Category Archives: Featured

East Africa’s climate tech innovators

By Janet Ndugire & Sarah Horsley


Just as COP27 began in Egypt, the UN reported that the past eight years have been the warmest on record. Nowhere is this more evident than here in Africa. Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are entering their fifth year of successive droughts. Across the Horn of Africa, 36 million people are affected by drought and that will rise to 80 million people by the end of the year if the rains are insufficient, according to the UN. At the same time, flooding in South Sudan, Uganda and Burundi have destroyed homes and crops and displaced millions.

Climate disasters are having a dire effect on the continent’s ability to produce food. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that $30 billion was lost in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa from 2008 to 2018 due to declines in crop and livestock production in the aftermath of drought, floods and storms.

Research from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows that sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most food insecure region. Climate-resilient infrastructure, such as solar power to run irrigation systems, is the key to protecting food production and distribution in Africa, according to the IMF. Digitalisation is also important, allowing farmers access to early warning weather systems, mobile banking and platforms to buy seeds, fertilisers and connect them with wholesale buyers.


Innovation hub


East Africa is fast being recognised as a hub for such agriculture and climate tech innovation. Research from Fitch Solutions this year identified Kenya as Africa’s top destination for agri-tech investment.  Agricultural insurance and technology company Pula helps smallholder farmers insure their crops and livestock against a wide range of climate risks, including drought, excessive rainfall, pests and disease. Pula’s partner, Apollo Agriculture, uses satellite imagery of farms and machine learning to guide with credit decision making. It also helps farmers diversify to high-yielding crops, providing access to wholesale orders on its checkout app.

While start-up Neruva Technologies has come up with a particularly innovative product: the ecocapsule. Powered by solar energy, this pop-up pod allows farmers to rear 2,000 fish every five months and 1,000 heads of crops every four months.  There are no harmful by-products as plant roots absorb the fish waste, avoiding the need for fertilisers and ensuring all yields are organic.

In Tanzania, EEP Africa funded ENdep is reducing post-harvest losses through the provision of solar-powered cold storage for fish traders around Lake Victoria. These shared cold storage rooms will also be used to store meat, dairy and crops, with women and youth prioritised on rental space to encourage them into this sector and boost livelihoods.  According to ENdep’s projections, the system will generate 105 MWh of clean energy per year.

Rwandan-based Shambapro, founded in 2018, is a next generation agtech start up which helps small scale farmers to develop their farms into sustainable businesses. The company has created a platform, accessible via an App, with simple-to-use farm management tools that enable them to maintain financial and production records, manage inventories and obtain access to financing.


Where is the support?


Early-stage climate-focused start-ups in East African countries face distinct challenges and barriers such as poor internet connectivity, an unreliable power supply, and a lack of access to funding making it challenging for climate tech start-ups to achieve scale.

Initiatives such as the EU funded Uganda Green Enterprise Accelerator provide some much needed support. SMEs, drawn from a broad range of sectors including eco-tourism, clean energy, sustainable transport, waste management, green manufacturing, and agro-processing are assisted through the early growth stage of their business via the sharing of skills and partnering with financial institutions to facilitate access to loans. One such enterprise is Nampya Farmers Market a food sourcing and distribution company aiming to improve transparency and protect precious food resources by reducing waste.  It has developed a digital platform for a formal agri-food marketplace connecting stakeholders throughout the supply chain thereby increasing affordable, quality, fresh and safe food access to urban populations in Uganda whilst improving smallholder farmers’ livelihoods.

The Kenya Climate Innovation Center backs local entrepreneurs looking to tackle climate change through technology, acting as an incubator and supporting with skills development and financing. The organisation, which has mobilised USD 44 million in financing for climate change and has incubated around 300 SMEs to date, is on a mission to deliver innovative climate change solutions through an empowered private sector.

Africa only accounts for two to three per cent of global emissions, according to the UNFCCC, but it is the most vulnerable region in the world to climate change. With COP27 now behind us, alongside the broad agreement on the climate and loss fund, another key takeaway from the talks is potential changes coming to the mandates of multilateral lenders so that financing flows more easily to energy-transition and climate adaptation projects. But for now, and for the foreseeable future, east Africa’s innovators will continue to play a crucial role in helping the region to withstand some of the worst impacts of climate change.


For international communications support in East Africa and beyond, please do get in touch with our sustainability team at: From its Nairobi base, Gong Kenya has delivered communications assignments for clients in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and is part of a network of agencies operating globally.

Gong wins Sabre awards Africa for second year

We are thrilled to announce that we have won the Central Africa geographic category of the SABRE Awards Africa 2022, our second SABRE trophy in two years recognising ‘Superior Achievement in Branding, Reputation, and Engagement’ for our client  Birimian Ventures‘ Launch & Accelerator Programme.

Last year, Gong won the Superior Achievement in Research and Planning category and received a certificate of excellence in the Financial and Professional Services category for our work in delivering the Dive In Festival in Nigeria, the international festival for diversity and inclusion, which we have delivered for three years in a row, working alongside Aon and Lloyd’s and our Nigerian partners Phyllion & Partners Limited.

We are grateful to our clients for trusting us to tell their stories and connect with their audiences, and we look forward to delivering more award-winning comms work for our clients in the future.

Gong appointed as media relations partner to support Grundfos SafeWater

Gong has been chosen to support Grundfos SafeWater with a media relations brief aimed at increasing visibility of its water projects in sub Saharan Africa, including an innovative smart tech clean water pilot project in rural Ghana, an ambitious solar-powered handpump initiative in Zambia, and new irrigation projects in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania working with local partners to improve climate adaptation for smallholder farmers.

SafeWater is a strategic business unit in Grundfos, a leading global pump and water solutions company, creating a lasting impact by transforming underserved communities through commercially viable and sustainable smart water solutions. Collaborating with some of the world’s leading humanitarian and development aid organisations, SafeWater is working towards Grundfos’ ambition of reaching 300 million people by 2030 with access to drinking water.

To learn more, visit

Innovate UK KTN appoints Gong to support flagship innovation projects in Kenya

Gong has been appointed to provide local PR and communications support for the KTN Global Alliance Africa project from Innovate UK KTN, designed to support small business and local and regional innovation across a range of sectors and to promote long-lasting strategic partnerships between Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and the UK.

The KTN Global Alliance Africa project partners with local groups, including innovation hubs and local governments, to develop wider networks, connecting ideas, people and communities and nurturing local innovation ecosystems through a series of targeted programmes. By helping to scale homegrown solutions to meet local problems, the KTN Global Alliance Africa project aims to accelerate local, homegrown innovation for inclusive economic growth, to create jobs and to reduce poverty. Gong’s role will be to amplify Innovate UK KTN’s work in Kenya, now partnering with the Kenya National Innovation Agency, to increase awareness amongst its key stakeholders including the private sector, government, investors, the innovation community and civil society.

KTN Global Alliance Africa project is a six-year project funded by UK Aid through Innovate UK (GCRF) and FCDO. To learn more, please visit:

Renewable Energy in Africa: A Post-COP26 Outlook

By Ryan Witton


By the close of the COP26 climate conference late last year, 77 countries and organisations had signed the ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’. In it, signatories pledged to phase out coal power and move away from the carbon-intensive fuel while scaling up investments in renewables. 28 new members signed up to the Powering Past Coal Alliance, joining more than 150 countries, sub-nationals and businesses, accounting for over US$17 trillion in assets. With nearly three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions stemming from energy production, the transition towards clean energy sources is a necessity for tackling climate change and keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Africa is a continent which still relies heavily on fossil fuels and biomass for its energy needs, yet has terrific potential for renewable power. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) perhaps puts it best:

“Endowed with substantial renewable energy resources, Africa can adopt innovative, sustainable technologies and play a leading role in global action to shape a sustainable energy future,” – IRENA,  Scaling up Renewable Energy Deployment in Africa.


Africa’s Clean Energy Transition


Global economic and technological shifts are lending themselves towards cheaper and more accessible renewable power in Africa. The cost of solar PV energy decreased by 77 per cent between 2010 and 2018, and the price tags of other innovative technologies, like green hydrogen and lithium-ion energy storage, are also expected to continue falling. Independent power producers like AMEA Power are supporting this transition, with one example being the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed solar PV power plant in Togo, which will provide 50 megawatts (MW) of clean energy to 600,000 households and 700 small to medium-sized enterprises in the region. Another example is the Kipeto Wind Power Project in southwest Kenya, which is the second largest wind power project in the country with a generation capacity of 100MW of clean electrical energy.

Financing remains the most significant challenge to large-scale renewable energy in Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund, so investment managers with knowledge and expertise to mobilise funds for large-scale projects on the continent are sorely needed. African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) develops and manages private equity funds which invest in long-term African infrastructure projects. Through its IDEAS Managed Fund, AIIM made a significant investment into Witkop Solar Park, a 30MW solar PV facility supplying electricity to over 6,000 households in the Limpopo region of South Africa. Witkop is connected to the national grid under the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme, an initiative designed to facilitate private sector investment into grid-connected renewable energy.

Olusola Lawson, co-managing director at AIIM, highlighted the importance of developing strategies that are “cognisant of certain constraints, like financing, to maximise the near-1.5TW renewable energy generation potential across the continent.” He described return on investment in African renewable energy as being potentially very high as upfront costs fall and regulatory and financing barriers lift. Bboxx is another excellent example of an AIIM investment with a scalable model, which in just over a decade has grown from inception to now operating in 10 countries to provide over two million people with clean electricity and utilities.


Green Hydrogen’s potential


Hydrogen produced through electrolysis and powered by renewable energy is labelled as ‘green’. This potentially zero-emission energy source could supply up to 25 per cent of the world’s energy needs and become a US$10 trillion addressable market by 2050, predicts Goldman Sachs. Despite its credentials, green hydrogen currently accounts for less than five per cent of hydrogen produced globally, the rest is primarily ‘grey hydrogen’, which is produced through carbon and methane-intensive methods. The African Hydrogen Partnership (AHP) is a continent-wide association dedicated to the development of green hydrogen, hydrogen-based chemicals, and hydrogen-related business opportunities across Africa. In an interview with Gong for its Africa Net Zero series, AHP co-founder and secretary general Siggi Huegemann describes green hydrogen as a key factor for decarbonising nations worldwide as they become green energy importing nations. He sees African countries as having enormous potential for producing huge amounts of low-cost green hydrogen to meet this demand. “One cannot decarbonise Europe without African hydrogen,” Siggi says, expanding on the need for large-scale hydrogen projects spanning several countries to diversify energy sources for importing nations.

The ‘Net Zero by 2050’ scenario proposed in the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2021 predicted a strong emergence of inter-regional hydrogen trade. COP26 saw the inception of the Africa (and Latin America) Green Hydrogen Alliance to kickstart the development of the low-carbon fuel for use in both domestic and international industries. In a space where cross-sector dialogue, engagement and participation are pivotal for global scalability and the adoption of this relatively nascent technology, collaborations like the African Green Hydrogen Alliance and AHP will be critical.

Africa Net Zero Series: conversations with champions and challengers


African countries generate just two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, they find themselves on the frontlines of climate change, dealing with the effects of a rapidly warming world thanks to the other 98 per cent of global emissions. In our Africa Net Zero Series, we look at the champions and challengers helping to cut the continent’s emissions.

Our first guest, Elizabeth Wangeci Chege, CEO and co-founder of WEB Limited, told us she wanted to be part of the solution as an engineer in the construction industry, not part of the problem. She outlined the opportunities in Africa to build green cities in the future and the positive shift in attitudes among the private and public sector towards net zero targets.

Our second guest, Dr Wolfram Schmidt, Researcher at the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, discussed the ins and outs of cement production. Responsible for 2.8 billion tonnes of CO2, the cement industry is ripe for an overhaul. Dr Schmidt talked us through the idea of using waste from the widely grown crop cassava as an alternative material for “green” cement and the opportunity for producing African-made green cement to meet Africa’s housing and infrastructure demands.

And for the latest episode of our Africa Net Zero series, we were delighted to sit down with two guests: Siggi Huegemann and Dr Innocent Uwuijaren from the African Hydrogen Partnership (AHP). We learned more about the African hydrogen journey so far and discussed what the future might hold as the continent becomes one of the world’s major producers.

We hope you enjoy our carbon conversations so far, and if you would like to suggest another topic for our mini-series, please do get in touch with us.

Wilful Press Release


Communications taskforce to support low carbon, regenerative economy

19 October 2021, London

Wilful is a new agency that works at the intersection of tech innovation and sustainability to help clients amplify and scale solutions to the climate emergency.

The agency is built on the merger of its founding taskforce members, Cherish and Gong Communications. The agency works internationally from its London HQ with established partner networks in Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa. Digital agency Loud and start-up specialist Little Bear join brand design agency Made With and Gong Creative in the launch taskforce line-up with the additional sustainability expertise of author and brand strategist, John Grant. Wilful’s Chair is Mike Rowe, founder of digital agency group 1000Heads.

The agency launch co-incides with an unprecedented global push to find solutions to the climate emergency and more sustainable ways of living. Investment capital is being funneled to fund climate innovation across all sectors with sustainable food and mobility overtaking renewable energy.
In the first half of 2021:

  • Private equity firms have raised more than $180 billion of climate finance
  • VC funding for climate tech topped $16bn
  • COP26 host Boris Johnson is redoubling efforts to secure £100bn a year in climate funding for developing countries.


And in October, the EU launched its first green bond, the world’s largest to date, raising €12bn to finance member nations’ environmental initiatives.

Wilful co-founders Rebecca Oatley and Narda Shirley navigated the last period of rapid innovation and disruption together in the early 2000s at PR agency Gnash, when the internet inspired a generation of entrepreneurs to challenge the status quo. Wilful is their new joint venture, drawing on their extensive combined experience working principally in digital disruption, finance, development and sustainability.

Commenting on the market, Rebecca noted, “We are in another phase of rapid technology innovation with capital chasing game changing ideas and visionary entrepreneurs. This time, the stakes are much higher, we need to help the most promising innovations to find their audiences to successfully make the leap to a sustainable low carbon future.”

Wilful Co-Founder, Narda Shirley added, “Organisations that are gearing up for the transition to a low carbon future need a communications partner that can keep pace with the speed of change and the ability to react quickly to opportunities without compromising on the quality of the advice. Reassuringly, we are seeing plenty of brilliant innovations out there already, from big corporates as well as from start-ups. The challenge now is to help the best ones get to scale, which is where we believe communications has a key role to play.”

Some of Wilful’s recent work includes support for carbon removal marketplace,, seaweed bio-refinery and industry catalyser Oceanium, and Unreasonable Group, building community between entrepreneurs, investors and institutions to solve pressing global problems.

Wilful is a new kind of communications agency that works at the intersection of innovation and sustainability to amplify the ideas solving the world’s biggest problems. The Wilful team is on a mission to help clients in the transition to a low carbon, regenerative economy.

Wilful’s task force approach blends disciplines to deliver an agile and adaptable client service drawing on the expertise of two well established agencies with a complementary focus: Cherish with its track record of working with mass market digital disruptors and Gong with its focus on corporate and B2B, often in sustainable development.

Headquartered in London, Wilful has a global network of partners: in Africa it is anchored by Gong’s business in Kenya and in Europe and the US it is represented by Over There, the group of independent agencies that Cherish co-founded.

Jo Hooke:
Richa Kundnani:

Gong wins comms brief for EU funded Uganda Green Enterprise Finance Accelerator

Adelphi research, which runs the EU funded Uganda Green Enterprise Finance Accelerator (UGEFA) in collaboration with Finding XY, has selected Gong to lead communications for the next phase of its business support programme. 

Seeking financing can be extremely challenging for SMEs in Africa and UGEFA aims to improve the flow of capital into SMEs with high growth potential which are focused on the green economy.   

By identifying established green SMEs in sectors such as clean energy and sustainable tourism,  UGEFA prepares business leaders to scale their offerings through interactive learning. They are then matched with a bank and are given access to loans, a third of which is covered by UGEFA. The business support continues through the next phase of growth through training and peer mentoring.  

 The aim is to develop a supportive ecosystem of SMEs and lenders, committed to shaping Uganda’s transition to a green economy. 

Gong’s role will be to amplify the next call for applications from eligible green entrepreneurs across the country, as well as disseminate programme results, notably during the Green Finance Dialogue Forum due to take place towards the end of 2021. 


The East Africa Insurance Sector: driving momentum to ensure climate change mitigation? 

By Sarah Caddy 

Extreme weather events are on the rise due to climate change, placing East Africa increasingly at risk. The recent torrential rain raising Lake Tanganyika to dangerous water levels is just one example, with experts citing climate change and deforestation in the Burundi highlands as causes for topsoil erosion around the lakes. Droughts, tropical cyclones and even plagues of locusts have all been experienced recently. Each threaten the health and livelihoods of households and economies. 

In response, there’s growing impetus to promote sustainability in the run up to the global climate event COP26, to be held in the UK in November. As experts in estimating risk and with significant investment capable of steering meaningful change, the insurance industry is well placed to advise and make a difference.   

To this end, the Nairobi Declaration on Sustainable Insurance was launched by the UN Environment Programme’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative (PSI) on 22 April 2021. Founding signatories including the Association of Kenyan Insurers (AKI), ICEA Lion Group, Egypt’s Regional Center for Sustainable Finance (RCSF), FSD Africa, and PTA Reinsurance all pledged to strengthen the African insurance industry’s contribution to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include ensuring a sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Four months on, with global climate disasters continuing to make news headlines, we look at the efforts being made by the African insurance industry to achieve the goals outlined by the Nairobi Declaration.  

As the only African member of the 22 global insurers and reinsurers who collaborated over 2020 as part of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) insurer pilot group, ICEA Lion Group is vocal about its pioneering role. Writing about its work on the group, it describes the analytical tools the firm is developing to improve climate risk disclosures in line with the recommendations of the TCFD, using the latest climate science. With mounting global pressure on accountability and evidence-based net zero target achievement claims, we predict an increase in African insurance firms communicating their use of tools aligned to the TCFD recommendations, and their role in mitigating against climate change. 

Meanwhile, FSD Africa refers to the obligations for the insurance industry to act on climate change. Writing in their July 2021 blog, risk managers Kelvin Massingham and Zillah Maliah outline the extent of the sustainable development crisis that we currently face, and the essential role that the insurance industry must play in facilitating the flow of capital to climate mitigation investments.  Their call to action to their industry peers is to act now: with only 3 percent of global climate finance allocated to sub Saharan Africa, and a low percentage of African weather-related losses currently being insured, East Africa is poorly equipped to meet the cost of increasing climate disasters. Delay from the insurance industry could prove to be catastrophic. 

While home to 15 percent of the world’s population, Africa is responsible for only 4 percent of global carbon emissions. And yet, Africa’s citizens are already among those suffering most from the effects of climate change – not only from extreme climate events, but also from decreasing agricultural yields and increasing disease transmission, as outlined in this article by the UNFCCCDespite the unfairness of this situation, there is hope. Rama Yade, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centerdescribes the potential offered by the African continent to reverse climate change. She writes convincingly of the renewable energy opportunity, but also of the “massive investment” required to achieve full capacity – fifty billion dollars per year by 2050, according to the United Nations 

The onus is on African insurance industry leaders to leverage their collective might towards a sustainable future. The appetite for working collaboratively towards a common goal that benefits society as well as business is evident in the work of the Nairobi Declaration. By effectively communicating their individual efforts, those insurance firms that are pioneering in this regard can not only be seen as industry leaders but may also nurture best industry practice for all. 


The rise and rise of East Africa’s creative economy

“African imaginations are worth investing in” is the rallying cry of Teesa Bahana, Director of 32° East Ugandan Arts Trust, as she campaigns for funds for her new Ugandan arts centre. She’s not alone in thinking so – Sotheby’s’ recent African contemporary art auction saw record-breaking sales from artists from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Senegal, according to  Quartz. What’s more, in a celebration of local cultural heritage, African collectors made up 70 per cent of those sales. 

There’s a sound business case to be made for backing the East African arts scene. The added value of a productive creative economy is well-documented – be it on tourism, technology, or social mobility. Albeit a few years out of datean Ernst & Young  2015 study indicated that cultural industries in Africa and in the Middle East are worth US$58 billion in revenue, contributing 1.1 per cent to regional GDP and employing 2.4 million people. Despite the setbacks of the Covid pandemic, those figures are likely to be on the increase – a British Council report‘Scoping the Creative Economy in East Africa’ cites “new digitally enabled business models which converge different sectors and practices through the development of new creative content, services or experiences, are flying out of countries at a rate few would have predicted just a few years ago.” 

An increasingly enabling policy, investment and regulatory environment is also helping East Africa’s creative sector. Despite well-documented tax policies on social and digital services, the bigger picture is positive. The British Council’s East Africa Arts Programme providesongoing grant, skills training and funding opportunities for art projects, while dedicated funds like Heva provide finance and business support for creative industries.  One such benefactor is talented Kenyan entrepreneur Bryan Ngatia, whose collective of Kenyan creatives – Too Early for Birds – tell Kenyan stories through art and film. He commends his British Council Cultural Heritage Seed Fund grant for providing the ability to offer his cast and crew healthy contracts and stable working conditions that set a precedence in the sector, enabling a whole community of theatre practitioners who won’t settle for exploitative agreements going forward. He adds, “The icing on the cake was that HEVA’s involvement went beyond financial support. We got business and structural guidance that shaped us better for survival in the future. “

The private sector is progressively more interested in the sector’s potential. Last month (April 2021) saw the launch of Birimian, the first operational investment company dedicated exclusively to African luxury and premium heritage brands. Delivered through a combination of mentoring, financial and operational support, Birimianis establishing an ecosystem designed to create value for African entrepreneurs and help independent labels become international brands.  In the same month, the East African Community (EAC) Leather Industry Network Platform launched, offering industry players a “reliable virtual space to connect, interact and transact business.” The trade in leather and leather products in the EAC has enormous potential and is growing at an annual average rate of 1.5 per cent. 

As the global economy begins to rebuild following the effects of the still-present, crippling pandemic, the creative industries look well-placed to support a return to economic growth. Not to mention helping us all to come to terms with the experience through essential artistic expression. 

Further Reading 

The following links support further investigation into East African cultural industries: