Alumni portrait - Timothy Afful-Koomson
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- Put the needs of others before your own
- Put the needs of others before your own
Timothy Afful-Koomson works on measures to slow down and adapt to climate change in Africa. After having lived several places around the world, including Trondheim, he has learned to meet others with an open mind without judgement.
Profession: Coordinator for the Green Climate Fund at the African Development Bank
PhD from The Fletcher School, Tufts University (2020)
Master of Geographic Information Systems, NTNU (1996)
Bachelor in Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana (1990)
The African continent accounts for far lower greenhouse gas emissions than countries in the Western world, such as Norway. At the same time, they are the ones most affected by climate change, particularly countries south of the Sahara.
- We are working towards reaching the 2C climate target in the Paris Agreement. It is possible if the necessary resources are put on the table, says Timothy Afful-Koomson, who works at the African Development Bank as Chief Climate Finance Officer for the Green Climate Fund.
The Green Climate Fund is a fund established within the framework of the UN Climate Convention. It is a financial mechanism to help developing countries adapt to climate change, and finances, among other things, projects in agriculture.
Learnt to ski Telemark
Afful-Koomson talks via Teams from his home office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. As a result of the corona pandemic, they are still working from home. From 1992 to 1996 he was an exchange student at NTNU, and he doesn’t mind going down memory lane.
- I had a very nice time in Trondheim and at NTNU. The city may have a cold climate, but I found that the people are warm. Learning Norwegian was exciting, but unfortunately I have forgotten quite a lot as it has been so long since I lived there.
He and his wife were, among other things, active in the Trondheim Christian Student Fellowship, and made many good friends and acquaintances. Not only did he learn how to ski, but even learnt the traditional Telemark skiing, a challenging technique that combines elements of Alpine and Nordic skiing.
Important to be welcoming to exchange students
Something close to Afful-Koomson’s heart are the conditions for the exchange students, and that good scholarship schemes and programs are in place so that students from different walks of society can have the experience. Particularly, the importance of supporting students from the poorer part of the world.
- Without the Norwegian program that provides support for African students, I would not have been able to do the exchange. Most of us go back to our country afterwards and work there, contributing positively to the development of our countries.
But many exchange students feel lonely, Afful-Koomson knew of one who felt so alone that he went back to Ethiopia. Therefore, he would like to remind Norwegian students to be a little extra welcoming towards the exchange students.
- I would also encourage the foreign students to spend their free time involved in different students’ activities and associations. Being open and having an interest in exploring a new culture will get you far.
Finding solutions for African smallholder farmers
Afful-Koomson obtained his PhD in the USA and worked there for several years. He has been employed by the African Development Bank since 2014. He is one of those people who spends a lot of his time working, including evenings and weekends. It's because he is passionate about what he does, and he knows commitment pays off and is never futile.
- In Africa, a large part of the population are smallholder farmers, they are extra vulnerable to climate change and drought. We have many projects that focus on simple measures to make their lives better.
He shares photos from a project in Northern Ghana over the screen. Some women stand with a mortar for grinding flour.
- We are in the 21st century, but many people still live like this. They spend 6 to 8 hours doing what a simple mill can do in ten minutes.
With the example, he wants to demonstrate how little it really takes to make the lives of smallholder farmers better.
- What is the most important thing you have learnt in your working life?
- You shouldn’t judge anyone, no matter their country, skin colour, class, and religion. Meet people with an open mind, that's my advice.
Success is improving the lives of others
For Afful-Koomson, success has nothing to do with wealth or titles.
It's being able to contribute something positive to other people’s lives, and it doesn't always have to be something big. Like making someone smile because of a nice comment.
- My role model for success is the poor grandmother who made sure that all six grandchildren were able to go to school, and not a rich person with a Rolls Royce and several houses.
He himself likes to live a simple life, even though he has a job with a lot of responsibility.
- How can I buy a watch for 1,000 dollars when I know that someone is starving, he adds.
Now he plans to start a new school where young Africans can learn about climate finance.
- Just a handful of people in Africa have knowledge about climate finance. I am privileged, but with that also comes a responsibility. We need more people who can work with it, and I want to contribute to that.
Text: Lisbet Jære