Africa — the main victim of climate change, despite emitting only 3% of greenhouse gases — should turn its climate challenges into opportunities to create green jobs for youth and women. This was the message that emerged at a knowledge event held on the sidelines of the African Development Bank Group’s Annual Meetings in Accra.
The session, held on the last day of the meetings on Friday, brought together participants around the theme of green jobs for youth and women in Africa after Covid-19. They shared their experiences on climate change adaptation solutions developed in Africa and the United States by the private sector.
Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Kenneth Ofori-Atta, Chairman of the African Development Bank’s Board of Governors, elaborated on Ghana’s strategy to create green jobs for youth and women.
“We have put in place a $1 million You Start Programme that will enable us to create one million jobs for youth and women,” he said. The sectors concerned are agriculture, solar energy, reforestation, and agricultural processing. According to Ofori-Atta, young people represent more than 70% of the population. African governments should unlock their potential by offering them better education, training, and support.
Ofori-Atta’s counterpart from Rwanda, Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana, pointed out that his country is committed to adapting to climate change and banned the use of plastic bags and non-biodegradable packaging materials in 2008. Rwanda has created its own Green Fund, a ground-breaking investment fund that is the largest of its kind in Africa. “There is a need to develop human capital — technical and vocational training, science and technology training, engineering — and to set up guarantee funds for SMEs and youth and women-owned enterprises,” he said. He pointed out that 70% of SMEs benefit from public guarantees to help them flourish. “More jobs for young people means more money for the public treasury,” he said.
United States Treasury official Eric Meyer said the green economy generated $13 billion in revenue for his country and created 9.5 million full-time jobs. He said the United States has been incredibly successful in creating green jobs, so this experience can be shared with African countries to support investments to create green jobs for young women and men in Africa. “Green jobs pay 70% more than dirty jobs,” Meyer said. He said the US government is encouraging the private sector to invest heavily in the green economy. “The government is giving the right signals through regulations that favour green investments. President Biden has put the US on the path to a green economy, including electric vehicles, green energy, etc.”
Earlier, the private sector expressed its commitment to climate adaptation.
Yewande Adebowale, founder of Salubata Technological Innovations Limited, reiterated the need to invest more in the private sector to meet the challenge of climate change. Adebowale’s company produces customisable shoes from plastic waste under the brand name ‘Salubata’, (shoes that never wear out, in the Yoruba language). Each Salubata shoe purchased contributes to the removal of over 12.66 kilograms of CO2 from the environment, she said. However, she lamented the obstacles that young entrepreneurs face to access finance: red tape, regulations, and other difficulties. “Young people have talent. We need to open finance to SMEs and develop strategic partnerships, build the capacity of young entrepreneurs, support African brands.”
The Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana, Daniel Nii Kwei-Kumah Sackey, said the private sector is committed to climate change adaptation and is funding adaptation projects. Ecobank Ghana is the only Green Climate Fund accredited financial institution in Ghana. It has received $20 million to finance green projects and support from the African Development Bank under its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative (AFAWA) through which the Bank made $420 million available in 2021 and intends to make $500 million available in 2022 to support women-owned businesses in Africa.
Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Centre on Adaptation, made the link between green growth and green jobs. He pointed out that $15 billion of investment in adaptation in Africa will yield $200 billion per year. He called for the mobilisation of adaptation funding on a large scale, and said the African Development Bank and the Global Centre on Adaptation have mobilised $3 billion for the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme since COP 26 in Glasgow.