Cleaning Up In Accra
Patience Alifo remembers well the moment she decided to become a climate change campaigner in Ghana; she was nineteen years old when by chance she stumbled upon a documentary on local TV about the young Kenyan environmental entrepreneur Tom Osborn: “He was doing amazing stuff with clean energy, and I realised we had the same problems in Ghana as they had in Kenya. So I did some research and worked out a plan for what I could do in Ghana”.
Alongside studying full-time at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, Patience decided to set up a small organisation to work with rural women, raising awareness of the environmental and health risks of cutting down trees from surrounding woodland, and encouraging the use of cleaner and healthier charcoal briquettes for cooking. She also became a representative of the Africa for Africa Youth Initiative, an organisation that encourages young Africans to engage with sustainable development solutions.
Mobilising Student Talent
For My Mark: My City, Patience mobilised a network of student friends she had got to know through her climate campaign efforts. The group met in Accra for an intense few hours planning what project would most meaningfully improve the sustainability of their city.
Collectively, they decided that the issue they could impact most was waste management, which can lead not only to unsanitary public spaces but also to flooding when plastic collects in urban waterways. The group decided that the most useful thing that could be done was to find a way to connect households with waste companies directly, through a mobile phone app, and then reward recyclers with e-vouchers for use in local supermarkets for goods that did not use plastic packaging. This would not only make the process of waste collection easier to organise, but it would also help cut down on waste.
Fortunately for Patience, one of her friends is an app developer, and they are currently designing the first prototypes for how it might work.
At the same time, in order to generate more potential sustainable solutions like this, Patience is planning to set up a network of student representatives for climate action across Ghana. As Patience notes, “I’m very inspired by Greta Thunberg and her work mobilising the young. I think I can influence so many young people, not just across Ghana but across the whole of Africa.”