Wairimu Karanja is a partner and chief legal & compliance officer at Persistent Energy Capital LLC, known as Africa’s climate venture builder. She recently spoke to Chipo Muwowo about her time at the University of Dundee, and how her LLM is shaping her life’s work.
“Developing countries contribute the least to climate change, and yet they suffer the most from it,” Karanja emphasised. “We need to be a little bit more unapologetic when negotiating our position in climate finance and the politics of climate change.”
An alumna of the University of Dundee’s Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP), Karanja graduated in 2018 with a distinction in her Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Energy Law and Policy. Her passion to drive impact in the renewables space is clearly evident.
Today, she’s based in Nairobi, Kenya, working for Persistent Energy Capital LLC, a venture capital fund that invests in and builds promising African clean energy startups focused on climate positive sectors such as solar, e-mobility, commercial and industry, carbon credits and climate tech. “My work mainly involves legal and strategic advice on governance, investment, risk and compliance to the board, management and team. Together with the team, we offer expert venture building support to the startup founders, including on governance, legal and compliance matters. This includes my participation at the board level and as a strategic advisor,” she explained.
Before joining Persistent, Karanja ran her own practice, W&Co, where she did legal and policy advisory work on a range of renewable energy matters. The decision to specialise in renewables and climate finance was deliberate, and it’s one that goes back a few years.
“My undergraduate dissertation in 2007 was on the ‘polluter pays’ principle,” she shared. “When I returned to Kenya after my LLM in 2018, rather than re-joining an international arbitration or M&A legal practice, I decided to set up my boutique energy law and corporate advisory practice.”
While at Dundee, Karanja was selected for a research assistant position with the Extractives Hub, a project funded by the UK government with the goal of helping resource-rich countries get the most out of their extractive industries. She published a policy brief and case study with the Hub and was its champion in Kenya.
Karanja says the LLM degree made a significant impact on her, sharpening her abilities and deepening her passion. “It’s the best course out there for energy law and policy,” she commented. “CEPMLP is a well-regarded centre with well-curated courses. I would highly recommend it especially to African, and other international students.”
Studying in Scotland also broadened her horizons culturally. “Part of Dundee’s appeal is that it’s a small city. When I was there, we had a diverse student cohort; some of my friends were from Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, China, Chile, Argentina, the US, and the UK.”
And what does Karanja think about that most Scottish of delicacies, haggis?
“Let’s just say, it’s an acquired taste!” she laughed.
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