Friday, 28 June 2013

Africa and Climate Change Technologies

An interesting 3-day conference just concluded at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya.  Simply titled “Conference on Climate Change and Innovation in Africa”, the host was the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC).
The Portrait of Dr. Simarro at the Microscope
Joaquín Sorolla y Batisda, 1897

According to their website, “The Kenya CIC is an initiative supported by the World Bank’sinfoDev and is the first in a global network of CICs being launched by infoDev’s Climate Technology Program (CTP). “  The KCIC mission is “to provide an integrated set of services, activities and programmes that empowers Kenyan entrepreneurs to deliver innovative climate technology solutions” (emphasis mine). The World Bank and the UK and Danish governments (via the funding agencies UKaid and Danida, respectively) are major sponsors of KCIC.

It is appropriate that KCIC is housed at Strathmore University, because Strathmore has been recognized for producing the first three green (LEED certified) buildings in Africa. Other green buildings have followed, including the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) building and a private bank building, both in Nairobi. Indeed the UNEP building is said to have Africa’s largest on-roof solar installation.

Does such activity suggest that technology transfer is alive and well in the construction and green technology industries in Kenya?  To some degree, probably so, but at least the Strathmore buildings were designed by a local architect, and there is little evidence (from this blogger’s observations) that advanced or new green technologies were employed. Most buildings in Nairobi use very little energy because the mild climate makes heating and air conditioning unnecessary. Extensive natural lighting (the entire roof is glass) further reduces energy use but is hardly an advanced technology.  Water reclamation, too, is nothing new.

Indeed, the EPO and UNEP recently published an extensive report on Clean Energy Technlogies (CET), patents, and tech transfer. Says the report “The results show that less than 1 % of all patent applications relating to CET have been filed in Africa.” Such little patenting activity suggests that tech transfer of CET to Africa (when it occurs) is likely in the form of aid or as a donation from the inventor/patentee, as opposed to licensing or collaborative agreements with African companies and governments.  

Getting back to the conference, WIPO was a major sponsor and provided a practical seminar for licensing out technologies. This follows the KCIC mission of empowering Kenyans to “deliver” technology solutions. I love this mission, because it shifts the conversation from traditional aid to support of home-grown technology solutions.

The KCIC is very new (less than 1 year old), so it will be interesting to watch and see whether the initiative actually promotes delivery of local climate change technologies.  At least this blogger wishes the KCIC the best of luck in achieving their mission!

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