNFCCC Regional Collaboration Centre in Kampala which supports both governments and non-government stakeholders in Eastern and Southern Africa on galvanising climate action towards implementation of climate change ambitions expressed that the project is of “great interest given that there is a recognition and big push to include youth and women in climate action”.

As the project gears towards generating impact, the partners have embarked on research activities oriented towards analysing the current markets segments and landscape in the identified green sectors and, identifying different stakeholders involved in the green innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem on the continent with a specific focus on the role of women in the ecosystem. The research will allow the development of an entrepreneurial curriculum composed of a capacity building program with appropriate courses addressing specific skills and knowledge gaps to strengthen entrepreneurial and specific hard skills of youths and women in the selected green sectors accessible via an online environment. In addition to understanding challenges experienced in the different sectors, the Greenovations project partners will deliver results that are evidence-based from research in assessing and classifying African start-ups, innovations and synthesising promising market segments in the green sector and develop targeted solutions in through a green entrepreneurship blended learning capacity building program. The project will also establish a Pan African Green Entrepreneurship Policy and Knowledge Hub. The hub will encompass a community of practice around the topic of green innovation and Entrepreneurship in Africa. The hub is envisaged to support and analyse the interactions among stakeholders of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and provide policy and recommendations for the improvement of the ecosystem.

Future activities will also involve the development and technical implementation of blueprint reference virtual incubators in the selected green sectors and a blueprint reference virtual accelerator at the Pan-African level with appropriated services such as mentoring, networking, infrastructure, resources and seed funding, with the aim to support the start-up formation process from ideation through maturation.

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