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By Xola Keswa

Today, Africa has the youngest population in the world. Why is this important to note? Because the Earth is inherited by the young people of the world. Today, young Africans are not faced with the same threats that threatened their ancestors such as lions or other wild animals. Instead, we face our biggest existential threat ever: climate change.

Africa’s main environmental challenge is to mitigate the effects of climate change, as due to Africa’s size and position, it will be the most impacted.

This problem should and will initiate creative and dynamic solutions that young Africans will create. 

Africans have an innate knack for creating tools, techniques, and methods that help mankind survive. The technologies they discovered thousands of years ago to help survive amongst dangerous creatures in the Savanna of Africa, are still in use now within African traditions and customs. These technologies are how Africa is able to support a large population of about 1.6 billion people.

The innovation that helps sustain Africa today, is the same thing which will ensure her continued survival – and that of the world – through climate change.

Green Technology Innovation in Africa

Groundbreaking science research has been happening in Africa in the field of medicine, much of which is based on indigenous knowledge systems on natural flora and fauna. Much of that research by universities from western countries has been transferred to startup companies in Europe and the US, which have gone on to become successful in competitive pharmaceutical markets. 

Due to emerging policies such as the European Green Deal, companies in the Global North will ultimately need to seek alternative sources for investments in innovations in green technology. I propose that foreign investors start to actively invest in research and development for sustainable green technologies in African countries in the same way that they are investing in pharmaceuticals.

Especially within the area of innovation relating to waste and a circular economy, we have become very good at turning waste into upcycled and redesigned products.

These countries can learn a lot from Africa, “the world’s dumping grounds”. 

A good example of green technology innovation in Africa is the tippy tap. Many rural areas in Africa don’t have running water from a tap. So, naturally, innovative young Africans found a way around that. They ensured that there is a tap close to homes by making a tap using upcycled materials i.e. old plastic bottles.

 The hands-free design means bacteria is not transferred between users. 
The tippy tap is low cost – it can be made with local, salvaged materials.

A Fair Process of Technology Transfer

I’d now like to introduce myself. My name is Xola Keswa and I am from South Africa. I am a 27 year old environmental and social entrepreneur. I founded my own startup, Organic Matters in 2014, during an internship at Schools Environmental Education Development (SEED).

In 2019, I was selected to participate in international policy and practice research research programme at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Global Risk Governance Programme, in cooperation with the South African urban food and farming trust. Through their outreach programme, The Environmental Entrepreneurs Support Initiative, I received philanthropy funding and access to resources and support centres. 

Following this research, my startup Organic Matters created a horticultural technology within the UCT Global Risk Governance Programme in partnership with a German University, called the ‘self-watering raised bed’. 

The self-watering raised bed relies on wicking so that the plants draw up only the water that they need and none is wasted. You only need to fill up the water reservoir once a week. This technology can be adapted for use within both urban areas and peri-urban areas to mitigate climate change.

I want to help the less fortunate to at least grow their own vegetables, made out of recycled material – to help people become resilient and self-sustainable during these difficult times.

In September, EnsAfrica Africa’s largest law firm facilitated the ‘transfer of technology’, which is an academic term meaning that research and development created in universities is released from the institution for commercialisation.

Now, I own the intellectual property for the self-watering raised bed, meaning that I can retain the value of African innovation in Africa. But my experience is not the norm for young innovators in Africa.

Protecting African Intellectual Property

In the case of the tippy tap, and many others, young Africans are barely aware that they are inventing a method and a product. This is a big problem because these young people are unaware of the legal system and the opportunity to learn from experts to improve and market their products.

I see this as a contributing factor for Africans always finding themselves behind.

Instead, international organisations and universities usually come and extract information from Africa innovators through research, and take it back to Western countries to undergo R&D, create startups, and make licensing agreements. These organisations make a huge profit from such innovations. The Khoisan Hoodia, is an example of what I’m talking about. Research based on the use of the hoodia cactus in African traditional medicine was developed as a potential cure for obesity and taken to the USA and the UK, where patent applications were filed and accredited to western Pharmaceutical companies.

In a just transition, intellectual property would be protected from the very beginning of the creation of knowledge in Africa. 

Let’s say a few students conduct research in Africa and create a product. In a just transition, the research should be left in Africa and developed in partnership with its original creators. When the product is developed to the point that it can reach the market, intellectual property rights should be allocated to the relevant person or people who contributed to it from Africa. When royalties are negotiated or letters of intent are drawn up by third parties, young Africans should be listed and acknowledged. This in turn will ensure sharing of useful technology in the world that can improve the wellbeing of people and planet.

Young Africans should be given access to mentorship and support from European and North American countries, to make sure that they understand the protocol of intellectual property law. They should be supported to push their innovations into the mainstream market. This can happen in various different ways in the agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and telecommunications sectors. 

Looking Ahead

For two years, while I conducted my research at UTC in and around Cape Town, South Africa, using community based approaches, I would often encounter broken communities, plagued by gang violence and high crime rates. 

I came to realise that, much the same way as schools and business centres have helped me learn and become creative, with the right support in terms of mentorship and information, Africans from any background are capable of creating much-needed innovations. 

If given a fair opportunity, young Africans can play a major role in creating greener, circular, and more wellbeing-focused economies worldwide. 

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

There is so much rich content out there in the world about a Wellbeing Economy. Part of our job is to amplify and connect the various initiatives and work that exists. 

These WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond every week. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Opportunity Knocking – Jessica Rose, Marjorie Kelly | Democracy Collaborative  

“Impact investors and other capital providers could be the agents that help resolve this vicious crisis—stepping in to turn the misfortune of small-business owners into a new start for employee-owners. Capital could be the agent that begins to take employee ownership to scale in this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.”

Building a Resilient Economy – Barth J. and Coscieme L., Dimmelmeier, A., Kumar C., Mewes S., Abrar R., Nuesse I., Pendleton A., Trebeck K | ZOE, NEF, WEAll 

“The following chapters (and the research underpinning them) focus on the role of government and policy in delivering systemic change. We outline where public policymakers should place the emphasis in order to transform the world’s economic and financial systems most effectively to mitigate future environmental crises.”

Humanity Report– James Arbib & Tony Seba | RethinkX 

“We can choose to elevate humanity to new heights and use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to end poverty, inequality, resource conflict, and environmental destruction, all for a fraction of the cost we incur dealing with them today. Or we can choose to preserve the failing status quo and descend into another dark age like every leading civilization before us.“

Work-life balance and self-reported health among working adults in Europe: a gender and welfare state regime comparative analysis – Aziz Mensah & Nicholas Kofi Adjei | BMC Public Health

“The pressing demands of work over the years have had a significant constraint on the family and social life of working adults. Moreover, failure to achieve a ‘balance’ between these domains of life may have an adverse effect on their health. This study investigated the relationship between work-life conflict and self-reported health among working adults in contemporary welfare countries in Europe.”

Visions of a Wellbeing  Economy – Anna Chrysopoulou | Standard Social Innovation Review

“To solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges we face today, we need to rethink the status quo. Governments and other institutions around the world need to embrace new ways of thinking and actively engage in widespread systems innovation to make real progress toward a healthier, more prosperous world.”

The Little Book of Education – Wendy Ellyatt 

“If we want to create a better world, we have to start by looking at whether the values that we have been promoting to children through our education systems have been serving the long-term wellbeing and potential, within the context of a sustainable future”

Building Better Systems– The Rockwool Foundation

“System innovation is needed when two conditions apply. First when society faces a systemic challenge which requires a systemic response. Second when society has a systemic opportunity to create a new kind of system.” 

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From the Archives

By: Nikita Asnani, WEAll Youth Member

The link between money and sustainability has not been adequately discussed. We often take our monetary system as given, like the laws of nature: A broken mirror, that cannot be replaced, no matter how distorted the image, as long as it serves those who made it.

We know that 80% of environmental impact reductions can be made in the design phase of a product or a service.

Can our economy, the web encapsulating all of goods and services, be designed in a way that harnesses this opportunity?

This article aims to explore how.

Let’s suppose that you have two potted plants in front of you. One is kept in the open air, where it gets enough sunlight and is kept well-hydrated. Naturally, it is flourishing.

The second plant is kept in the shade and is not well-watered. As a result, its leaves have turned yellow and are drooping.

The two pots are akin to the haves and the have-nots in our world: sharing the same geography but divided by race, class and wealth.

Similar to how we would address a dying plant – it makes sense that we take steps to nourish the people of colour, working class and the poor, who have been denied equal access to economic resources made available to the white and the rich.

Here comes the ‘But…’

“Economics is the study of the efficient allocation of scarce resources. Sunlight and water may be in plenty, but economic resources, unfortunately, aren’t.”

I urge you to think differently, radically:

Isn’t it funny that nature, the most complex and intricately designed system, provides for all beings, without any form of differentiation… yet we choose to rely on an economic system that allows for massive inequality based on the idea that wellbeing is a zero-sum game? 

Is it possible to engineer an economic system, that promises sustainable abundance for all, without exception?

Unravelling the patterns that got us to where we are today, can help us detach from patterns that no longer serve us.

New Money for a New World (2017) proposes a unique approach to our relationship with money – which I believe has the potential to accelerate a shift into a healthier, happier and wiser future for all.

The book outlines how all conventional, national currencies today, are Yang currencies. They have a positive interest rate, which means that a user benefits from accumulation (the more you accumulate, the richer you become) and encourages competition (Lietaer, 2002).

The book then takes us back to ‘the Golden Age’, which as the name suggests, was a time in history that was characterised by sufficiency, not scarcity; generosity, not greed; and faith, not fear. Every household was prosperous, as people were able to raise enough money to serve their needs, without having to raise taxes, redistribute wealth or rely on government support!

A river that freely flows becomes the ocean. It is the forced stream that gets trapped in a dam.

The secret ingredient of the Golden Age was its reliance on Yin currencies. The key component of a Yin currency is its negative interest rates, which means that I am not any richer today, than I was yesterday, just by stacking cash under my bed or in my bank account. As a result, a Yin currency encourages circulation of cash towards where it is needed the most, be it infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, etc, rather than stockpiling it (Lietaer, 2002). In other words, a Yin currency incentivises investments to increase social capital, rather than individual wealth.

Our economy is a web of closely-knit industries that are interdependent on each other. If we truly want to achieve social, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing for all, our economy must be built on a solid foundation of nurturing feedback loops, not self-destructing ones.

The potential for increased social capital (connections with neighbours) as a result of positive feedback loops is depicted by the Participatory Cities’ research-basedBenefits to social capital: The Multiplier Effectdiagram.

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Based on the idea of building social capital, the organisation Slow Money, channels investment capital into community development projects, where it is needed most. By making 0% loans to farmers and small food enterprises, they are saying ‘NO to Oil, and YES to Soil’, thereby building towards a restorative economy. Their model shows that positive, mutually reinforcing change can lead to positive outcomes for wellbeing.

This feedback loop of creating physical, natural capital, financial and social capital could be achieved at a global scale, by an economy that is based on both Yin and Yang currencies.

Such an economic system would allow every person, every being, to get their fair share of sunshine and rain.

About the Author: Nikita Asnani is a 19-year old student based in Dubai. She is passionate about design thinking and systems change for a circular economy. She joined WEAll Youth because it offered her hope in the ability of young people to catalyse a new economic system, by harnessing the power of localisation, as an alternative to globalisation.

References

Belgin, S. and Lietaer, B. (2010). New Money for a New World

Lietaer, B. (2002). The Mystery of Money: Beyond Greed and Scarcity. Munich: Riemann Verlag

By Alexander Evatt, Helsinki, Finland

Dear WEALL community,

Two weeks ago, WEAll Youth brought together WEAll Youth, Citizens and Members at ‘WEAll Connects’, our first Intergenerational event aimed at creating a space to build cross-generational connections and discuss WEAll Youth’s initiatives and goals.

I had the great pleasure to facilitate the first WEAll Connects session, which welcomed WEAll Youth and WEAll members from all over the globe, including Argentina, Canada, USA, Uganda, Kenya, Netherlands, Scotland, UK, Spain, Singapore and many others – weaving a tapestry of intergenerational connectivity and support.

My journey as a member with WEAll started last year, during my Master studies on ‘Leadership and Change Management’ in Amsterdam. Part of my thesis research centered on how to create the bridges between generations in organizations and get intergenerational energy flowing. One of the main findings of my research was the importance of creating “safe spaces” that allow people to share and get to know each other by opening up and listening to different perspectives.

This is one of the reasons I was excited about the co-creation, within the WEALL community, of a space to explore how we can collaborate across generations to build connections, hear one another’s voices and offer support.

Part of the intention for the WEAll Connects event was empowerment. There is power in connecting Youth, the leaders of the future, with experienced experts within WEAll’s network, who can offer confidence and insights.

Together, we explored how to best find synergies and collaboration possibilities across generations and communities, discussing:

  1. What are your greatest challenges?
  2. What do you want to achieve by the end of 2020?
  3. In what ways can we continuously connect, share ideas and projects and support one another?

We explored challenges, such as navigating difficulty in creating engagement, a lack of awareness around intergenerational work, translation of ideas into action, as well as how to integrate Youth voices into the work of WEAll members.

We also felt positive emotions, such as excitement, openness, joy, appreciation and compassion for one and other – and a sense that this is something we want to be a part of.

We all shared the urgency for a unified space where WEAll Youth and Members can share networks, projects and invitations for collaboration and meet regularly.

I felt as if all of us who joined the session embodied what such a WEAll connecting space looks like, feels like, talks like, and works like!

I’m looking forward to continuing the WEAll Connects sessions by building on inspiration and ideas from our first event, deepening our connections and creating value for one and other.

Join us – I’m looking forward to connecting at the next WEAll Connects event!


Alexander Evatt
Next Generation Leadership Coach
alexander@newdirection.fi 
www.newdirection.fi

#WEAllConnects #BridgingGenerations

Do you remember wanting to create change in the world, but not knowing how to achieve this through your career?

Promoting Economic Pluralism wants to give young people 25 and under a say in how we use the recover to Build Back Better.
That’s why they are holding the virtual Festival for Change, which offers expert career guidance for youth on how to help shape a better future through their career – for free! WEAll Youth is proud to be a festival partner.
From July 27th, people from around the world can enter a competition and enjoy a series of online events to change the economic outlook of the world, post pandemic.
1. Develop a proposal to shape new economic landscapes in a Challenge.
2. Join an Explore Workshop to discuss how to widen your thinking
3. Watch Provocation Sessions led by world-renowned speakers on new ideas and approaches to global issues.

Register here.

 Blog by Sam Butler-Sloss, Economics for Change

Economics for Change – a student-led campaigning organisation based in Edinburgh focused on the need for economic system change – is enormously excited to be joining the Wellbeing Economy Alliance to lead their efforts to establish a WEAll Youth Hub here in Scotland. This Youth Hub’s mission is to mobilise young people behind the historic opportunity to drive economic systems change.

 

Why young people? And why is it such a historic opportunity?

We are all acutely aware of the multiple crises that face us in the 21st century, from spiralling inequality to run away climate change. Yet however well documented these challenges are, bizarrely, awareness has not been enough to drive the adequate action. Since this insufficient level of action has become the new normal, it has taken our generation to stand up and say the current efforts are simply not enough. They do not begin to meet the scale or the urgency of the challenges that we face.

This year has been a striking demonstration of young people’s’ capacity to be at the forefront of social change. We have shown that we have the expectations and ambitions for a better, cleaner and fairer world that dwarf those who are currently at the helms of power. It is in this same spirit that Economics for Change is bringing young people together to take a stand against a failing economic system; to stamp out the tendency of simply ‘muddling through’ and to advocate for an economy that enables both the people and the planet to flourish.

It is often easy for us to feel overwhelmed, but at the centre of WEAll’s narrative is the idea that whilst the challenges are certainly demanding, the opportunities they present are enormous.

To overcome these great societal challenges requires us to transform our economy–and the climate challenge gives a decade to do so.

A decade to redesign how we produce, consume and share in the 21st century. The chance to fundamentally redesign our economy does not come about often, and with it, comes the once in a lifetime opportunity to redraw a better world.

As the economic consensus fractures and the old principles that defined our economy expire, a space is opening up, in which the case for systems-change has never been stronger. As this space widens, a new era is emerging.

This new era is generating new norms, new business models, new energy sources and new ideas of shared prosperity. It is outcompeting today’s system and is paving the path to a wellbeing economy. Yet the question remains, will this change happen fast enough?  

There is no doubt that were are approaching a paradigm shift between a system built on extraction, exploitation and exhaustion and one that is regenerative, circular and inclusive. And this is where young people must step up and have a catalytic effect.

WEAll Youth is a vehicle to enable us to do so: we are a global, interconnected network of young people fighting for a new kind of economics from all corners of this world. We are thinking globally, with a shared vision for change, whilst acting locally to catalyse this transformation from the ground up. We acknowledge our assets: our votes hold power; our voices form new narratives; and our connectivity brings untamable potential to mainstream new ideas and paradigms with the urgency that does these challenges justice.

While fundamental redesign is no modest task it holds the keys to transforming our future; to keeping us within a 1.5 degree world; and to enabling all humans to live a prosperous and dignified life. As young people, we have the most to gain and the most at risk. This is no dress rehearsal, there will be no second chance. The time to come together to drive systemic change is now–we would be mad not to seize this opportunity.

In the coming month, Economics for Change and WEAll Scotland will be establishing the WEAll Scotland Youth Hub. If you share our passion for an economy that serves people & planet and want Scotland to lead the way, get in touch at scotland@wellbeingeconomy.org and join the movement as  WEAll Citizen at www.weallcitizens.org 

If you’re a young person (16-34) and want to get involved with WEAll Youth wherever you are in the world, contact weallyouth@gmail.com 

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