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How African Innovation is addressing climate change – Keynote by Martin Freimüller

Kenya Takes the Lead in Climate Tech: A Look into East Africas Potential to Achieve High-Income Country Status

  • The trillion dollar climate tech industry is growing rapidly
  • The need for global investment is immense
  • Dahlberg’s moonshot competition posed the question of how to create 30 million jobs for young Africans which led to research into climate science and the potential of direct air capture as a way to remove 5-10 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere
  • Kenya has an advantageous demographic dividend, renewable energy resources and talent to lead this transition, making it East Africa’s ticket to high-income country status
  • However, the task of defossilizing the global economy is enormous.

Kenya Seizes Opportunity to Combat Climate Change with Octavia Carbons Mission

  • Octavia Carbon is a company aiming to reverse climate change and end the fossil fuel age
  • 90% of their energy needs come from low grade heat from geothermal sources
  • East Africa is abundant in energy and carbon, making it the perfect place to begin this mission
  • The goal is to take carbon, attach hydrogen atoms, and build hydrocarbons as an alternative to traditional fuels
  • Policy and talent exist in abundance in Kenya for this mission
  • There is a moral clarity to this task among Kenyans due to effects of climate change seen on smallholder farmers and drought
  • Octavia aims to help Kenya become a high income country while also giving something valuable back to the world.

Unlocking Africas Economic Potential: A Billion Dollar Opportunity

  • Africa has the potential to leverage strong economic fundamentals to capitalize on global supply chains
  • A trillion dollars is at stake for those involved in the venture building business
  • Building a different story for Africa’s economy is possible with careful planning and strategy.

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first place but really look to step upinto Global Leadership roles in thisindustryum which is growing very quickly we areum on track to um needing three trilliondollars in climate Tech investment thatis looking for a place globally and 25thereabouts even of last year's startupfunding actually went to climatech so ifyou need a reason to take this seriouslylet me just say it's a trillion dollarindustry and we're just getting startedbut let me give you a bit of morebackground here so like my admissionhere is that I'm not actually like aclimate person or at least it didn'tused to beum my background is in strategyConsulting in International Developmentwith a company called Dahlberg andessentially my road into this spacestarted with a relatively simplequestion posed in a moonshot ideacompetition and that question is how doyou create 30 million quality jobs foryoung Africans and think about actuallythink about that like how would youcreate 30 million jobs for youngAfricans you know it's not a trivialquestion and we can see that we need itwe we have a large growing populationwe've got a very good demographicdividend this is Africa's time to shinebut what industry can actually give usthose job for reference 30 million jobsthat's the global garments industry sothat question is very much needed for usto ask and mounts at the time and tosome extent still is that climatescience tells us that by 2050 we need toremove 5 to 10 billion tons of CO2 fromthe atmosphere and just to give you areference point here that is about twiceas much in weight terms as the petroleumindustry moves around today it's hugeit's hugeum and so yeah that I thought could be abig industry andum that led me down the road and therabbit hole you might say of reallyreading into this topic a lot moredeeply thinking about like what do weactually need to do to make that happento build that huge industry becausewe've heard that there is great ways ofdoing it planting trees for example butthey are not sufficient by no means andwe really just need technologyto help us get the way there and that'slike the climate science and that isvery clear even in the most ambitiousdecarbonization scenariosand so after working on that topic forsort of two more yearsum I moved my life to Kenya with theambition of starting a company here todo just that and I had narrowed downover time on direct air com capture asthe only thing that can really get us tothe scale that we need to do this andKenya is the world's best place to dothat let me be clearthat highly durable technological calmremoval will be Kenya's gift from therift you might say to the world this isEast Africa's ticket to high incomecountry status this is not trivial weare not talking about you know a cottageindustry this is going to be trilliondollars that will be spent and thequestion is where and the fundamentalsare very much in East Africa's favorand let me give you some details aboutwhy and you know what I've sincerealized that that calm removal industrythat is also just the tip of the icebergthat trillion dollars is not yetambitious enough but the point here isthat weat Octaviaum think about this that way you knowwhen you really want to build technologyat scale we know from past experiencebroadly how to make new technology cheapand we've seen that happen in Solo we'veseen it happen in immobility andbatteries and so on and the crucialingredient that you need are GlobalSupply chains and that is something thatwe've seen burnout in solar and so onand the question is where are theseSupply chains going to be located are westill going to just do stuff in Chinaand maybe assemble it here bring it hereand so on I mean for one thing China'saverage age today is it's that it does not have thedemographic dividend that it had some 25years ago thereabouts and like much ofEast Asia it is aging very rapidly andso there is like an opening here andthere's like also just like there'sdemographic reason obviously a politicalreason here as well and so now we haveto ask ourselves like yeah so whichregion can capitalize on this and thepoint here is that Kenya has a lot ofgoing for it and you know the talent isone like we've got the talent right nowwe've got the demographic given we'vegot brilliant engineers and I'll let myengineer Duncan convince you of thatjust laterum to lead this transition here in Kenyaand we have not just that we also havevast amounts of renewable energy on thegrid today and just to be clear thisisn't just you know some pie in the skynumber that we're throwing out hereKenya is actually the sixth largestgeothermal produced in the world todayit's ahead of Iceland a lot of placesyou that you might know for this and asopposed to places like Iceland Kenya hasactually quadrupled its capacity overthe past decade whereas Iceland and saythe US have been quite stagnant and weare likely to quadruple that again overthe next decade and the question is ifyou want to like build stuff thatmatters if you want to produce actualmolecules that basically don't kill theatmosphere you need 24 7 reliable greenenergy to do just that Kenya has theseingredients and much of of the EastAfrican Rift there's two even if Kenyais the only place today that has thatexisting industry and again just to tellyou what that means for us again broadlyspeaking what we do direct airconcapture we have machines that filter CO2from the atmosphere and broadly speakingyou like have a chemical reaction herethat needs essentially heat to be likebroken up again and released CO2 that wecan suck out of a machine pumpunderground and store very durably and Ihave no question that Duncan would saytell us a bit more about that but weneed heat we need heat and just to bevery clear again the task that we havewith de-fossilizing the global economyis enormous we are talking of moleculesthat we all wear probably on our bodiesright now like there's synthetic fibersin here that are petroleum derivativesthere is if you've taken Like a Pill ofmedicine this morning maybe there's somepetroleum derivatives in there too thephone cover on this thing here that's apetroleum derivative too we need toactually replace all these moleculeswith something that does not oceans andour atmosphere now how do we do thatessentially the key ingredient is energyit all comes down to energy and where doyou have really abundant energyit is in geothermal places you know itmight not even just be the electricitythat you need and just to give you anexample from our company 90 of theenergy we need is heat it is low gradeheat of a kind that you can actually getquite cheaply almost for free fromgeothermal sources and so really as wethink about that energy transition andit's that energy transition not just inthe sense that you know we have to finddifferent fuels to power our cars andwhateverum or we have to Electrify that itreally is a question of like where isthe global economy going to get theenergy from to produce the molecules itneeds to run and you know ideally we'realso enabling everyone a betterlifestyle than today and the answerthere is quite clear we have energyespecially in East Africa to make thathappen and to lead that transitionglobally and to de-fossilize and noteI'm not saying decarbonize becausecarbon is just an integral part to oureconomy again I'm a common based lifeform as I hear and much of the restprobably the chase that you're sittingon a party of made of carbon we can'tdecarbonize everything so we have tothink about how do we de-fossilize howdo we actually create renewable carbonand create that into molecules that canactually power whatever we want to dolike really whatever we want to do andthe answer is you know you start offwith a captured carbon East Africa as Itold you it's the best place to get thatcarbon now and that is our mission as acompany that is the sort of reversingclimate change part where we takeenormous amounts of carbon and we put iton the ground exciting yes but thesecond part of a mission statement isending the fossil fuel age so themission then becomes we take that carbonwe snap a hydrogen atom to it and thenwe build hydrocarbons that can actuallybe an alternativebottom to the global economy that canbuttress everything that we do but notkill our planet in the same in the sameline andagain that is our vision for you knowbroader carbon economy a new carboneconomy that we're building globally andthat is a big task to start with I meandon't get me wrong this is the task ofour century and again we need youngbrave people to do that and again wheredo we have those we have those aplentyin Africa and in East Africa as well andagain while I'm not paying the bestposition to talk about is I have thepleasure every day to go to work withamazing Engineers who are inspired tojust make that happen and make it happenfor their country make it happen forthemselves and to really make it happenfor the world and again that Globalambition is something that we have to beserious about andat the end of the day again the storyI'm telling here is about carbon yescarbon is what I know about carbon iswhat we do as a company and carbon is adamn big thing if you really think aboutit and the fossilizing that is reallywhat we have to do to become a zeroemission Societybut this isn't just specific to carbonthis isn't just specific toum what what we do as Octavia carbonthere is a climate text actually outthere again think of it three trilliondollars that will be spent somewhere andwe have to think about where that moneywill be spent and I can tell you thatEast Africa has a lot going for it we'vetalked about the energy part geothermalis key you know solar is also great andespecially solar that doesn't vary withSeasons as it does say in the globalNorth which is a huge headache if youwant to resolve around thatum Talent I've mentionedum but the final few pieces here arepolicy you know Kenya takes thisseriously we've had the climate ministerin office when we're a six-month-oldcompany doing this that his Excellencypresident Ruto has been pitched by theircompanies and they have a contract withthe Department of energy in the U.S tomake this happen here this isn't just afiction this isn't just something thatyou know it's like being floated byenthusiastic startup Founders the Kenyangovernment takes this extremely seriousbecause they see that this is the waythey create broad-based economic growthby giving something to the world that itneeds by exporting key Goods that areneeded for a global transition of a sizethat we've not seen you know since thedawn of the fossil fuel ageand again that policy is key and I thinkthere's really a deep reason and youmight treat it as a separate reason orthey'll still see linked there's moralClarity in Kenya about this todaythere's five million Kenyans that are onfood support because of climate changeor because of a drought that's been madevastly more likely by climate changeagain Kenyans look up to our Nobel PrizeLaureate wangari Masai um kenyan's onlyKenya's only who was an environmentalistwe host unep we take this questionseriously and you know we have Engineerson our team who have parents whose taperand dry a few months ago because ofclimate change because of drought againyou don't have to look far to realizethat climate change is ravaging thisregion and you know young people aren'tgrowing up as ignorant of that they wantto fix that Africa does not want to be aclimate victim and we have the power toactually really change that and we haveto then channel that moral Clarity thatambition that talent that energy intosomething that we can actually do forthe world and it's just really importantto say there is excellent work beingdone here you know making smallholderFarmers more resilient there's excellentwork being done here you know helping tofinance you know like small Enterprisesand so on but we have to think biggeragain we cannot think at the level of afew consumers who live in two dollars aday that is not how Kenya is going tobecome a high income country it is notsome something we've ever seen anothercountry do before and becoming a homecountry that way we have to thinkglobally we have to compete globallythat is a key part of the mission thatwe have and what we have tried to leadand here in Octavia carbon and againlet's think about the opportunity againwe are like we're like in VC for likefor a reason we're in a venture buildingbusiness all of us and you know it'sjust key to think that this is anopportunity you know even if you thinkthat the chance of us succeeding on thatgreat we are talking about a trilliondollars in think about that as the pricethat we are playing for and that we haveexcellent cards for again Global Supplychains are splintering a bit more Africahas probably a really good chance ofcapitalizing on that and reallyleveraging its strong economicfundamentals to drive a very differentstory about what we run to the Africaneconomy to be thank you so muchthank you