Five women with big smiles holding up their program badges
Participants in the first-ever Climate Tech Innovators and Leaders’ Program at the YALI RLC for West Africa in Accra, Ghana, show off their official program badges. | Photo Credit: USAID YALI RLC West Africa

USAID’s YALI Alumni are Using Technology to Fight Climate Change

By Steven Susens

Young African leaders across the continent are taking action against climate change. Their innovations are paving the way for the utilization and development of new technologies designed to mitigate the negative impacts of a changing climate.  

Many of these climate activists are alumni of the joint USAID and U.S. Department of State Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).  YALI is composed of three distinct components to support African leadership and entrepreneurship skills development: the Mandela Washington Fellowship; the Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) based in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa; and the YALI Network. 

More than 670,000 African youth are connected through YALI and all are benefiting their communities, countries, and continent. A number of these young leaders are recognized internationally for speaking out on climate issues and food insecurity, not only on the African continent but also on a global scale. 

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Several people standing and sitting around a table looking together at a paper
Young African leaders work together during day one of the Climate Tech Innovators and Leaders’ Program at the YALI RLC for West Africa in Accra, Ghana.

For example, YALI graduate and Climate Tech participant Pius Seda of Malawi developed an innovative social media platform that addresses the critical challenge of sustainable food production and consumption while mitigating climate change risks. The platform, MlimiLink, is designed to connect smallholder farmers practicing climate-smart agriculture with environmentally conscious consumers seeking locally sourced organic produce. MlimiLink addresses unsustainable practices within the agricultural system that significantly contribute to climate change, from greenhouse gas emissions to deforestation. 

To foster and encourage more climate- and tech-related leaders within the overall YALI alumni group, the RLC in Ghana held an inaugural training program, Climate Tech Innovators and Leaders’ Program, in October 2023 for 50 young climate tech innovators from 19 African countries. The curriculum covered the latest developments, challenges, and dynamics within the realms of business, civic engagement, and public management spaces regarding climate action on the continent. The climate action exercises and activities were designed to help these young leaders secure financial and social support to implement their ideas and policies.

The three-week training also included masterclasses led by climate and environment industry experts. Topics included biodiversity, conservation, and the restoration of green spaces in Ghana and other countries. Training sessions included practical tools to turn the participants’ passion for climate action into viable solutions for tackling food insecurity, health problems, and other issues related to a changing climate. The participants also learned about communications and storytelling, accountability and good record-keeping, the intricacies of public policy, and pitching techniques for potential investors and other financial opportunities.

The training featured a host of distinguished guests, including U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Virginia E. Palmer, who stressed the U.S. commitment to African youth through YALI. “The U.S. Government is a long-standing partner with Ghanaian and African youth to advance our mutual priorities, particularly related to climate change,” she said.

With the success of the Climate Tech cohort, the YALI RLC in Ghana is now working to develop more sector-specific programming, with a particular focus on digital technologies and agriculture.  In addition, RLC administrators are looking for partners to develop an Advisory Service, Business Support & Co-worker or “ABC,” space. The ABC space will host a small cohort of alumni to receive structured, hands-on business support, meet prospective clients and other small business owners like themselves, build a business community, hold small learning sessions, and pilot joint business activities.

For more information on the Young African Leaders Initiative, visit www.usaid.gov/yali. Meet the Climate Tech Innovators by watching these three videos:

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Integration, Mitigation
Topics
Digital technology, Inclusive Development, Food Security, Locally-Led Development, Training, Youth
Region
Africa

Steven Susens

Before joining the USAID Bureau for Africa’s Education and Youth division as the senior communications advisor for the Young Africa Leaders Initiative, Steven Susens served as the Senior Development Outreach and Communications (DOC) Specialist for USAID/Pakistan from 2019 to 2021. Mr. Susens first worked for USAID in 2009 as the DOC for USAID/Afghanistan, and returned to Mission/Kabul in 2016 for a second stint as the Mission DOC.  Prior to joining USAID/Pakistan, he worked for a variety of government and non-governmental organizations, including Internews and TetraTech ARD.  Mr. Susens also worked as the senior communications officer for the International Business & Technical Consultants in Sanaa, Yemen. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism/Communications from the University of Tennessee.

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