Digitalization and Fintech in Sub-Saharan Africa

By | Opinion Piece

This opinion peace aims to shed light on few of many business opportunities that can be found in Sub-Saharan Africa. If you are a digital savvy with dreams of using your digital skills in an impact startup, Sub-Saharan Africa is your destination.

Technology is transforming the global economy, faster than ever. More than half of the world population have access to technology compared to 30 percent in 2010. This transition has created opportunities. These opportunities are to be found in a great amount of developing countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where there is an increased demand for digital skills.

It is estimated that 230 million jobs in sub-Saharan Africa will require digital skills resulting in 650 million training opportunities. A 130-billion-dollar opportunity exist in providing digital training in Sub-Saharan Africa until 2030. The largest opportunities are to be found within business-to-business and business-to-government.

Another opportunity to be found within digitalization in Sub-Saharan Africa is within digital financial services. Digital financial services (Fintech) create financial inclusion through reduced transaction costs. Digital financial services allow people to open savings accounts, take out loans, invest in stock markets etc.  Fintech could be the steppingstone towards a digital economy in Africa, which could create a structural transformation, if exploited well.

So how does this relate to the SDGs?  Digital skills are an essential part of human capital development and paramount to future success, moreover Investment in human capital in Sub-Saharan Africa can improve competitiveness. Digitalization can create infrastructure in rural areas (SDG 9) the majority of households in rural areas in sub Saharan Africa, are not to be found on navigation systems. There is a business-to-government and business-to-business opportunity in mapping rural areas that is not being utilized to its full potential.

Sustainability Influencers

We are students with different educational backgrounds and nationalities all sharing the same agenda: we want to mobilise, engage and empower young people to take action on sustainability issues. We break down silo thinking and instead foster co-creation, innovation and collaboration between multiple disciplines. The Sustainability Influences is a one-year volunteer programme for students who wish to have a broad influence on important institutions in society and actively participate in the sustainability debate, interact with students and professionals, participate in workshops and events, and engage with key sustainability practitioners.

Please visit our website for more information about the programme and our impact.

About the author

Shantel is part of the Advocacy team within the Sustainability Influencers. She is born and raised in Zambia, East Africa. She is a bachelor student in Intercultural Marketing and Communication at Copenhagen Business School and aspires to propel sustainable development through transcontinental collaborations for technological disruption.

The European Green Deal and Energy Democracy

By | Opinion Piece

The European Green Deal and Energy Democracy

Ten years from now we will likely look back upon this decade and this new European project with a resounding sense of success or failure. In recent history there has never been a decade so vital in determining the fate of future European generations as the one we enter now. We face three major overlapping challenges. Firstly, we have an economic crisis which is represented by increases in poverty, inequality and homelessness. Secondly, an environmental and climate crisis which threatens food security, front line communities, current economic models and entrenched investment portfolios. Lastly, we have a crisis of democracy where liberal democratic values are threatened in Europe.

The new commission in Brussels headed up by Ursula von Der Leyen have clearly set out their plans…“At the heart of our work is the need to address the changes in climate, technology and demography that are transforming our societies and way of life.” In response to the climate crisis the commission has laid out a European Green Deal in which their “goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce, the way we consume, with our planet and to make it work for our people. The European Green Deal is on the one hand about cutting emissions, but on the other hand about creating jobs and boosting innovation.” These policy measures will change the face of Europe; it’s trade, energy, food and financing. This progressive stance should of course be welcomed, we need leaders with strong and just policy who can tell and sell a story of hope.

However, if this Green Deal cannot respond to the three crucial issues faced in Europe what state of affairs will we be looking at in 2030. Are we looking down the barrel of the most radical, fair and transformative set of polices that can produce a carbon neutral society by 2050 – perhaps a society enriched by citizen participation in democratic processes where the economy works within planetary boundaries and exists to serve the majority of the population? Or, are there two bullets loaded ready to reinforce spiralling levels of inequality where energy policy plays into the hands of dubiously revamped oil companies? Policy which does the latter will likely bolster support for anti-establishment movements disdainful of centralised Neo-liberal policy. You need look no further than the yellow vest movement in France for evidence of this.

One of the main pillars of the new European Green deal is energy policy. Transitioning the energy system towards net zero emissions is a multifaceted problem. The solution is not so clear but it will likely involve improved efficiencies, electrification of systems, deployment of renewable energy and circular economic models. Classically the provision of energy within the EU has been from state and corporate actors through a centralised production system. The history of our energy system means that large multinational fossil fuel companies and investors are integral in the designing of new energy policy. These conflicts of interest around their asset and investment portfolios are a significant issue, the ability of these entities to promote information favourable to itself is vast when compared to smaller and new actors in the industry. Evidence has shown that despite clear calls for transitioning to carbon neutrally in the EU the European Parliament “regrets the fact that fossil fuel subsidies are still increasing and amount to around €55 billion per year”.

Hope is not however lost because last March an EU Climate Change resolution called on “All levels of government, whether national, regional or local, to put in place measures to encourage the participation of citizens in the energy transition and to stimulate the exchange of best practices; stresses that the involvement of citizens in the energy system through decentralised self-generation of renewable energy,…” Furthermore, EU law now allows communities and individuals to generate, consume and sell their own energy. By 2050 approximately 45% of renewable energy production could be owned by citizens, 37% of which could come through participation in an initiative of a citizen energy community.

The citizen inclusion in the production of renewable energy through individual and community ownership is a unique opportunity for addressing systemic inequality. An energy transition based on citizen inclusion and ownership can empower citizens to fight climate change whilst strengthening local economies and our European democratic model.

Whether the European Green Deal will play into the hands of the invested interests of today is yet to be seen. What however is clear is that there is a legal mandate for citizen owned renewable energy production. The benefits will become clear when citizens are placed at the heart of European Green Deal. The biggest loss will be if we get to 2050 and the owner and operator of a solar panel on your roof is a corporation listed on the stock exchange.

In collaboration with the United Nations Youth Association Energy Working Group we at Sustainability Influencers advocate for measures to encourage the participation of citizens in the energy transition. We work towards educating and empowering the youth – the citizens of today and the future – to building a fairer and more sustainable world.

Author: James Nickles

Advocacy Team

James is part of the Advocacy team within the Sustainability Influencers. He is a Graduate student in Climate Change at the University of Copenhagen.

Happy New Year!

By | Opinion Piece

Dear reader,

Happy New Year! The New Year provides an occasion to both reflect on the year gone by and look ahead for the year we have entered. I will take that opportunity as well and make a short status for the Sustainability Influencers. Let’s begin.

The first batch of Sustainability Influencers and their 2019

In 2019, the first batch from the Sustainability Influencers ended the programme. During their one-year involvement in the programme, the influencers amongst other guested the CBS Wire podcast sharing their view on the progress in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), took part in a business panel on youth engagement and sustainability at a Slotskredsmøde at Frederiksberg, and published our report on Students and Sustainability.

For the report on Students and Sustainability, we asked 696 university students across nine universi­ties in Denmark about their knowledge con­cerning the SDGs, their attitude towards sus­tainability in their study program, and their opinion about sustainability in future jobs. The report highlights that Sustainability is on the top agenda among Danish university stu­dents. Students demand more action and with the report, we emphasise the need for uni­versities, organisations, public administration and businesses to actively incorporate and take a stand towards a sustainable future. If you want to read the report, please click here.

2019 was also the year where we participated in the Global Goals World Cup, which is “an alternative football tournament that creates community, inspires and engages women from all over the world”. The tournament took place in front of Danish Architecture Centre and our team of influencers had blast together with the other participants.

Through the year, we hosted and spoke at events, were nominated for an award and meet a lot of eager, inspiring and great people. Thank you to all of you who have followed the journey, invited us, nominated us, or participated in our events through this first batch.

A new batch of Sustainability Influencers

In September 2019, the new batch of Sustainability Influencers were recruited. 17 university students from Copenhagen Business School, University of Copenhagen and University of Southern Denmark.

During the fall, we hosted our first workshop on the UN SDGs at Sankt Annæ Gymnasium, participated in the climate strike and spent time on developing new initiatives for 2020. 2020 marks the year of 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to the UN, “the goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, peace and justice, and are all interconnected. To leave no one behind, they must be achieved by 2030.” We could not agree more!!

For the Sustainability Influencers, 2020 will be the year where we launch our SDG Times. The SDG Times will be a biweekly article posting focusing on the youth perspective and a current challenge. With the series of articles, we aim to both inform students and readers about different initiatives and how they can help reach the SDGs as well as inspire you to take action to the extent possible for you. If you do not want to miss it, subscribe to our online channels and sit tight until we publish the first one on 28 January 2020. The first article will be written by James, who is a Graduate student in Climate Change at University of Copenhagen.

In 2020, we will also be hosting and participating in workshop and events and hopefully help raise awareness amongst youth as well as bring forward the youth perspective on the SDGs.

The best wishes for 2020 and a new decade!

We hope to see you around!

Author: Malene Mølgaard Christensen

Advocacy Team

Malene is part of the Advocacy team within the Sustainability Influencers. She is a Graduate student in Applied Economics and Finance at Copenhagen Business School but is currently based in New York where she is studying a semester at Columbia University.