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Trailblazing the Path to Climate Resilience

Wairimu Gitahi and Tyler Ferdinand

Jun 21, 2023

A Climate Adaptation Innovation Challenge in Cape Town

The Climate Adaptation Innovation Challenge took place in Cape Town from May 13 to 14. The participants, who were gathered into seven "companies," engaged in lively discussions fueled by enthusiasm and a shared goal: to explore innovative climate adaptation solutions leveraging the power of fintech. This hackathon-style event was hosted by the CIFAR Alliance, BFA Global, and Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth in collaboration with the Stellenbosch University LaunchLab, the University of Cape Town's Algorand Financial Innovation Hub, and Push Local Ventures. 

"This event is ground-breaking because it's addressing a space that currently has limited solutions but incredible potential. It's bringing together two sectors that don't normally interact: Fintech solutions and climate action,” says Tyler Ferdinand, Climate Innovation Specialist BFA Global.

Access to financial services is a significant challenge in climate-vulnerable communities. Over the span of 48 hours, the participants had an opportunity to generate new ideas and build upon existing strategies to investigate how financial technologies can offer climate-resilient solutions to these communities. "It is becoming increasingly apparent that the same financially vulnerable communities are also, in many cases, most impacted by climate change, and they urgently need tools to help them build economic resilience and security in the face of these challenges. But we're in need of more ideas and more resources," says Ali Schmidt-Fellner, Vice President of Insights, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

Through the event, mentors were available to guide the newly formed teams in shaping their ideas. After working through these solutions, the groups presented compelling pitches to a panel of five judges representing tech accelerators, data science, city government, social innovation, and fintech innovation sectors. The first prize had two categories: an outstanding 'new idea', awarded to SeaSoil, and an exceptional 'existing idea', awarded to YouMeta.  Elamilima secured the second prize for the second-best existing idea. Additionally, Sealium earned the third prize for the second-best new idea with guaranteed access to co-working at Stellenbosch LaunchLab and entrepreneurship mentoring. 

Providers seeking to extend solutions to these vulnerable communities often lack shared insight and best practices. This is why the CIFAR Alliance has partnered with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to launch a Climate Smart Innovation Hub. This hub serves as a catalyst for integrating fintech products into the climate space, with the aim of promoting climate resilience. This climate Adaptation Innovation Challenge is one of the avenues through which this goal is pursued. "The Hub's primary goal is to carry out a learning agenda to help establish the climate-smart product field, showcase innovators at the local level, develop a gallery of relevant products as proof of concept, and co-create a toolkit to facilitate product managers' climate journeys," adds Tyler Ferdinand. 

Sea Soil, the recipient of the 'new idea' award, aims to improve soil health by developing sustainable fertilizer from underutilized seaweed. Seaweed-based fertilizer has benefits related to soil health and moisture and reduces pests and diseases. In South Africa, beached seaweed is usually removed, and placed in a landfill, generating greenhouse gasses during decomposition. SeaSoil will integrate a carbon credits fintech component into its business model to reduce these landfill emissions and keep carbon and other gasses in the soil, making it productive. Leveraging the voluntary carbon market to support healthy soils via seaweed is a novel area of exploration. "When you put youthful eager minds in one room…they create life-changing startup ideas that benefit both people and the planet. We need more spaces like this to harness the energy and implant impact," says Anga Mbeyiya, Founder of Sea Soil.

The job-matching company, YouMeta, the winner in the 'existing idea' category, enables young people to access green and climate jobs through their innovative app, bringing awareness to emerging livelihood opportunities and upskilling youth. This company is addressing the primary bottleneck in the generation of and participation in green livelihoods: knowledge and access to opportunities. In addition, it helps build climate talent, which is lacking given the scale of the climate challenges. YouMeta is also exploring ways of offering financial incentives to the youth who participate on their platform, for example, providing tokens to those that complete upskilling courses. By leveraging web3 financial applications, YouMeta could equip a generation with the knowledge and power to support a climate-adaptive future. 

 "The time to address the urgent challenges of climate change has never been greater, and it's incredibly heartening to witness the enthusiasm and passion of the youth, who are undeniably the driving force behind a sustainable future. By building a future for youth, with youth, we can harness their energy and creativity to shape innovative solutions that will pave the way towards a more resilient and thriving planet," says Nthabiseng Msingatha, Founder, YouMeta].

All winners will have the valuable opportunity to collaborate and co-create within the Climate Smart Innovation Hub and the CIFAR Alliance network. Additionally, they will be fast-tracked to enter the TECA fellowship. Triggering Exponential Climate Action (TECA) is a venture-launching program managed by BFA Global.

This event was a powerful reminder that integrating financial services and climate solutions is vital to unlocking climate resilience. The creativity and collaboration witnessed during this challenge is evidence that together, we have the power to turn the tide and build a resilient world that stands firm against the challenges of climate change. The next Climate Adaptation Innovation Challenge will be held in Bogota, Columbia, on July 8 and 9, 2023!

Rosita Najmi, Head Global Social Innovation, PayPal

“At PayPal, we believe in the potential of digital finance to enable disadvantaged communities and populations build climate resilience and thrive in the global net-zero economy. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with our CIFAR Alliance partners to enable responsible technological and inclusive financial innovations that create economic opportunity for climate-vulnerable populations around the world.”
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