On 10 June 2015, the Africa Sustainability Hub was launched in Nairobi, Kenya. The hub is part of the Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium which is a group of six global research hubs located in South Asia, China, Europe, Latin America, North America, and now Africa, to tackle sustainability challenges facing the world. The Africa Sustainability Hub will bring together researchers from across the continent to work collaboratively on research promoting pro-poor low carbon economic development.

It was launched by Prof. Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary In Kenya’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Wakhungu was representing the Government of Kenya on behalf of Hon. Henry Rotich, Cabinet Secretary of the National Treasury.

Rotich said, “A low-carbon economic development path in Africa is able to deliver clean and sustainable energy to millions of energy-poor people across the continent, drive a productive green economic expansion for the continent and deliver a higher sustainable standards of living well into the future.”

Dr Mohammed Kyari of the African Union’s Science, Technology and Research Commission echoed the point, saying “There is no right time to form the hub than now.”

In addition to the SEI Africa Centre, the other core partners of the hub include: The African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), The African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS), and the STEPS Centre at the University of Sussex, with the secretariat being based at ACTS.

Major move for SEI Africa

Being part of the hub is a major move for SEI Africa because it will provide opportunities to engage more effectively with different actors in the region as well as a platform for sharing work with policy-makers, top experts and researchers.

SEI Centre Director Stacey Noel said, “Through the creation of the Africa Sustainability Hub, SEI Africa is pleased to be deepening its collaboration with ACTS, key actors in the energy sector and strategic partners for SEI in a number of other policy areas, such as climate change and natural resource governance. We also looking forward to working with ATPS, with whom we will soon start a project focused on bridging the climate information gap.”

The hub was launched during the Low Carbon Development in Africa workshop on 10–12 June at the Crowne Plaza in Nairobi, which was jointly hosted by ACTS, the STEPS Centre, ATPS, SEI Africa, and Practical Action. The event was attended by over 100 international participants from government, industry, universities and civil society and sought to explore and share ideas and approaches on pathways towards developing low carbon economies.

Solutions tailored to African contexts

A key emphasis of the hub is to develop and foster dialogue around alternative practical solutions to the complex challenges of sustainability. There was consensus during the workshop on the need to catalyse change within institutions, societies and policies in order for low carbon development pathways to be realised. Others spoke on how innovative ideas need to be developed from Africa, for Africa.

Dr Perks Ligoya, Malawi High Commissioner to Kenya complimented innovations such as improved stoves that target reducing carbon emissions. He further invited researchers to use country representatives to bodies such as UNEP to help set research-based agendas for Africa, emphasising the importance of bridging the gap between research and policy.