Celebrating Kenya’s Climate Justice Heroes on Mashujaa Day

Here at Gong, our clients span a wide range of sectors from fintech to sustainability and climate, from green building to agribusiness, to e-mobility, to private equity and international development, so our team does a lot of online reading and research to keep up to date with what’s being talked about, what’s new and original and what’s coming next.

For Mashujaa Day this year, we wanted to tell you a bit about three of the recent (green) local heroes who have popped up on our radar, so we asked one of our new guest bloggers, Andrew Juma, to go and meet them. This is what he found out.


It’s a watershed moment in Kenya and across East Africa. Young people are devising pragmatic solutions to the problem of climate change. They are building new technology solutions, inventing sustainable products and producing strategic content to combat the pressing issue of climate change.


TIMAO GROUP is a startup revolutionizing housing in Kenya and Africa through long-term sustainable solutions. They make building materials from plastic waste and are committed to improving accessibility to affordable, dignified, eco-friendly living.

“Our desire is to revolutionize housing in Africa by providing affordable, quality homes,” says Ishmael Hezekiah, the Chief Product Officer at TIMAO Group.

“Currently in Kenya, we generate 2600 tons of plastic waste but only 8% of this is recycled. In addition, Kenya has an annual deficit of 85,000 housing units annually. Our focus is to change this narrative by transforming waste plastic into building materials thus addressing the challenges of home ownership and climate change.”

TIMAO builds four housing units per month using plastic waste. In so doing, they have reduced the carbon footprint of construction processes, improved access to shelter and eliminated post-consumer plastic waste from the streets.

“In the past 16 months, we have churned out over 4,000 plastic posts, lumber planks and constructive material (our plastic construction system),” says Ishmael.

“From this, we have offset at least 320 tons of GHG emissions from the environment. A 40 SQM unit offsets 10 tons of plastic waste from the environment.”


Michelle Muchillwa is a Kenyan teenager with big dreams aligned towards sustainability. Her brainchild, the Ziwa Safi App, is now the X factor in comprehensive data collection for plastic pollution prevention in the Lake Victoria region.

Michelle’s app has significantly powered strategies, action plans and progress tracking in efforts to clean Lake Victoria, which is inundated with plastics and microplastics that frustrate natural flora and fauna.

In 2021, Ziwa Safi scooped the top spot (second only to a Malaysian gender violence prevention app) in the World Technovation Challenge. The app is now available on the Google Play store for global use.

Francis Maina, a young climate activist and architect with the Solar Cooling Project, helps design and construct Net zero cold rooms, emphasizing local and sustainable materials.

“The construction sector alone contributes to 44% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, even more than the transport and industry sector, which made me take this sustainability path,” says Francis. “We always try to work with materials that sequester carbon during their growth and life cycle.

Francis has launched his startup, Franchise Green Design, and looks forward to making a greater positive impact through quality sustainable solutions.

“I think certifications like IFC EDGE help provide a valuable framework for building companies to align their operation with ESG goals and for project owners to assess the most cost-effective ways to achieve sustainability in their projects.”


“The most pressing climate risk confronting Kenya and the global community today is the increasing unpredictability of weather patterns and extreme weather conditions,” says Winnie Cheche, a celebrated eco-blogger and climate activist in Kenya.

“My professional focus centres on the convergence of environmental communication and climate activism, and over the past eight years, I have committed myself to instigating positive change in the face of our planet’s most formidable challenge, the climate crisis.”

Winnie’s efforts have garnered recognition from esteemed publications such as Nation Media, Greenpeace International, Greenpeace Africa, Greenpeace UK, La Stampa Newspaper, Greiner Talks, Global Citizen, and Pass the Mic.

Winnie found her voice on social media after an incident where elephants were portrayed as ‘confused’ in local press when they invaded farms belonging to the neighbouring local communities. With her background in Wildlife Management, she knew that this portrayal was misleading and wanted to highlight that in fact climate change was the root cause of erratic wildlife behaviour.

She says there is a need to have climate solutions tailored to local contexts and that responses to climate change must resonate with African communities.

“While advocating on the streets remains crucial, a more vigilant and strategic approach is needed to secure a genuine seat at the table where tangible actions transpire. Current participatory mechanisms often exclude the public, resulting in suboptimal policies.”

These people on the frontline of the climate battle understand the most significant and severe impacts of the crisis from personal experience. They sacrifice and stretch their livelihoods every day, fighting to secure a destruction-free future.

So, while things might have cooled off on the streets of Nairobi, the fight for climate change continues on, and in celebration of Mashujaa day here at Gong, we salute all the heroes and change-makers!

But this is just the start. Over the coming months we will be exploring where innovation is blossoming across different sectors and want to profile as many brilliant people as we can who are helping to fight the good fight in supporting and driving positive change.

We are calling on you – yes, that means you – to send us your suggestions of who you think fits the bill of being a future green legend. We want to hear about all the amazing venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, corporate advocates, activists, influencers, academics, policy experts and youth leaders you rate as leading the charge in the green economy.

We’ll then publish a list of our favourite change-makers and look to share it far and wide, to help spread their message and influence across our precious planet. So don’t be shy: we’re ready to hear about your Kenyan (or African – because we’re not going to put a limit on where these come from) suggestions at GongKenya@gongcommunications.com!

[Thank you to Andrew Juma for submitting this blog].

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, Puro.earth, 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: Jo.Hooke@thewilful.com
Richa Kundnani: Richa.Kundnani@thewilful.com