By Gabriel Onyango
The world has turned into a global village where individual actions have far-reaching consequences to everyone, especially on the environment. Climate change has necessitated green innovation and a green economy to offset our environmental impact. Germany is a leader in green technology and Kenya cannot be left behind in the journey.
Dr. Michael Derus, Deputy Head of Economic Affairs of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Kenya during a German Embassy Green Economy Cycle workshop in Nairobi said,
“There is an opportunity for Kenya to use existing solutions and adapt them to its needs. We have witnessed a similarity between Nairobi and Berlin, both are developing into startup hubs and we are seeing an opportunity to use startups-who have a big impact, to bring some of the German experience locally.”
Why green economy?
The pursuit of a green economy comes at the back of traditional businesses becoming aware of the impact of their economic activities on the environment. Sustainable economic development is one of the German government’s fundamental goals in all of its activities. Kenya being on the road to industrialization under Kenya Vision 2030, the country could learn a lot from a world leader in green technology.
For example, Germany broke the green energy record this year by producing 35 percent of its power from renewable energy. Why renewable energy? “We want to highlight that there is also an economic gain in green innovation, while making money is not the noblest of things, it is very sincere, when someone tells you they want to make money they are not lying,” said Dr. Derus.
According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), doubling the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 could save the global economy between $1.2 and $4.2 trillion each year.
The power of teamwork, inter-sector and country collaboration didn’t wait long, to shine brightly during the workshop. As soon as attendees had got into smaller groups for discussions, the magic happened. Ideas started flowing freely, making anyone with an entrepreneurial bone, want to immediately start solving the problems discussed.
The areas of focus included; know-how transfer between academia and industry, green innovation and technology in agribusiness, shared economy as a platform for business logistics and transport, Kenya’s future role and value prepositions in the global value chain (a hot topic of discussion) and green economy through Kenyan-German open innovation networks.
The most interesting bit for me occurred in a discussion on Kenya’s future and value prepositions in the global value chain. I came across the most divergent opinion, I have ever heard about Kenya’s role in the global value chain (in essence, divergent thinking is what makes collaboration very fruitful).
His argument was that, as much as everyone is talking about industrialization and local value addition, why should we even add value or manufacture! He stated that already, Kenya is among the world leaders in tea production, and pyrethrum. Thus, we should concentrate on being the best and unmatched-at the level of China with manufacturing.
“If we are the producers of raw materials, let us be the best the world has ever seen, why should we strive to be jack of all trades,” he said.
It was also interesting to see academia and industry on one table poking holes into the current ways of doing things. What came out clearly was that both parties are interested and would benefit from working with each other; the issue is that no one is bridging the gap.
On the same, Herve Kubwimana, Head of Accelerator Africa, Merck Innovation Center said, ‘’I wouldn’t refuse to work with universities-that’s my job, however, we also want the universities to pursue partnerships aggressively,” he said. Currently, Merck through its innovation center works with academia in student competitions and is moving towards incubating them to make their innovations a reality.
Industry-Academia partnerships have proved beneficial in the past with global companies such as Facebook and Google having university roots. In addition, universities have been the bedrock of artificial intelligence (AI) research for long but the AI fever has spread as companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook raid academic research institutions to recruit talent to bolster their race towards driving artificial intelligence.
The future of the world lies in collaboration; using our different strengths, insights and experience to create new solutions to the ever-changing problems we face everyday.
The workshop brought together Kenya’s business community, representatives from the startup scene, academia, and German counterparts from the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Kenya. All towards discussing: “Incubating Sustainability: Innovation and Entrepreneurship as the basis for a Greener Economy.”