Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is already deadly—and only growing deadlier, thanks to a dangerous cocktail of climate change, poor infrastructure, and the legacy of colonialism.
Kate Kallot, 32, has focused on a subtle but nonetheless critical issue: a lack of data. Amini, a Nairobi-based startup she founded last year, uses satellite imaging and AI to collect and crunch environmental data to understand what’s happening at ground level, down to the square meter. The result, she says, includes new tools to help people at the grassroots—think smallholder farmers looking to improve their productivity—as well as big companies that will invest in Africa once they have a confident way of tracking these conditions. The result could be transformative.
“Data is the start of any economic revolution,” says Kallot. “Our thesis is that one of the reasons why the continent hasn’t been able to develop itself as fast as the Global North is because of the lack of data.”
Kallot was born in France and spent her childhood visiting family in several African countries. She ran AI chipmaker Nvidia’s emerging-markets business before leaving to found Amini. She is not the first to realize that environmental data can aid development, but her company, which has raised $2 million in early-stage funding, has positioned itself as a leader focused on Africa.
One relevant data point: the continent is home to 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Amini data can not only offer farmers insights on best practices, it might also unlock development that could feed the world as climate change wreaks havoc on today’s breadbaskets. The data also gives insurance companies confidence to offer policies to these small farmers, protecting them from financial ruin in case of the worst climate-related events. This is especially urgent as regulators in the U.S. and Europe begin to implement rules that require big companies—including firms that might invest in Africa—to disclose the climate risks in their supply chains.
And there are other, novel applications. Amini hopes its data can facilitate the preservation of African forests and other natural environments that store carbon in exchange for funding from countries in the Global North. Amini monitors to measure what’s actually being protected—and to ensure that it stays that way. “If we reach the level we are aiming for, you’ll see a much different Africa in a couple of years,” says Kallot.
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