Brian Holuj, Strategic Delivery Lead for the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-Chain (ACES) on behalf of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) United for Efficiency (U4E), overviews the ACES Engagement Day hosted on Friday, 21 October for Global Off-Grid Solar Forum attendees to further cold chain collaboration.
A rainy season downpour could not dampen the enthusiastic deliberations of the more than 70 experts gathered at the ACES headquarters on 21 October 2022. The event immediately followed the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo hosted in Kigali, and major investors, industry executives, senior officials, academics and project managers stayed on to attend.
Our invitation-only gathering focused on forging strategic partnerships and momentum as the Centre ramps-up procurements of specialised equipment, renovations and construction of new facilities –including a flagship demonstration hall– and onboarding of key staff on a path for initiating operations in 2023. With ample space and a range of facilities being equipped and staffed across this campus, 200 hectares of neighbouring lands being allocated by the Government for an integrated farm, and all of this in proximity to its international airport, ACES headquarters is uniquely situated to research, test, and build capacity around an entire cold-chain ecosystem for food and vaccines.
The event unfolded with scene-setting reflections by the organizers, followed by guided tours of the burgeoning campus for the audience of mostly first-time visitors from around the world. The balance of the day focused on interactive workshops during which participants shared perspectives on leading existing initiatives and opportunities for ACES to address a variety of critical unmet needs.
We have designed the Centre around a collaborative model. As Robert Hale, Senior Trade Policy Advisory for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, of the British High Commission in Kigali, told guests “What really excites me about ACES is that it’s a true partnership bringing together all of these aspects of what the UK can offer, in conjunction with Rwanda, the UN and others. Rwanda has an excellent record of leadership on climate policies and action – with its National Cooling Policy, Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy, the award-winning green fund FONERWA, and through its commitments under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
“Having built the vision for the ACES programme, and with $20 million in funding secured through to 2025, we are now moving forwards at pace to develop and deliver the practical next steps to build an operational centre here at the Rubirizi campus. I’m excited to see this group of experts here today to contribute to the challenge. During this period the ACES headquarters will pave the way to transition to a financially self-sufficient business model.”
Echoing these sentiments, Professor Guillaume Nyagatare, Principal for the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine of the University of Rwanda, set out his vision for the Centre, “This is expected to change the livelihoods of many stakeholders including small farmers, cooperatives, and students who will be interested to pursue their careers in sustainable cooling and cold chain. All these will add and shape this organic entity. A conversation has been started and will continue, for they provide the local context, that to a major extent, will define the success of the Centre. I call upon interested experts and industry to collaborate with ACES as we seek to deploy the best solutions to underpin a prosperous, healthy, integrated, and climate-friendly Africa.”
Equipment manufacturers including Daikin, Danfoss and SureChill were active with both insights during the proceedings and examples of concrete contributions toward the Centre’s readiness, including sample refrigeration equipment on display and on-campus office space being utilized for a local corporate presence.
Attendees identified testing and certification services, joint research opportunities, capacity building and areas of emphasis to consider as preparations are in full swing for the opening of the Centre’s headquarters hub and its first affiliated SPOKE (Specialized Outreach and Knowledge Establishment) which will be in Kenya and will serve as a model for others anticipated for rural communities throughout the continent as real-world applications of ACES’ solutions. They applauded the unique ACES hub-and-spoke approach, with multiple attendees highlighting relevant large-scale projects getting underway and proposing that they be considered for inclusion as SPOKEs. These and other proposals were documented by the ACES team and will be used to help inform the next steps in readying the Centre.
For more information, please contact Alice Moreau, Partner Engagements and SPOKEs Lead, UNEP U4E, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event was captured by RwandaTV and you can view coverage [starting at 13:50] on their YouTube Channel.
ACES is led by Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment, UK Defra, the University of Rwanda, the Centre for Sustainable Cooling, and UNEP’s United for Efficiency initiative. The Centre aligns with a portfolio of Rwandan and UK policies, and economic growth strategies as well as international commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement, and Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol