Joseph Murabula

CEO | Kenya Climate Innovation Center

Key Points

  • KCIC’s Focus: Incubator and accelerator for climate-smart businesses, a pioneer among climate innovation centers globally.
  • Mission and Impact: Combat climate change sustainably and generate employment. Exceptional 67% success rate in commercialization of supported enterprises.
  • KCIC Investment Summit: Aligns with the significant market opportunity for green entrepreneurship in Kenya.
  • Importance of Collaboration: Invites global collaboration in their impactful journey.


AfricaLive: How would you describe the KCIC identity?

Joseph Murabula: Kenya Climate Innovation Center is an incubator and accelerator of climate-smart businesses. We offer capacity building, mentorship, business advisory services, access to facilities, market access, and innovative financing to these enterprises. We work mainly in five thematic areas: agribusiness, waste management, water, commercial forestry, and renewable energy. 

KCIC was formed in 2012 as a World Bank InfoDev initiative. It was the first among climate innovation centers established globally to innovatively combat climate change. Over the past 11 years, we’ve supported more than 3,000 enterprises, achieving a 67% success rate in commercialization. Currently, over 2,500 enterprises operate in Kenya, originating from ideas nurtured by KCIC.

You might wonder why we do this.

Our mission is twofold: first, to combat climate change sustainably, as indicated by our name. Secondly, to generate employment opportunities to bolster economic development and livelihoods, particularly for the youth and women. While initially just focusing on Kenya, KCIC currently has footprints in Uganda and Tanzania as well, where we are also supporting climate-smart enterprises. A 67% success rate of commercialization is incredible. Is that also the survival rate for these businesses?

Joseph Murabula: Yes, exactly. It’s very high, probably three times the national average in Kenya. This is because we provide a lot of handholding. We work closely with these enterprises right from the idea stage until they achieve commercial viability. Could you give some examples of the type of business? What do you recognise as climate-friendly businesses or climate solutions a small business could offer. Can you provide some examples of the solutions your clients have introduced?

Joseph Murabula: Absolutely. We work across five sectors: renewable energy, agribusiness, water management, waste management, and commercial forestry. Within these sectors, our businesses provide solutions for energy productivity. For example, converting energy usage from fossil fuels to clean energy, often solar energy. We’re also deeply involved in agricultural value chains. We are supporting more than a thousand enterprises who are innovating around sustainable agriculture, regenerative agriculture, among others.

In water management, we promote sustainable irrigation to minimize waste and enhance water access in water-scarce Kenya. Additionally, we focus on waste management, reducing toxicity in various forms of waste and repurposing them into commercially attractive products like handbags, shoes, and clothing.

As I mentioned, we support over 2,500 enterprises across these sectors, each contributing to climate solutions. If you attend the KCIC investment summit next month, you’ll find 260 of these enterprises exhibiting their products. Let’s talk about the upcoming KCIC investment summit. What are the objectives? Is creating international awareness part of your agenda?

Joseph Murabula: Absolutely. As an incubator and accelerator, particularly focused on climate initiatives, access to finance is crucial. Studies demonstrate that 30% of an enterprise’s success in an incubation program is attributed to access to finance. Thus, in addition to technical assistance, we emphasize funding.

Over the 11 years of our operations, and with our client base growing significantly, we believe it’s the right time to gather a group of investors and our enterprises for meaningful conversations aimed at securing funding. This initiative aligns with the realisation that green entrepreneurship in Kenya presents a $123 billion market opportunity, primarily in sustainable agriculture, waste management, and sustainable forestry. This is according to research by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE).

The objectives of the investment summit are threefold. It aims to drive policy dialogues around green investment, unlock climate financing opportunities for MSME growth, and foster meaningful connections among green enterprises, investors, and stakeholders for stronger climate action.

Building on the recently concluded Africa Climate Summit, the KCIC Investment Summit will bring together innovative entrepreneurs in the climate space, investors, policymakers, and thought leaders from around the world to drive climate action by availing opportunities to invest in climate ventures, foster sustainable development, and showcase groundbreaking solutions that are shaping the future of our planet. Do you believe there has been a mindset change in the finance and business environment in Kenya regarding investing in climate solutions?

Joseph Murabula: Yes, the mindset is gradually changing, although it’s not yet fully entrenched. Kenya presents a dichotomy, with varying mindsets across urban and rural areas, as well as among different socio-economic groups. Our objective with this summit is to drive widespread awareness about climate action and eventually transition the economy from a high-carbon intensity to a low-carbon one.

There’s a noticeable shift within the financial system, with the emergence of green bonds, green loans, green mortgages, and green credit cards. However, we’re striving for a complete shift where sustainability becomes the norm rather than an exception.

We’re about halfway there, still dealing with unsustainable practices, especially in rural areas such as tree cutting for firewood. Our targets include achieving 100% clean cooking by 2028 and ensuring that the national grid is 100% renewable by 2030. So, while progress is evident, a complete mindset shift is our collective goal, and we’re steadily moving towards it. You do very interesting work because you’re collaborating with numerous organizations, spanning from smallholder farmers, entrepreneurs, and investors, to government. I’m sure you’ve also partnered with larger businesses to aid in scaling up these organisations. 

I’d like to ask about the conversations you have regarding greenwashing, where actors may present their solutions as environmentally friendly investments when they’re not. This is a significant challenge in the current climate investment landscape.

Joseph Murabula: Yes, I agree. We see this not only among the organizations we support but also in many others. There’s a perception that positioning oneself as green unlocks funding. How do we address this? First, we conduct rigorous due diligence on all the enterprises we support. They must demonstrate their climate impact and commitment to the fight against climate change in both mitigation and adaptation aspects before we consider supporting them.

We have a monitoring and evaluation unit that visits these enterprises annually, and the primary assessment is their climate impact. If an enterprise isn’t contributing to climate objectives, it’s not one we would support. Greenwashing is addressed through these measures, coupled with the monitoring done by our funding partners. We have a three-layered approach to ensure the enterprises we support truly qualify as green enterprises: due diligence before onboarding, continuous monitoring by our evaluation unit, and oversight by our funding partners. Excellent. I’d like to hear your perspective on what the word “innovation” means to you and what it means in Kenya.

Joseph Murabula: Innovation, to us, means introducing new and more efficient ways of doing things. It’s a progressive approach, not an abrupt shift to entirely new things. It encompasses new technologies, improved processes, and finding faster and more efficient ways of achieving goals. We guide these innovations through an incubation process, involving technology, processes, and programs to nurture and optimize their potential. How confident are you about the future in Kenya and the environment you work in?

Joseph Murabula: Our confidence in the future is significantly tied to policy implementation. Kenya has strong policies driven by the Constitution, particularly the climate provisions. These policies set ambitious targets, such as a minimum of 10% forest cover. The Government also has an initiative to plant 15 billion trees by 2032 in addition to initiatives tied to sustainable development goals such as 100% renewable energy by 2030 or clean cooking by 2028. If effectively implemented, they will lead to a healthier and more sustainable environment in Kenya.

By 2030, we aim to ensure that every Kenyan is entitled to a clean, healthy environment and has access to safe drinking water. On the policy side, there are reasons to be optimistic in the short run. However, it remains a significant challenge for most African countries due to the burden of public debt. Much of the funding we receive is allocated to servicing this debt rather than being directed towards green financing. Consequently, achieving our targets may not happen as rapidly as desired due to these challenges related to public debt and rapid population growth outpacing available opportunities. Speaking to an international audience, if you had one specific message that you would like to communicate regarding your work at KCIC and the potential for partnerships and collaboration, what is the message you’d like to convey?

Joseph Murabula: A very important and impactful message is the necessity of forging partnerships for green growth. The challenge of transitioning to a green economy is immense and cannot be achieved by a single entity, not even a government. I encourage everyone to contribute within their capacity to ensure this grand transition takes place. 

Collaboration within an ecosystem approach will expedite our movement toward green development pathways more swiftly than our current pace. Currently, there is concern that the 1.5-degree targets by 2030 might not be met, and I believe this concern is valid. 

Many countries still rely on fossil fuels and lack adequate policies to facilitate a transition to renewable energy. This fragmented approach is detrimental. To combat climate change effectively, we must work together, internally motivating each other toward a global objective, whether it’s achieving the two-degree target by 2030, achieving net zero by 2050, or progressing toward a green transition. My message is rooted in collaboration and partnerships—everyone doing their best while working with others to ensure progress for the entire world.

The Kenya Climate Innovation Center is a formidable force in this endeavour. With more than a decade of experience in the climate space, and with our current presence in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, we have the unique identity of being the largest incubator and accelerator of climate-smart enterprises in the region. Our theory of change is tried and tested, and we have demonstrated the immense potential of addressing climate change at the intersection of innovation and entrepreneurship. I therefore welcome all like-minded partners and stakeholders from across the globe to journey with us.

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