Mohamed Adow

  • Country: Kenya
  • Cohort: 2020
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Mohamed Adow grew up in a family of nomadic pastoralists in northern Kenya. For centuries, his community had lived comfortably off its livestock, but a changing climate had brought persistent drought, killing many animals, and they now depended on humanitarian assistance.

So instead of herding animals, Mohamed went to work for a series of charities that delivered aid to Northern Kenya and other places enduring the impacts of climate change. But no matter how much food came or how many boreholes were drilled, poverty and dependency just worsened.

Breakthrough Idea

Drive a just transition in Africa to an inclusive, equitable, zero-carbon economic future based on renewable energy by supporting civil society and frontrunner governments through research, policy advocacy, and multi-stakeholder platforms.

“If you fail to address the root causes of people’s vulnerability, you perpetuate suffering,” he says. “The food and cash handouts were doing precisely that, easing hunger but not slaying the real monster: climate injustices and historical marginalization.”

That insight drove Mohamed into policy advocacy. At Christian Aid, he quickly rose to global climate policy lead, becoming an expert in climate justice issues, sustainable development, and energy transitions. He built close relationships with a wide range of civil society organizations, including many from the Global South, and together they worked to influence international decision-makers, elevating the voices of the most vulnerable countries and people.

I grew up as a victim of climate change, but today I am on the frontlines of climate justice.

mohamed adow, 2020 Climate Breakthrough Awardee

While at Christian Aid, he led the creation of the Pan-Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), made up of over 1,000 organizations across 48 countries. In 2018, he set his sights higher, founding Power Shift Africa as a vehicle to push for transformative change across the continent.

“I set out to build the collective moral, economic, and political voice of 1.2 billion Africans to mobilize African leadership and the international community around more ambitious climate action goals,” he says. Winning the Climate Breakthrough Award in 2020 enabled him to scale up his efforts and lay out a vision for a thriving, more just Africa powered by clean energy.

Winning the Climate Breakthrough Award shifted the trajectory of my career as a climate champion.

mohamed adow

Power Shift Africa has grown rapidly, convening major events, running prominent campaigns such as “Don’t Gas Africa” (to stop further development of fossil fuels), vocally advocating for climate justice in the media and in international forums, and mobilizing global scholars and African experts to chart a new course for Africa’s development.

“Opportunity beckons for Africa to make this century the African Century, in which the continent’s economies leapfrog by harnessing the vast endowment of clean energy resources,” Kenyan President William S. Ruto says in the preface to Power Shift Africa’s flagship report

Mohamed is tireless, at once positive and hopeful, and openly critical of African leaders and global actors whom he sees steering the continent in the wrong direction, and of the Global North countries that have yet to settle their “climate debt” to poor nations. 

“I grew up as a victim of climate change, but today I am on the frontlines of climate justice,” he says. “The challenges we face are daunting, but they give me a fire in my belly to advocate fiercely for a more just and sustainable world, with energy sovereignty and food security for all.”


Mohamed Adow is the Founding Director of Power Shift Africa, a non-governmental organization (NGO) and think tank based in Nairobi. Its mission is to mobilize climate action in Africa and amplify African voices in the media and in international forums. As part of its work, PSA is helping to build dedicated platforms of African civil society organizations, technical experts, and high-level leadership to advocate collectively for transformative change.

Mohamed previously served as the Global Climate Policy Lead for Christian Aid. He led the development of the London-based NGO’s climate and energy strategy, produced policy papers and briefings, and led advocacy targeting international decision-makers and influencing international policy in climate negotiations and sustainable development. During his tenure, he was a key player and leader in Climate Action Network International and in Action by Churches Together (ACT Alliance) and supported climate justice advocates from the Global South.

Earlier in his career, Mohamed served as a Senior Programme Officer in East Africa for Christian Aid, and before this, as Programmes Manager for Nairobi-based Northern Aid and in similar roles with CARE International and Target on Pastoralists.

He has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from The Open University in the UK and an M.S. in Global Energy and Climate Change from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

My life on the climate frontline

“My existence has been a complex combination of chance and predetermined outcomes, where optimism and pessimism have intertwined,” writes Mohamed Adow.

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