AfDB earmarks $1bn to better access to climate finance

African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina has unveiled a substantial financial commitment aimed at catalysing climate financing for young entrepreneurs across Africa. Adesina, at the helm of the influential financial institution, disclosed a groundbreaking injection of $1 billion into a strategic initiative known as YouthAdapt. This initiative, a collaborative effort between the African Development Bank and the Global Centre on Adaptation, is designed to empower young innovators and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) on the African continent. These enterprises are invited to submit pioneering solutions and business concepts that have the potential to drive climate change adaptation and resilience, addressing one of Africa’s most pressing challenges.

The momentous announcement took place during a High-Level Intergenerational Dialogue event titled “Africa Driving Climate Adaptation Solutions and Jobs,” hosted at the Wangari Maathai Institute of Peace and Environment on the outskirts of Nairobi. Funded by the African Development Bank and inaugurated in 2022, the institute stands as a testament to the institution’s commitment to advancing environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

Adesina, the visionary leader steering the African Development Bank, was joined by distinguished figures such as Ban Ki Moon, the 8th Secretary General of the United Nations, Graça Machel, Chair of the board of trustees of the Graça Machel Trust, and the African Child Policy Forum, as well as GCA’s CEO Patrick Verkooijen, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Youth Affairs, the Arts and Sports, Ababu Namwamba. Additionally, Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Norway’s Minister of International Development, and Kerrie Simmonds, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Barbados, graced the event with their presence, along with other eminent dignitaries from various sectors.

President Adesina, emphasising the significance of this financial commitment, underscored the aspirations of African youth. In his address, he expressed that African youth seek more than mere handouts and stated unequivocally, “We have no option but to invest in our youths.” Over the past two years, YouthAdapt has already disbursed over $1.5 million to 33 young entrepreneurs hailing from 19 African nations. Some of these entrepreneurs have seen their profits surge by a remarkable 200%, showcasing the tangible impact of targeted support.

Adesina passionately affirmed, “Africa’s youth are the present. It is their views and perspectives that are going to change the continent.” He issued a stern warning that failing to invest in this dynamic demographic would be detrimental to Africa’s future, declaring unequivocally that failure is not an option.

Ban Ki Moon, a revered global statesman, urged the young audience to transcend national boundaries and hold their leaders accountable for their climate-related commitments. He implored them to wield their voting power to ensure that climate adaptation and finance become paramount priorities for their nations.

Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba provided insight into Kenya’s proactive stance on climate adaptation, revealing ambitious plans to assemble a one million-strong “Youth Green Army” dedicated to supporting President William Ruto’s audacious mission to plant 15 billion trees within a decade. This initiative, he explained, would significantly augment Kenya’s forest cover, elevating it from the current 12% to a substantial 30%. Namwamba also highlighted Kenya’s pioneering role in ratifying the Sports for Climate Action Initiative under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Patrick Verkooijen, the CEO of the Global Centre on Adaptation, presented a stark choice to Africa, stating, “Adapt or die.” However, he stressed that the imperative for adaptation also offers a wealth of opportunities. He assured the audience that providing them with the requisite tools, financial resources, and amplifying the voices of the marginalised would render them unstoppable in their pursuit of climate resilience.

The event featured the presentation of the Youth4Adaptation Communiqué, a powerful statement that implores global leaders to engage young people in decision-making processes concerning climate adaptation and action. Representing the aspirations of youth from 135 countries, the communiqué calls for a substantial increase in adaptation financing, with a specific target of doubling current levels by 2025.

The Wangari Maathai Institute, named in honour of the iconic environmentalist and Nobel laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, carries forward her legacy of community-based environmental conservation, particularly focusing on tree planting, women’s empowerment, and social justice. The event attendees expressed deep admiration for Professor Maathai’s indomitable spirit and her enduring contributions to environmental preservation and social equity.

In conclusion, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina’s announcement of a $1 billion commitment to accelerate climate financing for Africa’s youth-led businesses marks a monumental step towards empowering the continent’s dynamic and innovative youth. This historic initiative, YouthAdapt, reinforces the importance of investing in young entrepreneurs and MSMEs as catalysts for climate adaptation and resilience, underscoring the imperative of securing Africa’s sustainable future in the face of climate change. The event at the Wangari Maathai Institute brought together influential global figures and echoed the urgent call to action, emphasising the role of young leaders in shaping the climate agenda and ensuring a sustainable future for Africa and the world.

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