2023 Young Talent of the Year Award Celebrates African Youth at COP28

RES4Africa, with EGP and the EIB, awarded three young African innovators for their green innovative projects and inaugurated the new RAISEAfrica initiative

Dubai, 11th December 2023 – A startup repurposing retired electric vehicle batteries for energy storage, a female-founded solar solutions company empowering Lake Victoria's sardine fishing, and a bio-refinery converting biodegradable waste into clean energy: these are the three innovative ideas that, today, won the 2023 Young Talent of the Year Award, the initiative promoted by RES4Africa Foundation, in collaboration with Enel Green Power (EGP) and the European Investment Bank (EIB)The prize, recognizing African entrepreneurs' outstanding contributions to addressing socio-economic and environmental challenges in their communities while advancing the RE sector and SDG7, awarded Christian Yesashimwe, 29 years old from Rwanda, Diana Stephen Mbogo, 30 from Tanzania, and Tunde Adeyemi, 33 from Nigeria, receiving a 5000 euros prize each for their groundbreaking projects.

The winners were announced during the side event Innovative Solutions for a Youth-Led Just Energy Transition, organised by RES4Africa in the context of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai. The gathering focused on the pivotal roles of youth and innovation in Africa's growth, including announcing and presenting the winners of the award, launching RAISEAfrica, a pre-accelerator and accelerator program in the RE sector, and a roundtable discussion on Africa's startup future.

Representatives of the winning startups were invited to join on-stage high-level leaders to present their projects and discuss best practices and solutions to support African youth:

Christian Yesashimwe, Project Manager of SLS Energy, presented his battery startup specialising in repurposing retired electric vehicle batteries for energy storage, focusing on providing cost-competitive power backup solutions. Their innovative approach ensures circularity in battery products, extending their life and maintaining the value of materials.

Diana Stephen Mbogo, Founder and Managing Director of Millennium Engineers Enterprises Ltd, a 100% female-founded African company. The project developed a Sardine Fishing Industry-Lake Victoria project to transition the low-income sardine fishing industry away from traditional methods toward cleaner, more affordable renewable energy solutions. Solar-powered fishing lamps and drying services reduce carbon emissions, respiratory diseases, and post-harvest losses, providing sustainable alternatives to conventional practices.

Finally, Tunde Adeyemi, CEO of D-Olivette, presented his CarbonTrust & Footprint Africa Certified Domestic Bio-refinery Social Enterprise building technologies that transform biodegradable and organic waste into clean energy and food. The solution provides CO2-neutral heat and electricity for off-grid communities, eliminating the need for wood fuel, diesel, and chemical fertilizer.

The event also marked the launch of RAISEAfrica, a collaborative effort involving RES4Africa, EGP, Energias De Portugal (EDP), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and South African Institute of Chartered Accounts Enterprise Development (SAICA ED). This pre-acceleration and acceleration initiative supports innovative African entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sector, providing resources, mentorship, and funding to propel their ventures. RAISEAfrica's program, will provide mentoring, coaching, networking, visibility, and fundraising, and cater to both emerging and established entrepreneurs.

Lastly, a roundtable discussion titled Africa's Startup Future: Empowering Youth Innovation promoted debate on boosting the continent's growth through youth-led innovation. Moderated by a member of the RES4Africa Youth Task Force, the session brought together high-level speakers for a fruitful conversation.

RES4Africa firmly believes in the transformative power of renewables and innovation as key responses to Africa's climate and energy challenges. By uniting efforts and resources, the Foundation, together with Enel Green Power, and the European Investment Bank, committed to fostering real change and creating a sustainable future led by the innovative spirit of Africa's youngest generations, in recognition of the vital role of the continent's youth in this transition.

"As one of Africa’s leading development finance partners, the European Investment Bank supports youth employment through dedicated intermediated financing for businesses employing young people, business skills training for entrepreneurs and targeted banking best practices training with approximately 40,000 African financial professionals over the last decade. The EIB is pleased to support this visionary initiative that awards innovation and highlights the key role played by young people in delivering the green transition." said Ambroise Fayolle, Vice President of the European Investment Bank.

"Christian, Diana, and Tunde embody the transformative essence of the Award, showcasing the brilliance that turns challenges into opportunities. May their success act as a guiding force towards a sustainable future for Africa, while our commitment to youth-led innovation is renewed through initiatives like RAISEAfrica" commented Roberto Vigotti, RES4Africa Secretary General.

List of panellist:

  • Francesco La Camera, Director General at IRENA;
  • Roberto Vigotti, Secretary General, RES4Africa Foundation;
  • Christian Yesashimwe, SLS Energy;
  • Diana Mbogo, Millennium Engineers;
  • Ambroise Fayolle, Vice President of the European Investment Bank;
  • Yolanda Fernandez, Sustainability, Innovation & Climate Change director at EDP Spain;
  • Duccio Tenti, Team Leader Energy, UNDP Rome Centre;
  • Ludovico Del Vecchio, Programme Officer, IRENA;
  • Martin Masiya, CEO at Sollys Energy Ltd, member of RES4Africa Youth Task Force.

Download the Press Release

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Africa is a continent in continuous transformation, with a sustained economic and population growth, a fast-paced urbanization and a young generation of talents who is leading its business revolution. This transformation requires energy and will require it even more in the next decades.
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