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From Zoom call to real change: The making of RePlanet Africa

How I came to learn about a young branch of European environmentalists, and decided to join them.

By Patricia Nanteza

With the Walk4GMOs, RePlanet Africa showed support for modernising agriculture to alleviate poverty and address the effects of climate change.

In 2020, on a chilly evening in Nairobi, I found myself in front of my laptop screen, adjusting it as I prepared for a Zoom meeting. Mark, a colleague from the UK, had requested that I address a group of young European environmentalists, self-proclaimed ecomodernists, who were passionate about public policy and environmental change.

Although I was tempted to cosy up in a blanket and watch TV, I accepted the invitation for two reasons: my love of discussing biotechnology’s potential in Africa and an eagerness to engage with people who give me hope for the world.

As I joined the virtual meeting room, I was pleasantly surprised to see nearly 40 enthusiastic individuals. Most meetings I attend begin with just a handful of participants, but this group’s sheer size was a testament to their genuine interest. We engaged in a lively conversation about our advocacy efforts in Africa, and I bid them farewell, making sure to follow them on Twitter (X) afterwards.

We're united by the common goal of lifting our continent to prosperity without harming our natural world

Fast forward to the present, and this group has evolved into RePlanet. Once again Mark invited me, this time to their inaugural annual general meeting in Warsaw, Poland. That was in October 2022. Sadly, I failed to travel because I couldn’t secure a visa. Luckily, I could once again attend online.

Soon after, the idea of launching RePlanet Africa took root.

Pooling together individuals I had met during our biotechnology advocacy journey, we officially established RePlanet Africa as a legal entity in Kenya and Uganda earlier this year.

The culmination of our efforts took place on the night of September 4, 2023, in Nairobi. It was a warm evening filled with dedicated individuals ready to make a positive impact on humanity and the environment. We had recently organised a university essay competition on nuclear energy, and this evening served as the award ceremony. We received hundreds of entries from university students, each sharing their insights on how nuclear energy could contribute to Africa’s prosperity.

Mike Felix Okoth Ochieng' won the Essay Writing Competition on how nuclear power can support sustainable growth in Africa.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of organising the event, I paused to reflect on how a Zoom call with 40+ passionate individuals had led me here. Both Mark and Karolina, RePlanet’s Secretary General, were present, along with government dignitaries, nuclear energy enthusiasts, students and environmental advocates.

How had I come to run an environmental advocacy ‘start-up’ committed to creating advocates across Africa, all united by the common goal of lifting our continent to prosperity without harming our natural world?

I was more excited than apprehensive. We could achieve this. We had the support of wonderful people in the West, and I was continuously introducing more lovely people to the RePlanet Africa community.

I pledge to maintain a culture of respect and kindness, for that was what initially drew me into this network whose overarching mission is to create a thriving natural and human world.

I harbour no romantic notions about poverty; in fact, I dream of affluence. I envision a life where the majority of people can use electric cookers instead of charcoal stoves, because electricity has become accessible and affordable.

I envision prosperous farmers earning fair wages without wearing tattered clothes, and children attending schools with proper infrastructure, not under trees. I yearn for an Africa where women give birth in clean, well-stocked hospitals without the looming threat of power outages during surgery.

I harbour no romantic notions about poverty; in fact, I dream of affluence

At RePlanet Africa, our goal is clear: we want a prosperous Africa, not one merely lifted out of poverty but one lifted into prosperity.

However, this prosperity should not come at the expense of our natural world. This is why we advocate for nuclear energy, alongside other clean energy sources, as well as biotechnology and other New Breeding Techniques. These innovations could help us produce more food on less land, thus sparing our forests and wildlife.

Our vision is aligned with our colleagues in the West, the same people I met three years ago on that chilly Nairobi evening during a Zoom call. I invite you to join us in this mission, as we work together to create a daringly prosperous yet sustainable future for Africa.

Patricia Nanteza is director of RePlanet Africa. She previously worked as a journalist and a science communicator on biotechnology and its adoption in Africa.


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