In the field of climate change, attention focuses on the efforts of wealthier nations like the United States with its Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the European Union with its Green Deal Industrial Plan. Those discussions tend to overlook the Global South.
While Western economies have contributed over 80% of cumulative global emissions to date, the share of the Global South – which represents 85% of the global population and 39% of GDP – has risen rapidly to reach about half of annual emissions.
The question that naturally arises: how to solve this growing issue, and who should foot the bill? Setting aside the imbalance between contribution and losses, it is a considerable challenge for emerging economies to initiate the extensive infrastructure changes necessary to combat climate change. Are startups potentially part of the solution in the Global South?
That is why the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Sept 26-27 / free & virtual) hosted a panel of venture investor backing climate startups in the Global South and for the Global South. The huge question before them is how can their investments advance the decarb agenda in ways that map the economic, technological and social realities in their home countries, as well as contend with the obvious historical disparities in overall responsibility for global warming.
Ideally, climate innovation will enable the Global South to leapfrog carbon-intensive value chains for cleaner, sustainable alternatives, just as it leapfrogged desktops and fixed-line internet for mobile devices and cell towers. One problem is cost. For instance, solar projects in the South struggle to raise capital let alone find workers trained to deploy and maintain installations. Who should bear that cost?
We were eager to get the perspective of venture investors on the forefront of venture’s biggest challenge. Meet our panelists:
Marie Cheong is Founding Partner at Singapore-based Wavemaker Impact, Southeast Asia’s first climate tech venture builder, which seeks to address 10% of global carbon emissions. Since launching in October 2021, Marie and her team have developed and launched over 35 new startups. These include ecoSPIRITS, a liquor distribution startup that eliminates the use of glass bottles, and Hydroleap, which treats water using electricity instead of chemicals.
James Mwangi is Co-Founder and CEO of Africa Climate Ventures (ACV), a venture studio based in Kigali, Rwanda that seeks to build climate tech unicorns throughout Africa. Launched in January 2023, ACV has formed a joint venture with KOKO Networks, a startup that currently provides sustainable bioethanol cooking fuel to over 900,000 Kenyan families, and Great Carbon Valley, a venture to develop large-scale green industry and carbon removal projects in the East African Rift Valley, an area spanning seven countries and almost 640,000 km2.
Anjali Bansal is Founding Partner at Avaana Capital, a Mumbai-based venture firm, which recently raised $70M for its Avaana Climate and Sustainability Fund. The team evaluates 200 climate opportunities per quarter, focusing on energy and resource management, mobility and supply chains, and sustainable agriculture and food systems. It recently led investments in sentra.world, an ESG compliance platform for industrials, Kazam, an EV charging network, and Aerem, which finances rooftop solar installations.
Matías Peire is founder and CEO of Grid Exponential (GRIDX), a Buenos Aires-based startup program that matches scientific entrepreneurs with business entrepreneurs to launch new startups. Graduates of its program include Puna Bio (also an IndieBio grad), a startup that protects crops using extremophiles (microbes that thrive in extreme environments), and Tomorrow Foods, which produces CO2-neutral plant-based ingredients for the global food industry.
Ben Joffe, Partner at SOSV and co-curator of the Summit, moderated the discussion.
Can climate tech from the Global South meet the needs of most economies rather than an elite few?
Marie Cheong is a Founding Partner of Wavemaker Impact, the first VC backed climate tech venture builder in Southeast Asia. Prior to joining Wavemaker Impact, Marie led the Venture Build program at ENGIE Factory, where she was responsible for building a portfolio of 10 climate tech ventures valued at over US $8m at pre-seed round. Marie was also the general manager at a SAAS startup and a senior member of KPMG’s Digital + Innovation team. Marie has a MBA from the National University of Singapore where she graduated as valedictorian and holder of the Panasonic Marketing Award.
James I Mwangi
James I Mwangi is the founder and CEO of Africa Climate Ventures and is also the founder of the Climate Action Platform for Africa, which was launched in 2021 to help unlock Africa’s potential to transform its economies while playing a leading role in effective climate action. Prior to that, James helped found the Dalberg Group, and in a 20-year career, led the firm’s expansion into Africa. James also serves as an independent director on several boards. He is a 2009 Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow of the African Leadership Institute, a 2013 Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and a 2021 Yale World Fellow. In 2022, James received the Climate Breakthrough Award in recognition of his efforts to shift Africa’s role in responding to the Climate Crisis. He holds a degree in economics from Harvard University.
Anjali Bansal is the Founding Partner of Avaana Climate and Sustainability Fund. Previously, Anjali was the Non-Executive Chairperson of Dena Bank, a Global Partner and Managing Director with TPG Growth PE, responsible for India, SE Asia, Africa and Middle East, and a strategy consultant with McKinsey in New York. She serves as an independent director on leading boards including Tata Power, Nestle, and Piramal Enterprises. She is also a Member of the Evolution Review Committee for Niti Aayog, India’s premier policy think tank chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister. Anjali has previously chaired the India board of Women’s World Banking, and served on the boards of GSK Pharma, Siemens, and Bata. She has a bachelor’s in computer engineering from Gujarat University and a Master’s from Columbia University.
Matías Peire has more than 20 years of experience in the creation and management of high-tech companies. In 2013, after more than 10 years as an entrepreneur, he began a research process to develop a model that links science with venture capital in Latin America. After three years, he founded GRIDX, a VC fund that, through a company builder model, creates and invests in science-based companies. In the last 6 years he invested in 56 new biotech startups in Latin America. He serves on the Advisory Board of Proyecto Educar 2050, an education NGO based in Argentina.
Ben Joffe is a Partner at SOSV and co-curator of the Summit. He is considered a global thought leader on deeptech innovation and ecosystems. Benjamin is a reformed mechanical engineer who turned to strategy and worked in China, Japan, and South Korea across telecom, mobile, gaming, hardware and deeptech.