Naza Alakija is the founder of the Social Accelerator for A Green Economy (SAGE) which has a focus on empowering entrepreneurs to build and scale bold tech solutions in the fight against climate change. Naza has been featured as an influential advocate, social entrepreneur and speaker by several publications and outlets including BusinessDay. Naza has an unwavering commitment to ensuring positive change in the fight to reduce atmospheric CO2 as well ending inequality in the education of children. She is a prominent climate change strategist who offers regular support to organizations like UNICEF. The depth of her dialogue ranges from climate campaigns to more complex legislation that bears long-term implications on the rights of children nationally and internationally.
She currently works with a number of key institutions including Bloomberg and UNICEF where she has worked on a number of initiatives including providing help in humanitarian crisis situations on emergency care and long-term development aid plans. Naza also invested in the development of solar panelled boreholes through WASH and UNICEF in different parts of Borno State in N.E Nigeria. Her area of focus in the upcoming year is the ongoing conflict in Yemen where Naza is currently providing and raising funding for emergency care aid such as food, medical supplies and psychosocial care.
She is a graduate of Biomedical Materials Sciences and Engineering from the University of Manchester and finished with a 2.1 grade.
Where it all began
I spent a great deal of time with my Grandfather growing up and he is truly one of the most hard-working individuals I have ever come across. Himself and my family always encouraged me to study and work to achieve whatever I wanted from life. Their never-ending support has played a huge role in who I’ve become today.
Fighting against climate change
It has been during the past 5-6 years I’ve been in Nigeria that I really began feeling the impact of climate change and once I started to talk about this to family and friends, I realised that there is a lack of awareness and a serious lack of information on what is actually happening. So, my goal to date has been to increase awareness through writing, through speaking engagements and in bringing awareness to organisations I work with to implement incremental changes.
Why the passion for climate change?
Climate change is threatening global development over the past 50 years. We are ultimately the first generation to feel the negative impacts of it and the last to be able to do anything about it. The world population is growing and with this comes a higher demand in energy and consumption. If we truly want a harmonious environment for future generations, we need to find a sustainable way of life. If we do not, there will be global chaos and disorder.
How are you helping to end inequality in the education of children?
Education has and is playing an important role in my life. I believe every single child has the right to an education and climate change is the biggest threat to this. If we continue on this current trajectory, millions of people will be pushed into poverty. There will be serious implications for human rights especially for those already living in poverty. With SAGE innovation centre, I aim to bring resilience within these communities and also to aid our transition into a greener economy.
Relationship with UNICEF
I worked with UNICEF last year to implement solar-panelled bore holes in Borno State within the refugee camps in N.E Nigeria. They are such a great organisation and they are so supportive in implementing long-term development plans. This year, I will be focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with them, supporting emergency aid and psychosocial care for children.
What is your take on SDGs and in what ways are you involved with it?
The SDG’s are great benchmarks that we should all aim to be meeting not just in our daily lives but also within our work. If every one of us aims to target at least 1-2 of these goals, globally we can bring about positive change.
SAGE Innovation Centre aims to target many of the SDG’s from SDG 13 (Climate action), 10 (Reduced inequalities), 14/15 (Life on land/below water), 7 (Affordable and clean energy), 5 (Gender equality) and so on.
What is your take on women empowerment?
In every successful economy, there are empowered women. In a world where we are all striving for equality, climate change and environmental disasters will only magnify inequality. The need to empower and support one another is imminent and it needs to start amongst women themselves. By empowering one another we are ensuring success for future generations.
What is the greatest lesson life has taught you?
Getting comfortable with failure. I used to be so scared to fail. But I have come to realise that in the most testing times are the greatest seeds of growth.
Personal and professional challenges
Self-growth! It is by far one of the most difficult challenges we face in life. But once we do, it is by far the most rewarding experience.
Why the concern about Yemen?
There is a serious humanitarian crisis going on right now in Yemen and it is man-made. There is a vacuum and a whole generation of children are growing up witnessing nothing but war, famine, poverty and disease. If we do not address it, we will give room for growth of more terrorism. This will affect us globally. We are under the false notion that because charity begins at home, it should end at home, however if we wish to maintain an open global economy, we cannot live by such closed political notions.
What every young girl out there needs to know
Stay humble and be the best version of yourself. Anything you want, you can achieve. You just need patience, persistence and resilience.