On 13 June 2019, during Nairobi Innovation Week, UN Solutions Summit Nairobi brought six incredible SDG solution makers together with more than 50 acceleration partners to help scale these vital projects. The 5th Annual Nairobi Innovation Week, hosted by the University of Nairobi, provided a vibrant setting to engage many talented leaders from Kenya’s rich innovation ecosystem. Kenya is also home to more than 20 UN entities, several of whom were represented at the event, including the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, UN Environment Programme, World Food Programme and UNDP.
Since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, the UN Solutions Summit has celebrated and accelerated a gender balanced group of more than 50 innovators from 30 countries through an open and participatory process. The initiative includes an annual high-level event at UN Headquarters during the UN General Assembly in September. The localization of UN Solutions Summit, as exemplified in this Nairobi event, is part of the UN system’s drive to convene and partner with local leaders and innovators advancing the SDGs.
As part of the opening of the event, Mr. Arif Neky, Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships & the SDGs, spoke about joint efforts of the UN and the Government of Kenya to break silos, converge sectors, and establish innovative financing toward realizing the SDGs. Ms. Susan Alzner, shift7 co-founder and Chief of Strategy and Operations, explained that people from communities most affected by challenges already have solutions, and we need to bring the UN system closer to this talent network. All communities need a healthy, well connected and diverse innovation ecosystem to ensure innovators and entrepreneurs have the support and the network they need to thrive and scale their work, to help more people.
Following the opening remarks, the event shifted into an active workshop: each solution maker gave a 4-minute multi-media pitch about their work, and then acceleration partners from business, philanthropy, policymaking, innovation incubators, civil society, and academia broke into acceleration groups for each project. In these roundtable discussions, the solution makers received creative advice and guidance to help accelerate their work, and then reported back the insights and network connections they gained.UN Solutions Summit Nairobi was supported by the H&M Foundation, which partners with projects in the region. Their Global Change Award winner, Green Nettle Textiles of Kenya, participated in the event, along with five other Kenyan innovators:
Approximately 800 million people rely on the Cassava plant, as a source of food and/or a source of income. But Cassava is being devastated by two viruses across East Africa, both transmitted by the whitefly: Cassava mosaic disease and Cassava brown streak disease.
Brenda Muga, a young scientist, and her team at the Cassava Virus Action Project (CVAP), have the audacious goal to save the cassava plant and, in the process, build infrastructure and scientific capacity to handle any crop disease outbreak or pandemic in East Africa. Using the latest technologies, such as pocket DNA sequencing and supercomputing, CVAP can almost instantly diagnose the health of crops in the field -- a process that used to take 3 months.
CVAP also strives to achieve equity in science, as team members are based in the national labs of each country, ensuring that the voices of local scientists are heard. Through these paradigm shifts, CVAP aims to positively impact the lives of 10 million farmers and their families within the next 6 years and equip East Africa with the tools and resilience needed to stop outbreaks of deadly pathogens.
Learn more here: https://cassavavirusactionproject.com
Kenya is projected to be 50% urban by 2020 and slum residents currently make up 60% of Kenya’s urban population, which will continue to grow. SHOFCO was founded with the belief that the key to peace and prosperity is empowering communities to participate actively in their own transformation.
Ed Gachuna shares this belief and, after spending 16 years abroad, he returned to Kenya to serve as the CFO of SHOFCO to help build the next generation of leaders and harness the collective voice of the community to advocate for change.
SHOFCO deploys three pillars of transformation: (1) Service Delivery -- recognizing that the systemic denial of services like healthcare and sanitation is a powerful form of marginalization; (2) Community Organization and Grassroots Advocacy -- creating an overarching community-appointed leadership structure to facilitate grassroots advocacy; and (3) Female Leaders of Tomorrow -- making long-term investments in quality, leadership-focused education for girls living in slum communities.
By tackling systemic challenges that perpetuate the cycle of urban poverty and disrupting the need to live in survival mode, SHOFCO gives slum residents the tools they need to build a promising future for themselves.
Despite progress in ensuring opportunities for women in STEM fields, women and girls continue to be systematically underrepresented as users, creators and leaders in the fields of science and technology. Over her career as a software engineer, Linda Kamau found herself being the only woman of color in a leadership position and realized female coders were constantly mistaken for more subordinate roles simply because they were women.
With the inspiration to change the landscape of the growing field of technology, Linda co-founded AkiraChix to provide hands-on technical training to young women, girls, and children to increase the number of skilled women in tech and positively impact the community.
Learn more here: http://akirachix.com/
Kenya loses up to $500 million each year due to inefficiencies along its agriculture value chains. This results in a loss of income, livelihoods, and a compounding of the food insecurity challenges Kenya faces. EBAgroPamoja is a youth-developed and youth-driven climate action enterprise that operates on the basic premise that these challenges are disguised opportunities for solution makers. Steffi Maingi, through Innovative Volunteerism, developed EBAgroPamoja’s app to bridge challenges with solutions along the agricultural value chain.
EBAgroPamoja takes a holistic approach, linking agriculture to vital areas such as clean energy; transport and logistics to link efficiently to markets; consumer niche markets among climate, health and environmentally conscious consumers; and training to retool skills among people, especially youth, to engage in these interrelated areas.
Cumulatively, EBAgroPamoja aims to reverse post-harvest losses and create food secure homes and enterprise opportunities across multiple sectors, all without adding emissions and degrading the environment. And by doing this, ultimately drive the implementation of the SDGs and create wealth opportunities for youth.
Learn more here: http://www.ebagropamoja.org
Franso was a garbage picker in Dandora, a slum northeast of central Nairobi. In 2012 he started applying his love for music into helping children and youth from Dandora express themselves and share their stories and experiences growing up in the slums, affected by environmental issues, poverty, gender inequality, access to quality education and health care.
He rented a room to give the children a place to practice music. Now with 23 students, Dandora Music School remains a free program. Every weekend, Franso teaches the children music and another volunteer teaches art.
Members of the first graduating class (2012) formed the acclaimed and award winning Dandora Music group, who despite all the challenges of being brought up in the slums of Nairobi, have shared the stage with renowned artists and performed at festivals and concerts. Their song “Unbreakable,” denouncing violence against women and children, was awarded First Place at the 2018 Peace In The Street Global Film Festival held at the United Nations in New York.
The fashion industry accounts for 20% of global waste water and 10% of global carbon emission, with a garbage truck of clothes discarded every second to be burned or sit in landfills for up to 200 years. While population and consumption continue to grow, resources such as water and arable land to maintain the demand are on the decline.
Jonah Mwangi saw an opportunity to address both the growing need for eco-friendly fabrics and to help farmers increase barren land utility in Kenya by founding Green Nettle Textiles. A biochemist by profession, a passionate farmer and trained social entrepreneur, Jonah found that he could use his knowledge of the stinging nettle to produce organic nettle fabric as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional fabrics. This use of stinging nettle also helps farmers whose lands include thin-soiled steep slopes not fit for regular agriculture.
Learn more here: http://greennettletextiles.com/
Co-organized by UN Local2030 Hub for Sustainability Solutions, UN Foundation, shift7 and Global Innovation Exchange, UN Solutions Summit lifts innovators with extraordinary solutions already advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. Let's get them resources, partners and mentors to scale their work faster.