Rising to the challenge: young leaders at the forefront of climate innovation


In the vibrant city of Accra, Ghana, a transformative event has taken root – drawing young leaders from nine West African nations to its centre. The YALI Regional Leadership Centre West Africa (YALI RLC West Africa), with proud support from the US government, carried out the Climate Tech Innovators and Leaders Programme. The programme took place from 9th to 27th October 2023 and stands as a shining example of their unwavering dedication to moulding the African continent’s destiny.

The 3-week, in-person training programme brought together 49 young West African leaders from 18 countries across the sub-region, each of them using climate technology to innovate business products, civic processes and policy solutions for climate change challenges in their countries and communities.

The programme’s opening ceremony witnessed a remarkable convergence of dignitaries, symbolising the occasion’s gravity. Among the distinguished guests were the US Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Virginia Palmer; key officers from the USAID West Africa Regional office; officials from the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Rector-Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).

The opening ceremony commenced with a mini-science fair – where participants displayed climate tech products and processes they had innovated in response to climate change challenges experienced by farmers, households and businesses in their respective countries.

The opening ceremony’s atmosphere was electric, resonating with the vibrant enthusiasm of 49 young people addressing one of the world’s most pressing challenges – climate change.

A Mission of Utmost Urgency

Dr. Esi Sey, Project Director-YALI RLC, set the stage by underlining the programme’s pivotal mission. She emphasised the urgency of tackling the global climate crisis, and lauded young leaders for their exceptional potential to collaborate and confront this pressing issue.

Referring to the programme’s vivid theme design and colours, Dr. Sey described the Climate Tech Innovators & Leaders Programme as a medley of Africa’s cultural heritage and technological future. The programme, she said, intertwines the indigenous practices of yesterday with the technology of today. Like a kaleidoscope of hope, participants brought technology of the past, present and future to address challenges presented by climate change.

Mr. Yiadom, Programmes Officer-Environmental Protection Agency, provided illuminating insights into the pivotal role of climate technology in attaining nationally determined contributions. He shared the groundbreaking initiatives Ghana has undertaken, including support from the Green Climate Fund for developing an early-warning drought and forecasting system.

Africa’s Youth: Catalysts for Change

Professor Samuel Bonsu, the GIMPA Rector, shared profound insights about the youths’ incredible potential in Africa. He emphasised the need for participants not to underestimate their role in shaping the continent’s future, a chance that carries great weight. He stressed the significance of young people taking the initiative and building connections among themselves, a critical step toward nurturing innovative ideas.

As the words flowed from this passionate advocate, there was a palpable sense of hope and determination in the room. His message resonated with all, urging the young leaders to harness their collective power for a brighter and greener Africa. The time for action is now, and the call is clear: continent’s future rests in the hands of its youth.

H.E. Virginia Palmer, US Ambassador and Keynote speaker, underscored the imperative of collective action to combat climate change. She expressed faith in Africa’s ability to construct bridges of credibility, and emphasised the programme’s urgent focus on the climate challenge. H.E. Palmer commended the young leaders as embodiments of hope and a driving force for urgently required change. She underscored the interconnected nature of individuals involved in creating change, and the importance of nurturing positive connections. Virginia Palmer closed with a compelling message: “The Future is Africa, and our planet is in your hands”.

The event featured presentations from young leaders representing the West, East and Southern regions of Africa, showcasing innovative solutions to confront climate change. These innovative solutions ranged from transforming waste into profitable products like fertiliser to creating energy-saving stoves, highlighting the incredible creativity and potential for change embodied by these young innovators.

Commitment to a Sustainable Future

This commitment extends far beyond boundaries of the programme’s duration, echoing a lasting promise to uphold sustainability, resilience and progress. YALI RLC West Africa’s dedication ensures that the impact of these young leaders will resonate for years to come. Their collective efforts offer a glimpse into what is possible when a generation comes together with a shared vision of a more sustainable and harmonious world.

As these young leaders embark on their journey, they carry with them not only a beacon of hope but also a torch of responsibility. It is a responsibility to protect our planet, to empower communities and to drive innovation that safeguards our natural resources. They understand that they are the stewards of our shared future, and they accept this responsibility with a sense of duty and optimism.

Their journey is not one travelled alone. It’s a journey that invites others to join in their pursuit of a more sustainable world. It’s an invitation for us all to become active participants in shaping a better future, to support their endeavours and be inspired by their unwavering commitment to change.

In the face of climate challenges, environmental threats and the urgent need for sustainable solutions, these young leaders stand as a beacon of hope. They symbolise a brighter and more equitable future, built on the foundations of innovation, unity and a shared commitment to the well-being of our planet.

As they carry the torch of hope and innovation forward, they beckon us all to follow their lead – working together toward a more sustainable and resilient future wherein our planet thrives and humanity prospers. The future is theirs, but it is also ours; and together we can shape it into something extraordinary. YALI RLC West Africa’s Climate Tech Innovators and Leaders Programme is not just an event: it is a declaration of unity, a testament to the youths’ potential.

 About the YALI Climate Tech Innovators and Leaders Programme

The Climate Tech Innovators and Leaders Programme was a three-week, in-person learning, networking and joint-action programme for young African leaders who have been experimenting with social and business interventions at the convergence of climate action and technology. The programme brought together, nurtured and projected a new wave of African youth who are committed to solving Africa’s emerging challenges from climate adaptation in collaboration with other young leaders.

Forty-nine exceptional young African climate technology innovators from the four USAID YALI Regional Leadership Centres met in a learning space where they were trained to strengthen their knowledge, skills and strategies for pre-empting and responding to Africa’s climate adaptation needs.

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