Africa Climate Summit 2023: A talk with Natacha Emilien 

Missed out on the Africa Climate Summit 2023? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Our Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer, Natacha Emilien, shares her insights on the summit's big themes: green growth and climate finance. Discover how CSI Energy Group is rethinking investment strategies, supporting women-led initiatives, and harnessing Africa's untapped potential. This is more than a recap; it's a look at the future of sustainable business in Africa.

The summit had a strong focus on 'green growth' and 'climate finance solutions.' What do you make of these themes?

'Green growth' and 'climate finance solutions' are essentially our compass and roadmap at CSI Energy Group. Let's break it down a bit. "Green growth" isn't just about doing good for the planet; it's about doing well by doing good. When we talk about green growth, we're really saying that we need a whole new way of thinking about how we grow and develop as a business. It's about changing the rules of the game so that taking care of the Earth also means growing revenues, decent returns, and better lives for our people. In fact, the two can, and should, go hand in hand.

Now, when we look at "climate finance solutions", this is where things get real. In simple terms, doing things that are good for the environment costs money. And old ways of getting money don't always work for these projects. For one, eco-friendly technologies can be expensive at first, even if they save money later on. Ineffective deal making can also result from a limited grasp of market dynamics, misperceptions regarding risks, the necessity for extensive due diligence, and demanding reporting obligations among investors. On the other hand, disparities in financial, risk management and governance education may pose challenges for those seeking investment. Our financial systems, especially in Africa, might not all be fully ready to handle the unique challenges that come with funding these new, earth-friendly projects.


When the summit focuses on 'climate finance solutions,' it's really asking a fundamental question: how do we create financial models and instruments that can understand, appreciate, and manage the unique risks and rewards of green growth? How do we tap into international financial markets, partner with public funds, and engage the private sector to funnel resources where they are needed most? And let’s not forget, climate finance isn’t just for large corporations; it's also for small entrepreneurs and communities who have to be part of this green revolution.

The current climate finance for Africa is described as insufficient. How is this impacting discussions in CSI Energy Group boardroom?

The issue of inadequate climate finance for Africa isn't just a talking point; it's something we really focus on with Dominique Augsburger, our CFO, along with the rest of the team at CSI Energy Group. This is about more than just numbers; it's about the future of our business and about our commitment to impact towards the African communities that we serve.


First, the lack of sufficient climate financing is making us review our investment priorities. We're looking beyond traditional investment models to include impact companies that aim to create positive environmental and social change. These are businesses that are more than profit-focused; they aim for a triple bottom line that also benefits the society and the planet.


Second, we're focusing on the untapped potential of women-led companies. Gender diversity isn't just good social policy; it's good business. Studies show that diverse leadership often leads to more innovative solutions to complex problems. By investing in women-led initiatives, particularly in the energy sector, we're diversifying our investment portfolio and driving change from the ground up.


Third, we believe the private sector has a significant role to play here. While government and NGO involvement is very valuable, we are looking to partner with private enterprises that have the agility and the self-interest to co-develop solutions that are both profitable and sustainable. The idea is not to replace public funding but to complement it, creating a more robust, multi-faceted approach to tackling climate issues.


So, to wrap it up, the discussions about insufficient climate finance aren't a sidebar for the leadership of CSI Energy Group; they're central. We're viewing this challenge as an opportunity—to diversify our investments, to support overlooked talent, and to drive innovation that benefits both our bottom line and the planet.

President William Ruto talked about economic opportunities and Africa's natural resources. How can we take advantage of this?

President Ruto's points resonate strongly with what we're doing at CSI Energy Group. We see untapped potential in Africa's natural resources and its people. By focusing our energy development cluster on solar power and driving local and women-led entrepreneurship, we're not just extracting value; we're creating it. And we're doing it in a way that benefits both our business and the communities we operate in.


There's a perception that Africa is a place where resources are extracted and wealth flows out. But what if we flipped that narrative? What if we invested in our own capabilities and resources? That's something we're already addressing at CSI Energy Group.

Too often, the raw materials from our continent are shipped elsewhere, only for us to re-import the finished products back. It's time to change that story. One way we're doing this is through our focus on solar energy within our energy development cluster. While Africa may not be the primary source for the minerals used in solar panels, we have the sunshine, the land, and the entrepreneurial spirit to make solar energy a big win for the continent. We're exploring how to tap into this natural wealth by fostering local solutions that can capture and convert this energy right here at home.

Secondly, we're not just making business decisions; we're making community investments. We believe that the people closest to the problem are also closest to the solution. That's why our energy development cluster is also focused on nurturing local entrepreneurship. We're especially keen on amplifying the voices and initiatives of women entrepreneurs. Why? Because when you empower a woman, you empower a community.


We're actively identifying promising local entrepreneurs, many of them women, who have viable solutions to energy challenges. It's not CSR or philanthropy; it's smart business. These entrepreneurs understand local challenges and nuances that big corporations might miss. They're agile, innovative, and they have skin in the game. By investing in them, we're effectively deploying a grassroots approach to problem-solving while also strengthening the local economies.