The University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute hosts the Eisenhower Fellows from Africa
LOS ANGELES (AXADLE) The USC Schwarzenegger Institute hosted 20 Eisenhower Fellows from Africa working to address the challenges of pollution and global warming.
Members of the Eisenhower Fellowships’ Africa Program visited the University of Southern California (USC) in the middle of a six-week tour of the United States to meet with experts and exchange knowledge related to sustainability, green investment and innovative solutions to combat air pollution and climate change.
Participants came from seven African countries and different areas, including agriculture, housing, public safety, water quality, finance, food safety and environmental protection.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, who helped launch California’s reputation as a leader in tackling climate change during his time as the state’s 38th governor from 2003-2011, was pleased that the institute was able to welcome fellows.
“I am ecstatic that the USC Schwarzenegger Institute could host such a distinguished group of Eisenhower Fellows who are ready to make a real difference to climate change on the African continent,” Schwarzenegger said. “To meet the challenges of pollution and global warming, we need action heroes like these who make an impression around the world.”
At USC, the Eisenhower Fellows had the opportunity to learn and interact with Fran Pavley, Environmental Policy Director at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute; Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator President and CEO Matt Petersen; Jake Levine, Chief Climate Officer for US International Development Finance Corporation; and USC Associate Provost for Global Engagement Paulo Rodrigues.
“It’s a privilege to have such an amazing group of innovative and fresh thinkers, leaders and doers visiting the campus of the University of Southern California,” Rodrigues told the fellows. “We are proud of many things here at USC, but as one would suspect, I am most proud of our global footprint.”
Rodrigues went on to talk about the USC Africa Hub established in 2020, which aims to establish equitable partnerships for collaborative African and global health research.
He also spoke about USC President Carol Folt’s commitment to sustainability paired with applied research to make a tangible global impact. This was highlighted in April when USC announced sustainability goals and environmentally friendly initiatives during Earth Week.
Pavley, who authored the landmark climate policy advocated by Governor Schwarzenegger during his time in the state Senate, said the world has changed dramatically since then.
“When we started all of this 20-something years ago, we thought the effects of climate change might begin more as in 2050,” Pavley said. “This is a lot faster than we thought, and we’re feeling it here in California.”
In response, she said, government ministries are aggressively trying to shift from mitigation strategies to full-fledged adaptation.
An example is the restoration of watersheds and wetlands, which is good for both carbon sequestration and adaptation to floods and sea level rise.
Levine spoke with the group remotely from Washington, DC, explaining the focus of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the latest federal agency that uses a variety of financing tools to invest in development around the world, focusing on low- and middle-income countries .
Levine leads the climate team, which seeks to diversify and scale investments in climate with a special focus on increasing adaptation.
DFC’s equity financing tool made its first African investment in Daystar Power, a Nigeria-based solar energy company.
“When you look at the overall flows of climate finance, it’s generally 90+ percent on the mitigation side, and it’s not commiserate with the needs and impacts that are unfolding around the world where climate change is here and societies are handling the impacts,” said Levine.
Petersen, who was chief architect of LA’s Sustainable City Plan during his time as LA’s Chief Sustainability Officer under Mayor Eric Garcetti, explained the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) mission.
LACI unlocks innovation by enabling startups to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies; calls for partnerships in transport, energy and sustainable cities; and improve the community through the development of the workforce, pilots and programs.
Eisenhower Fellows asked Petersen how new technologies could be adapted in Africa and how to train the workforce in African rural areas.
“Obviously, entrepreneurs on the African continent can better tell us how to adapt technologies to be more useful in local economies,” Petersen said. “I think e-bikes and e-motorcycles are a good place to start. And how do you get carmakers to say, ‘let’s export the electric vehicles that are also suitable for Africa.’
Delmwa Deshi-Kura from Nigeria explained the value of the Eisenhower Fellowship and how the trip to the US and the visit to the USC will help in her efforts to produce TV and film content for African projects with social impact.
“Eisenhower Fellowship brings together leaders from across Africa with the goal of taking what we do, bringing it into an environmental richness and teaching us some of the best practices used globally and, even more critically, building networks.” Deshi-Kura said: “Many times it’s not money that holds us back, it’s not being aware of new innovations that can relate to work you do because you’re just not in certain circles. So Fellowship has been a big leap to connect us with the right people with the right information to help bring our solutions forward, such as Matt and Fran.We have read a lot about Fran and the work Matt has done with startups is very much like us can take home. ”
Evoius Riutta, an Eisenhower fellow from Tanzania, started an agricultural innovation laboratory, MAVUNOLAB, to work with agricultural establishments to find post-harvest food loss solutions due to spoilage. His project focuses on expanding African farmers’ access to solar-powered refrigeration plants to extend the shelf life of fresh produce.
As someone who works with start-ups, he is excited to get in touch with Petersen. And he will explore the work of the USC Africa Hub in Nairobi.
“I believe that for those of us who come from Africa, the opportunity to connect with academic institutions in the United States, especially those that have a presence in Africa, opens the door to partnership and cooperation,” Riutta said. “What I liked about today is you had a diverse group of speakers, one who worked with a federal agency in Washington, DC, who talked about custom financing, one who talked about how start-up companies in the United States try to develop smart solutions, and one that talked about a USC Africa Hub in Nairobi, which is very close for me to hopefully work directly with USC. Many thanks to USC and the Schwarzenegger Institute for inviting us. “