Nairobi, Kenya this week played host to the fourth annual Kusi Ideas Festival, which brought together bold voices to discuss the climate crisis and its impact on Africa. The opening session included remarks by Prince Rahim on behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network.

Every year, the southerly Kusi winds blow over the Indian Ocean in the warmer months of April to September. Historically, the air currents enabled trade up north along the East African coast and between Asia and Africa for thousands of years.

The Kusi Ideas Festival is named after this natural phenomenon, which enabled cultural, intellectual, and technological exchanges across land and sea, and played an essential part in East Africa’s development over the years.

The Nation Media Group (NMG) created the Kusi Ideas Festival four years ago as a pan-African platform to examine Africa’s place in the world; to harness its citizens’ problem-solving ideas and innovations; and to make preparations for future challenges. 

NMG, a part of the Aga Khan Development Network, was established by Mawlana Hazar Imam in 1959 during the struggle for independence in East African countries. Today, it is the largest independent media house in East and Central Africa with operations in print, broadcast, and digital media. Its mission is to be the “Media of Africa for Africa,” aiming to help position the continent as a leading player on the global stage.

This year’s conference, held on 8 and 9 December 2022, centred on the theme of climate change and aimed to identify uniquely African responses and solutions to what has become one of the defining issues of our time. 

In his remarks, delivered via video link, Prince Rahim congratulated the NMG on holding this fourth edition of the Festival and spoke of its pioneering role in the progress of the continent over recent decades. 

“Nation Media Group has shown thought-leadership in encouraging dialogue on key issues affecting not only the countries where the Group is active, but all of Africa,” he said.

Prince Rahim centred his address on this year’s theme, and its significance for Africa and the world at large.

“Temperatures in Africa are rising, and are set to rise faster than the global average during the 21st century,” he said. “While Africa has contributed negligibly to the changing climate, being responsible for only two to three percent of global emissions, it stands out disproportionately as the most vulnerable continent in the world to climate change.”

Prince Rahim also highlighted the transformational work that AKDN agencies are undertaking to meet their target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030. This includes the development of tools to measure greenhouse gas emissions; Gold Eco-rating Certification of the Network’s Serena hotels; changing of agricultural practices for tens of thousands of farmers; working with rural communities to strengthen climate resilience; and introducing a new concept in schools known as “Play, Pluralism and Planet” to ensure the next generation of leaders are climate-aware, climate-empathetic, and climate-resilient.

The Honourable Roselinda Soipan Tuya, Cabinet Secretary from Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry delivered an address on behalf of Kenya’s President, His Excellency Dr William Samoei Ruto.

“Climate change is the social, political and economic issue of our time. It is going to define the future of Kenya, Africa, the globe and it is our collective responsibility to participate in shaping how the phenomenon will affect our future,” she said. 

“This endeavour can only be achieved through collective action. We are living at a time when we must all be conservationists and must play a part in safeguarding our environment. We will not meet this challenge through top-down decrees, but bottom-up action.”

At the conference, panellists discussed issues including the differentiation between mitigation and adaptation strategies to a warming continent, the role of the private sector, financial solutions, and how Africa's young people might mobilise to develop innovative responses. 

The venue for this year’s festival was Karura Forest in Nairobi, one of the last remaining indigenous forests that provides a vital carbon sink for the area’s industrial activity. It also serves as an important water catchment area and offers relaxation and recreational value for Nairobi’s citizens. 

These days, the spirits of the Kusi trade winds express themselves in new ways. The Indian Ocean today provides a rich bed for the fibre optic cables that make the Information Age possible in a large part of Africa.

Whether through exchange of ideas online or via conferences such as this, NMG and its partners are working together to enable a ‘Pan-African ideas transaction market’ to address the challenges that Africa faces today, in order to secure a bright future in the 21st century.