Jessica Kavonic

20 Nov 2023
20 Nov 2023

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Each African city is unique and comes with a unique context and set of challenges.

What do you do?

As C40’s Head of Implementation for Africa, I support all C40 African cities in accelerating the implementation of their most impactful climate actions. I do this by ensuring that any work we support or implement in Africa aligns with these cities’ Climate Action Plans (CAPs), and by being the regional lead for all C40 projects or programmes in the Africa region. I provide technical and coordination support, and facilitate cross-learning between C40’s African cities and the other C40 cities.

How did you get your job?

After being at my previous company for over eight years, I was ready for a change. I therefore updated my status on LinkedIn to indicate I would be open to being approached for relevant opportunities. A few months later, a recruiter contacted me. They had been hired by my current employer to do a targeted “head-hunt”. As part of the process, I had an interview with the recruiter who, after putting my name on the short-list, submitted my name and CV to my current company. I was then interviewed, which was conducted through two rounds of interviews by different panels. The entire process took three months.

What has been a highlight of your career so far?

Part of my work involves a lot of travel to different African cities. Building relationships across the continent, and visiting different cities and learning about their governance processes and design solutions to the wicked problems they face, have all been extremely rewarding. I have met some amazing and incredibly inspiring people, and supported the implementation of some really great projects (river restoration work, retrofitting buildings with renewable energy, greening projects, community art projects, composting projects, and more).

What are some of the challenges of your job?

My job challenges me daily. Each African city is unique and comes with a unique context and set of challenges. These can include challenges such as multi- level governance, capacity, finance, politics and development challenges. Cities are complex systems, and so, a huge part of my job is working through wicked problems and implementing tailor-made solutions. A critical challenge across all the cities I work in, however, is access to finance. Funding resources for adaptation in Africa are still very limited.

What advice would you give to students that want to follow in your footsteps?

Working in the climate change space is hard. You yourself have to be resilient to setbacks and challenges, which limit the change and impact you can make. But keep going. There is so much work that needs to be done in this space. Remember, you are the one driving change, so protecting your emotional and mental well-being is very important. Relationships are everything, so focus on building these. Collaborate. Be humble. Don’t be scared to fail. Work from the bottom up. Be kind. Challenge the system. Consistently be open to learn.

How do you see your industry evolving in the near future, especially in Africa?

I really hope that cities can adequately access climate finance in the future. I hope that we will shift from planning to implementation and see real, tangible, on-the-ground change. I hope more cities (and businesses) will develop climate action plans and that these go somewhere. I hope for improved collaboration between the different spheres of government.