Ba Isago’s green spaces have become one of its trademarks

There is a growing need to leverage human capital and invest in green skills among African youths as they are an essential component of building climate-resilient and sustainable economies.

This was the message during the launch of a climate change entrepreneurship centre at Ba Isago University in Botswana at the end of 2022.

The training centre, which is expected to drive enterprising mindsets, was launched by the university in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme. This brings to two the number of climate change entrepreneurship centres in the region after Nasarawa State University in Nigeria, which was launched in March 2022.

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, green skills are the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society. The importance of green skills is also embedded in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 9 and 12, which include the target of achieving sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources by 2050.

Professor Branko Cavric, dean of the faculty of the built environment, arts and science at the Ba Isago University in Gaborone, Botswana, highlighted that the centre aims to address the country’s developmental issues, to restore food sufficiency and build an economy that is sustainable to create jobs post the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The core activity of the centre will be research and training to enhance the university research output through workshops and short courses to stimulate specialised development on climate change.”

Some of the important courses to be developed and implemented through the centre include environmental and social governance, waste and water resources management, climate entrepreneurship, climate technologies and natural resources protection.

For example, through the centre, students would acquire skills to capitalise on waste management by creating biogas and bio-fertilisers through bio-digesters from livestock waste and deploying these energy solutions within local communities.

Ba Isago’s managing director, Odirile Gabasiane, highlighted that the university adopted several initiatives to mitigate climate change challenges such as the landscape and green spaces that have become the university’s trademark.

“The university has also committed to rainwater harvesting, recycling grey water for watering gardens and the use of boreholes. For instance, the landscape and green spaces that have become our trademarks are essential in creating a healthy environment for those who visit or study at this campus,” he said.

“The university has committed to some of the key plans such as the promotion of youth empowerment and engagement in climate action, running short courses and conferences, and partnering with like-minded organisations to reforest degraded areas in and around the city.”

The Ba Isago Climate Change and Entrepreneurship Centre is expected to connect diverse stakeholders such as the government, academics, innovators, and public and private investors to create an ecosystem that upholds innovation for skills development in climate change.

Climate change entrepreneurs

According to Dr Richard Munang, the deputy regional director of the United Nations Environment Programme Africa Office, the centre will spearhead solutions for the ‘triple planetary crisis’ which are the interlinked issues of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.

During his presentation, he highlighted that climate action is an investment opportunity and must not be presented as a liability, and he also applauded the Ba Isago University leadership for their vision, steadfastness and passion in contributing towards climate change solutions. The educational institution has designed and implemented several environmental initiatives, including one on the use of solar panels for water resource management.

“This climate change centre focuses on one primary goal, which is to create climate action entrepreneurs to inform future climate solutions. We are going to extend these centres to different parts of the continent with a mandate to equip our youths, particularly students and graduates with the relevant skills, knowledge, and capacity to leverage climate action to drive socio-economic transformation and development for people and the planet,” Munang stated.

“We are launching this centre to respond to the realities of climate change and to empower young people so as to ensure that they can combine problems with solutions to create opportunities.”

“Up to 70% of Botswana youths are under the age of 35, the country needs to optimally deploy funds to help this group engage in new-intensive capital areas. The climate environmental lens provides the opportunity for young people, particularly students, to be supported.”

Climate change and policy

The centres are also expected to engage actors in sectors prioritised by nationally determined contributions, which are climate action plans to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts. Ba Isago University will help to identify gaps and opportunities that can be tackled through targeted policy incentives, collect, and compile data and use it to develop solutions.

Through collaboration, the centre will engage with relevant ministries on potential incentives needed to further develop climate action models. This will help to address policy gaps through targeted incentives from the environment and non-environment sister ministries, thereby supporting circularity, diversification, and value addition.

The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism in Botswana, Philda Nani Kereng, mentioned that it was imperative for the country to explore new intensive capital areas such as waste management and energy. The centre would help to leverage the environmental lens to create employment for youths while building resilience against shocks such as COVID-19.

“Looking at threats like COVID-19 and climate change, we had to revise the way we plan and organise government structures and institutions as well as how we connect with other players so that we come up with impactful programmes,” she said.

According to Kereng, “this new climate change and entrepreneurship centre is an indication that Ba Isago University is driven by innovation and impactful activities towards attaining global SDGs, particularly towards SDG 13 for climate action.

“I applaud the university for its decision to go green. The initiatives are a sign that government policies are being implemented and our climate change policy is to advance innovations around renewable energy and reducing emissions,” she said.

Collaborative research

As part of the launch, the head of the department of safety management at Ba Isago University and coordinator of the new climate change and entrepreneurship centre, Dr Nomazile Chicho, led students, faculty members and officials on a tour of a glass recycling site set to become one of the focuses for the centre.

The tour was attended by students from the Conserve to Sustain Club which aims to lead in conservation among young people in Botswana as part of the climate centre.

Boniface Oriedo Olubayo, an administration officer at Skillshare International in Botswana and manager at the Somarelang Tikologo recycling centre, highlighted that the bottle recycling initiative provided a model that would be taught at the university, incorporating practical skills in glass-smelting, glass design and production of glass products for use in construction and landscaping.

“From an environmental standpoint, academic institutions have a role to play in identifying, exploiting the gaps, and incentivising government to invest in waste management. Universities must partner to do more research and improve processes for the segregation of waste materials,” he said.

“Universities must conduct further research and demonstrations to show how such initiatives can be developed on a bigger scale,” he noted in an event that was live-streamed by the United Nations Environment Programme.

This article was updated on 20 January.