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From Silicon Valley to Silicon Savannah: Climate expert Patrick Verkooijen explains why this is Africa’s century

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From Silicon Valley to Silicon Savannah: Climate expert Patrick Verkooijen explains why this is Africa's century

TOAfrica has all the potential to address pressing climate challenges with innovative solutions, according to one of the world’s renowned environmentalists. With its vast natural capital and young population, “this is Africa’s century,” according to Professor Patrick Verkooijen, executive director of the Global Adaptation Center (GCA), and the new chancellor of the University of Nairobi.

But Verkooijen emphasizes that support and investment from the global north is essential, highlighting that 65% of the world’s uncultivated land it’s in Africaa continent with immense promise in terms of its population, which will represent one in four people worldwide by 2050.

He described a “train wreck” scenario for the entire global south if promises made by the global north were not fulfilled before the summit. Cop30 Summit in Brazil in November 2025.

Verkooijen says global climate finance for adaptation was supposed to double by 2025, but is instead declining, jeopardizing the UN’s sustainable development goals and threatening investment already made in resilience solutions.

“If you don’t invest in climate adaptation, how do you capitalize on opportunities for job creation, green growth, and avoided losses?” he says.

The GCA, headquartered in the Netherlands with offices in Côte d’Ivoire, China and Bangladesh, is an international organization working on climate adaptation around the world, calling itself a “solutions broker” and providing analysis on climate resilience. climate and food security.

Verkooijen in Chattogram this month. Bangladesh, as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, is incorporating adaptation measures into its development plans. Photography: GCA

“Any project without a climate perspective is a wasted project,” says Verkooijen.

Partnering with governments and institutions such as the World Bank to integrate climate adaptation expertise into their projects, GCA’s portfolio has $9bn (£7bn) of climate resilient projects in Africa alone.

Verkooijen says GCA’s role is threefold: political mobilization, providing climate risk analysis and ensuring climate resilient development. His supervisory board, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, includes Macky Sall, former president of Senegal.

Advisory board members include Kenyan President William Ruto; the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley; the president of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan; and the president of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina.

“We mobilize heads of state to talk about adaptation,” says Verkooijen, “because if they don’t do it, others won’t and nothing will happen.

“In 2021, at the Glasgow climate summit, climate adaptation was recognized for the first time as a central component of the debate on climate crises.” But, he says, one of GCA’s major obstacles remains financial.

“Climate finance for adaptation was supposed to double by 2025, but we are seeing the numbers declining,” says Verkooijen.

“The reality is that national governments in sub-Saharan Africa are doing their part. They pay twice as much for adaptation as they receive in bilateral aid. It is a scandalous reality, since they only emit 3% of greenhouse gas emissions and, yet, they suffer disproportionately from climate impacts.”

The global north had failed to meet its commitments to double adaptation finance, while the shortfall threatened to derail sustainable development goals in Africa, it says.

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Verkooijen with Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank. Photography: Martín Bertrand/Alamy

“ACG hosted an African adaptation summit held in Rotterdam two years ago. African heads of state came to the Netherlands, where they met leaders from the global north and said: “We come here not as beggars, but to establish a partnership.” The African Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) was put on the table. “It is now the largest adaptation program in the world.”

The AAAP, jointly designed by the African Development Bank and the GCA, and supported by the African Union, mobilizes a $25 billion initiative to accelerate climate change adaptation across Africa. Despite its scale, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the $100 billion needed annually for adaptation in Africa. “We only receive 10 billion dollars from the global North for adaptation, far below what is needed,” underlines Verkooijen.

GCA’s work includes large-scale projects designed to protect vulnerable communities and infrastructure. For example, analyze important events such as highway between Nairobi and Mombasa and “ensures that projects are climate resilient,” says Verkooijen.

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As the newly appointed chancellor of the University of Nairobi, the first non-African to hold the position, Verkooijen is also tasked with transforming the institution into a global player. He focuses on the university’s “big five” initiatives: innovation, green jobs, artificial intelligence, leadership and health research.

“If a million young Africans enter the labor market every month, where are the jobs of the future? It is in the fourth industrial revolution and green space. We are creatingSilicon savanna‘, a hub for startups and venture capitalists, reflecting the success of Silicon Valley,” he says.

Verkooijen at the Africa Youth Climate Assembly last September. He believes that the green economy is key for the 12 million young Africans who enter the labor market each year. Photography: GCA

Verkooijen highlights the importance of international partnerships, particularly in fiscally constrained environments.

“The University of Nairobi aims to serve Africa and be a global player, but government financial flows will not increase,” he says, meaning the university must attract global support. He sees his role as a “transmission belt” to leverage international collaboration.

Looking ahead to November’s Cop30, he says the stakes are high. “There is no way the UN sustainable development goals in Africa will be achieved without putting adaptation at the center.”

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