“We open the second annual Incubating Innovation symposium with an emphatic charge from the song Wake Up, Everybody. Wake Up Everybody is a song that was written in the 1970s, during a time of high unemployment, racial tensions, social and economic hardship. The charge of the song is to all us. The song charges us to rise in urgent action to the pressing social and economic needs of our times – and reminds us that the world won’t get better, if we just let it be. It informs us that we have to change the world through collective action, you – and me.
Welcome to Incubating Innovation.
I start my welcome remarks extending a very warm welcome to each and every one of you here present. I extend special greetings and welcome to the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre’s donors, the Danish government, the Dutch government, and also to Stewart Investors, who joined the community of donors of GCIC last year. I also extend appreciation to our colleagues from the World Bank. We remain especially grateful to you all for your kind and generous support of the Centre’s work and our entrepreneurs.
There is a quote that speaks bold and loud on the Inspirational Wall at the entrance of the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre’s offices at Ashesi University in Berekuso. The quote, from TT Williams, states: the eyes of the future are looking back at us – and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. At the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre, we believe that one resounding truth that our world faces, a categorical truth of our times, is that in climate change we are facing one of the world’s greatest threat – a man-made disaster at a global scale.
Without exception, every country in the world is experiencing the devastating effects of climate change. On average, 21.5 million people have been displaced by climate or weather-related events each year since 2008. Climate change directly impacts agricultural yields as it does the world’s food security, and according to the UNEP, by 2030 it is estimated that climate adaptation costs will range between US$140-300 billion per year. If left unchecked, climate change will reverse the progress made over the past years in development – and undermine efforts to achieve the SDGs.
Globally rising heat and wilder weather linked to climate change make it “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” Climate change impacts – from heatwaves to worsening storms, floods and fires – threaten to overwhelm health systems. Storms and floods cause direct injuries but can also shut down hospitals and spur disease outbreaks. Wildfires, hurt and uproot people, but also dramatically worsen air pollution
Like many countries on our continent, Ghana is highly vulnerable to global climate change, ranking 114 out of 181 countries in the climate vulnerability index. Climate change is projected to affect Ghana’s water resources, energy supplies, crop production as well as food security. Already, the country is experiencing increased extreme weather conditions with higher incidences and more prolonged periods of flooding and droughts. High temperatures will further increase, and rainfall patterns will be less predictable. More intense rainfall is expected to increase erosion. The country’s vulnerability is largely due to dependence on the production of crops that are sensitive to climate change, including cassava and cocoa, and by a lack of agricultural diversification. The rapidly changing climate has dire implications for every aspect of human life.
Manufacturing and consumer patterns – the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in, and the products we use – all contribute to making our planet warmer. Our manufacturing processes involve the use of plastic, steel, and cement – all of which contribute to climate change. Making cement and steel requires energy from fossil fuels and involves chemical reactions that release carbon as a by-product. The refrigerant inside the AC units that cool our homes, our offices, this very room we are here seated, is a greenhouse gas. Conventional agricultural production patterns and deforestation removes trees that pull CO2 out of the air, and when the trees are burned, they release carbon back into the atmosphere.
It takes 2700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt. That’s what one person drinks in 2.5 years. Making and washing one pair of jeans emits the same CO2 as driving 69 miles.
This kind of manufacturing and consumer patterns begs for climate innovation and breakthroughs in how we live, what we eat, how we make things, how we fuel our cars and power our homes.
I return to the quote by TT Williams – the eyes of the future are looking back at us – praying for us to see beyond our own time. The truth is that we can choose to at least slow down if not reverse that global disaster that is climate change. WE can choose to make a difference – for the world won’t get better if we just let it be.
AT the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre, our work is at the nexus of climate change, private enterprise, and economic and ecological prosperity. Our work is at the heart of business activity and sustainable development. We proffer a different approach to commercial activity and a different premise in innovation. A premise which pays attention to enterprise agility, one which prioritises climate-smart innovation, clean technology, circularity, climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation. In 2015, in a publication entitled Waste to Wealth, Accenture projected that $4.5 trillion in economic value could be created in just 15 years through encouraging corporate leaders to “go circular” and rethink their business models in ways that eliminates waste – what is commonly referred to as the circular economy. Circularity is an emerging business strategy that enables companies to innovate in ways that address resource scarcity and climate risk, to respond to consumer and societal pressure to reduce waste, and to unlock that $4.5 trillion economic opportunity. Implicit in that projection is the notion of changing unsustainable patterns of consumer consumption, and the potential to offer significant opportunities to boost economic growth, create jobs and boost innovation.
The Ghana Climate Innovation Centre’s climate innovators and entrepreneurs have dedicated their skills and abundant talent to the transition to a low carbon economy through responsible enterprise. The Centre has in turn committed to providing these climate heroes with cutting-edge insights, financing, advisory and business incubation support to drive their green business growth in a dynamic and constantly changing business environment
Our ambition at the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre at Ashesi University is to be a distinguished Centre of Excellence for climate smart entrepreneurship and innovation, steering Ghana’s transition to a low carbon economy through the provision of a robust range of financial, business advisory and support services to enterprises in Ghana’s small and growing business sector. An element of that work will include climate-smart policy advocacy.
Over the next 5 years we will incubate an additional 100 climate innovators and climate entrepreneurs from the small and growing business sector. Our ambition is to reach an additional 300,000 Ghanaian households with green consumer goods and services, create 350 new jobs, ensure that households have access to climate-smart energy, water, and natural resource solutions, and generate cumulative revenues of over $4m from the goods and services of our entrepreneurs. This is our aspiration.
Incubating Innovation is the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre’s annual thought leadership symposium for key actors in Ghana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We believe that intentional entrepreneurial ecosystem interventions, responsive financial and technical support, and redistributive modifications in fiscal policy for green private sector-led growth is needed to deliver social and economic transformation as well as climate justice for tomorrow’s world. In tandem, promoting sustainable patterns of production in the economic sector must go hand in hand with changing unsustainable patterns of consumer consumption
We convene Incubating Innovation to inform, connect and engage on all of these variables.
Many of us here seated have the opportunity to join the growing GCIC Community at Ashesi University – a community of climate-smart entrepreneurs, eco-venture capital firms, donors, philanthropical organisations and global corporations committed to securing a prosperous ecologically sound tomorrow through climate-smart development. We invite you to join this community as an entrepreneur, a mentor, a strategic corporate partner, a philanthropic donor. We invite you to choose, together with us, a progressive, economically prosperous and ecologically sound future for Ghana.
It’s time to build a new land. It’s time to teach a new way. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? The world won’t get better, if we just let it be. We have to change it, you and me.
Thank you for your attention.”
 UN Environment’s Adaptation Finance Gap Report (2016),
 Lancet Medical Journal
 the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs