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More money is going to African climate startups, but a huge funding gap remains

Experts say to unlock financing and fill the gap, African countries need to address risks like currency instability that they say reduce investor appetite.

africaNAIROBI: When Ademola Adesina founded a startup to provide solar and battery-based power subscription packages to individuals and businesses in Nigeria in 2015, it was a lot harder to raise money than it is today.

Climate tech was new in Africa, the continent was a fledgling destination for venture capital money, there were fewer funders to approach and less money was available, he said.

It took him a year of “running around and scouring” his networks to raise his first amount — just under $1 million — from VC firms and other sources. “Everything was a learning experience,” he said.

But the ecosystem has since changed, and Adesina’s Rensource Energy has raised about $30 million over the years, mostly from VC firms.

Funding for climate tech startups in Africa from the private sector is growing, with businesses raising more than $3.4 billion since 2019. But there’s still a long way to go, with the continent requiring $277 billion annually to meet its climate goals for 2030.

Experts say to unlock financing and fill this gap, African countries need to address risks like currency instability that they say reduce investor appetite, while investors need to expand their scope of interest to more climate sectors like flood protection, disaster management and heat management, and to use diverse funding methods.

Still, the investment numbers for the climate tech sector — which includes businesses in renewable energy, carbon removal, land restoration and water and waste management — are compelling: Last year, climate tech startups on the continent raised $1.04 billion, a 9% increase from the previous year and triple what they raised in 2019, according to the funding database Africa: The Big Deal. That was despite a decline in the amount of money raised by all startups in total on the continent last year.

That matters because climate tech requires experimentation, and VC firms that provide money to nascent businesses are playing an essential role by giving climate tech startups risk capital, said Adesina. “In the climate space, a lot of things are uncertain,” he said.

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