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Business skills boost for 12 start-up enterprises

The New Economy Accelerator (NEA): Supporting entrepreneurs to scale up their green enterprises

This year, the NEA is focused on supporting enterprises that will transform rural economies in South Africa. A total of 12 start-ups have been selected.

The selection was preceded by an intensive three-day bootcamp, to determine the fit of the etrepreneurs for the programme. “The aim of the NEA is to identify committed social entrepreneurs with innovative businesses that have high potential to transform rural economies in South Africa and the continent.

Rural economies are critical for driving social transformation, yet face significant challenges resulting in high levels of youth unemployment and food insecurity. The NEA aims to promote inclusive business models that will help create opporuntities in rural economies to rejuvenate the sector”, says Dr Mao Amis, Convenor of the New Economy Accelerator.

“Women make a third of the intake and the majority are youth under the age of 35 years. We are delighted about that, because women continue to be under-represented in entrepreneurial development programmes and in many sectors of the economy” he adds.

The entrepreneurs are building innovative solutions for various challenges such as nutrition and sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, digital inclusion and waste management amont others.


Details about the enterprises can be found below or click to view profiles:

Akwande Farm
Agriculture (farming)

Akwande Farm (a business idea at this stage) will be a project built around highly successful business and development training of skilled and semi-skilled staff in the hydroponics, livestock farming, dairy farming, aquaponics farming, food processing, alternative energy (bio energy) production. The project’s aim is to carry out intensive and high turnover production, off a small area, while providing work and leadership experience for locals. The business venture is not yet operational.


Bolimi Bokamoso
Agriculture (skills training)

Offers training and mentorship to emerging farmers. Also, sells agricultural products to farmers. Some aspects of the business are operational. The owner of the business previously worked in the agricultural sector.


DigiTicket SA
online retail platform

Digiticket is an online ticketing solution which caters for internet and transactional solutions such as tickets for events, restaurant meal tickets, accommodation, travel, voucher coupons, and membership card access coupons. The app is also used to market and book for events. The company began trading in January 2016.


Gamagara Cape
Renewable Energy Products

The company is a renewable energy supplier that specializes in the installation of renewable energy products like street solar lights, water heaters and invertors among others. They are also seeking to promote energy access for numerous communities that lack access to the main grid in rural areas of South Africa.


Kalahari Fire
Adventure Events Management – events management.

The company organises family-oriented and alcohol-free outdoor events. Products on offer include go-karting, paintball, obstacle courses and quad biking.


Lamo Fuel Primary Cooperative
Biodiesel Manufacturer

The company produces biofuel from sunflower oil seeds. Has already developed prototypes. The owner is a biochemist. The venture is not yet operational.


Mthura Resources
Farming (Egg retailer)

The company promotes nutrition and income generation in rural areas through poultry farming. Their main products are locally and ethically produced eggs and chicken supplied to communities in its area of operations.


Nutrifounder Consultants
Health & Wellness

The business is focused on educating the community about nutrition, with a special focus on schools. It also consults to private clients.


Roots Accommodation
Property Management – Student Accommodation

The enterprise plans to provide rental accommodation for students using reusable shipping containers. The target market is the local TVET collage in Kuruman, which draws students from neighbouring towns. The venture is not yet operational.


Tebatso African Eco Spa
Health & Wellness

A sanctuary rooted in the use of authentic African methods and rituals to achieve healing and wellbeing, with the use of locally-sourced natural products. The spa also offers local cultural tours and the whole sanctuary is based on an African philosophy that the body, mind and spirit are one.


Thebe Ntehelang
Thebe-Ya-Setshaba Investment Holdings

The business is a waste management centre. Operations include the storage and re-purposing of tyres.


The broad objective of the NEA Programme is to identify SMMEs in South Africa with a high potential for social and environmental impact; and provide them with the necessary support and development assistance. The programme seeks to activate local economies in South Africa to build an inclusive and prosperous society.

The NEA is wholly-owned by the African Centre for a Green Economy (AfriCGE).


For further information and for interview opportunities with Dr. Amis, please contact:

Phumeza Mgxashe
African Centre for a Green Economy
Communications Manager
Tel 021 713 4390


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We-Africa Lab launched to drive a wellbeing economy in Africa

One of the imperatives of the transition to a green economy is to expand the current narrow definitions of development to include well-being of people and the environment. A well-being economy is one that has at its core, the awareness of the challenges that society faces and provides tools and strategies to address these according to context. This drive for a well-being economy arises at a time where growth policies have only exacerbated the gap between the rich and the poor while depleting the earth’s natural resources at an alarming rate. The well-being economy also calls for more inclusive and democratic forms of participation in the economy. It is said that no enduring economic, cultural and political transformation has been achieved without a solid constituency demanding and enabling that change – changing the narrative and the power base.

It is on this basis that the WE-Africa Lab, a group of 28 African thought leaders from eight African countries from across sub-Saharan Africa launched in November. The We-Africa Lab is comprised of policymakers, social entrepreneurs, academics and development practitioners among others. The Lab, gathered in Cape Town in November 2016 for its inaugural meeting, in a process that is designed to last for 1 year, comprising of three physical meetings in any one of the participating countries.

The We-Africa Lab is convened by GIZ, WE-Africa Network, and the African Centre for a Green Economy. The inaugural 4 days meeting in Cape Town, yielded very exciting outcomes, with the team split into smaller groups of 4, focusing on specific topics that will be explored over the next 12 months, to collectively drive the goal of achieving a wellbeing economy in Africa.

The Lab was designed as a form of deep dialogue capable of triggering personal transformation, which can only become a driver of change if connected with collective leadership and strategic action. The three levels – personal, collective and strategic – are essential to developing transformative actions that are sustainable over time and with significant outcomes and impact. Too often good ideas are not implemented, because people struggle to organize effectively or fail to alter the structural constraints hindering social change.

Through dedicated sessions focusing on personal transformation, collective action and strategic thinking and through a forward-looking orientation based on the skills, experiences and initiatives already developed by the participants, the Lab aims to inspire leaders across the African continent to lead sustainable change and generate ripple effects throughout society.

The next Lab meeting will take place in May in a country yet to be decided, in the meantime the groups will continue to develop their independent projects and collaborate online with their colleagues until the next meeting.

Sustainability and Inequality for a Green Economy, lessons from Kenya**

Significant progress has been made in the last couple of years in driving the transition to a green and inclusive world. Events such as the ushering of the new SDGs, the signing of the Paris agreement, and the significant investment flows into renewable energy, are just some of the few hallmarks of the significant strides that has been achieved in the fight against climate change.

However, the jury is still out regarding progress in driving an inclusive green economy, as the fight against inequality and poverty still remains a major challenge. Unless we are able to significantly dent the poverty and bring along the millions of vulnerable people across the world, the milestones achieved in other sectors of the green economy will come to naught. This is because, the very definition of a green economy emphasisises inclusivity, and the need to usher in a new world order where the losers of the current unfair economic system, are brought along in the transition, where everybody will be a winner. It cannot therefore be emphasised enough that the transition to a green economy needs to:

  • Invests in people because green must be fair,
  • Transforms key economic sectors to one that is more inclusive and respects natural resource limits,
  • Reform our current financial institutions and financing flows ensure that we pay for the cost of the climate change and exacerbate the current footprint of humanity,
  • Rethink how we measure progress, and most importantly measure what matters, to ensure the wellbeing of our planet and its people,
  • Protect natural capital, which is the pillar that anchors our current economic system.

However, as stated in the Green Economy Barometer (2016), the “transition is not broad enough or deep enough”. The gap between the haves and have nots continues to grow. The reasons for this can perhaps be explained by the fact the green economy strategies and policies to a large extent still focus at the macro-economic level, instread of driving change on the ground. So in many respects, the more we advocate for a green economy, the more things remain the same. To the extent that flashpoints may arise in our efforts to drive sustainability and inequality at the same time.

The African Centre for a Green Economy recently undertook a comprehesive review to develop understanding on potential flashpoints that may arise as we seek to achieve the various goals set out in the SDGs. Using Kenya as a case study, four main flaspoints were identified that are critical for illustrating the potential trade-offs that may arise in our endeavour to achieve the sustainable development goals:

  • Conflict between commercial and traditional landscape use in the Tana River Delta
  • Watershed management among Naivasha Flower Growers
  • Drought in the Northern Region’s Turkana County
  • Human and elephant conflicts in the Mount Kenya Area

These case studies showed that many of the triggers of conflict in those areas were a result of the unfair distribution of limited resources such as water, land and money. Each of the case studies demonstrated the importance of understanding the intersections between the political, environmental, economic and social structures in developing relevant and effective strategies in transitioning to a green economy. The transition requires a reworking of economic policies that drive a brown and exclusive agenda, recognizing the possibilities for more inclusive, collaborative and democratic approaches.

Imaginative and innovative policy combinations will thus be required to ensure real change within the limited time before climate change triggered conflicts rise and irreparable damage is done to the planet. In Kenya’s the devolution of the Kenyan government presents a significant opportunity to create these innovative policies that cater to more context specific needs, promoting local economies and sustainably using locally available resources. The neoliberal once-size-fits-all economic policy has not worked and therefore the next few years will be critical in redefining measurements of progress.

** This report was done for a client, a final version will be released soon for distribution.

Financing of water infrastructure takes centre stage in South Africa

#H2ODialogue splashes some interesting facts on water sector

Businesses have begun to recognize that inefficient use of natural resources poses a risk to their operations, and because of that there has been a significant increase in investments in greening their processes. However water has seen far less investments and yet it is a resource that poses shared risk between business, the public sector and the general public.

Poor water infrastructure and management exacerbate the impacts of climate change and increase inequalities. For example, recent flash floods in Johannesburg at the end of 2016 affected the poor significantly. The severity of these floods could be directly-linked to under-investment in water and sanitation infrastructure. In addition, the impact of these floods on the economy can be estimated into the millions. The lack of adequate water infrastructure is also made overt in different sectors of the economy during drought periods. However the hardest hit would the agriculture sector, experiencing millions of Rands in losses.

However, there is an opportunity to explore approaches that drive action by the private sector to create shared value. Green innovations provide an excellent opportunity to create shared value in the context of water management, and infrastructure investment through promoting interventions that result in improved business performance and the broader landscape and socio-economic outcomes.

The African Centre hosted a Water & Sanitation Dialogue in Johannesburg towards the end of 2016, engaging with investors, utilities and environmental agencies on ways to unlock private sector funding for water infrastructure. Major financiers, such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), expressed their continued interest in funding water infrastructure projects, and are constantly on the lookout for opportunities in the sector. The pressure to develop new bulk infrastructure presents an opportunity to model a new system design which would include the identification; and strict monitoring and quantification of losses, which is a strategic approach to optimising water supply.

Several speakers and experts moaned the lack of private sector funding for water infrastructure. Dr Mao Amis, executive director, African Centre for a Green Economy, suggested the market-driven financing solutions such as bonds and commercial loans could be the answer. He added, “The private sector has a role to play as already in 2015, top 10 JSE-Listed companies collectively lost over R840m, due to water impacts.”

Another expert felt there is a need for an independent water regulator as the current institutional structure is complex. “Also bulk water infrastructure is not very profitable and yet it is capital hungry,” he said.

The “flight” of skills was also cited as a factor.” There is diminished local capacity as local suppliers are bought by multi-nationals,” said he added.

The power utility Eskom felt that the discussion needs to be centred on food and energy security as water is an enabler for both the agricultural and power sector. The utility says, although the risk posed by poor water infrastructure, is outside its mandate, it works with municipalities to unlock resources.

The Water Research Commission continues to push for and encourage research and innovation. “Impact is what we focus on,” added the representative.

All agreed that water, a strategic resource, poses significant risks to the economy, if not well-managed. All evidence indicates that, water and its related infrastructure, is chronically under-funded in South Africa. In addition to the impact on business, there is a backlog of more than two million households with no access to basic water and sanitation in South Africa.

To this end, last week, the Water Research Commission (WRC), in partnership with the African Centre for a Green Economy (AfriCGE), convened a Strategic Dialogue to explore ways to craft innovative financing solutions geared at unlocking private sector investment for water and sanitation.

The gathering, included key industry stakeholders, such as the Development Bank of South Africa, Eskom and the Water Research Commission. They shared perspectives on how to address the important challenge of financing water and sanitation.

AfriCGE is a Think Tank and innovation hub supporting the transition to a new/green economy in Africa. Through engaging with policymakers, business leaders and academia, the agency seeks to promote evidence-based policy implementation and the development of appropriate skills for the transition towards a green economy.

Outcomes of CITES: The 7 key decisions

Made up of 182 nations, CITES is tasked primarily with conservation and trade issues in relation to wild life. The key decisions made were:

Ivory markets and elephants

Zimbabwe and Namibia requested to be allowed to resume a legal trade in ivory so that the revenue can be used to help with conservation efforts. The two countries’ elephant populations are currently listed under CITES Appendix II with an annotation that prohibits them from engaging in the ivory trade during the nine years between 2007-2016. They argue that only by allowing wildlife to contribute to national revenues can they run truly sustainable conservation policies. But conservationists argue that only a total ban will enable a proper crack-down on the massive illegal trade that is critically endangering the world’s elephant population. A call was passed for the closure of all domestic ivory markets that contribute to illegal trade and poaching.


It is believed that the rhino horn can increase fertility and hence a growing demand for the horn in the Asian market. The illegal trading of rhino horn is valued and millions of dollars with countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Nepal, Namibia, and Zimbabwe being the preferred destination for poachers. A proposal from Swaziland that would have allowed it to sell its 330kg stockpile of horn in order, to use the money to help support rhino conservation work, was defeated.

Sharks and Rays

The decision to place nine species of ray, three thresher shark species and the silky shark under international trade restrictions was met with great celebration at the conference.


The motion to increase the protection of lions  and ban all trade on captive-lion parts was defeated. There is an increase in the trade of lion bones for medicinal purposes in the Asian market.  The decision was met with great disappointment from lion conservationists.

The African Grey Parrot

The African Grey Parrot was moved into Appendix 1, the highest level of protection, with a complete ban on the trading of the amicable bird. The parrot is hugely popular as a pet and is a beautiful and intelligent creature. The bird has been heavily hunted in Africa with numbers in some parts of Ghana dwindling by up to 99%.


All 300 species of Rosewood have been under strict trade restrictions. Rosewood is in high demand, with the market for the dark wood growing up to 65 times since 2005. The forests are largely found in South East Asia however the dwindling forest have pushed exploration for the tree into Africa and South America.


The scales of the pangolin are in high demand for medicinal purposes in parts of Africa and Asia whilst its flesh is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam. The high demand for this scaly animal has placed it on the brink of extinction. Cites has placed all species of pangolin in the highest protection category in efforts to avert the continued decline in population.

The Cites was considered as a major win towards conservation and wildlife protection. However, there is concern that this approach focuses on populations that are already under threat and doesn’t heed the potential dangers for other forms of wildlife.


About the author:

Nikiwe Solomon is a research fellow with the African Centre for a Green Economy and is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities at the University of Cape Town, where she looks at the Kuils River to better understand how the relationship between the river and communities shape each other. Her interests lie in exploring the human nature relationship in the context of interacting social, political and economic systems.


5 reasons why sustainability can drive innovation

Innovation is about doing something better and doing good is good business. We list 5 ways in which sustainability can drive innovation (and perhaps some entrepreneur out there will see an opportunity hidden between the lines).

1. Sustainability-driven innovation is about more than just creating green products. It includes improving efficiency and reducing waste in business operations and activities. Examples include industrial symbioses: These are approaches that promote an integrated industrial economy, where industries cooperate with each other to optimally use available resources. This can be achieved by leveraging resources such as materials, energy, water, capacity, expertise and assets among others.

2. Innovation does not necessarily mean an overhaul of a business of expensive technology, changing one aspect of the production process can result in significant cost savings and reducing input requirements. An example could include replacing input material with more environmentally friendly and reusable options, or material that require less water and so on.

3. Innovations that allow companies to be connected to their customers to influence their behavior in the use of their products can be very useful. The focus here is for the producer to take responsibility in the management of their waste. The aim of take-back strategies is to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste disposal, increasing recycling rates and prevention pollution at source.

4. Circular management which aims to promote more efficient resource use, by encouraging  firms to adopt cleaner production, recycle more of their products and cooperate with others (Giurco et al 2014). The key drivers of circular management are the growing demand for raw materials, growing populations, increased waste generation and associated costs, and significant progress in the development of recycling technologies. (Giurco et al 2014).

Innovation targeting the supply chain can reduce a company’s carbon footprint outside the ‘factory fence’To achieve a green supply chain requires significant engagement outside of a company’s ‘factory’ fence, by partnering with suppliers, local communities and environmental organizations, to help companies manage the risks associated with their supply chains.

About the author:

Nikiwe Solomon is a research fellow with the African Centre for a Green Economy and is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities at the University of Cape Town, where she looks at the Kuils River to better understand how the relationship between the river and communities shape each other. Her interests lie in exploring the human nature relationship in the context of interacting social, political and economic systems.


Neoliberalization of the commons

Over the last few months, I have been working on my PhD research in the Kuils River catchment and particularly the Khayelitsha area, a township located in the peri-urban regions of Cape Town. Within this buzzing township is a gem, the Khayelitsha Wetlands Park (KWP).

The KWP is a pleasant urban wetland park and is the poster child of sustainable development in townships for the City of Cape Town. The area was earmarked as a critical biodiversity hotspot of conservation worthy status due to it being a functional ecosystem supporting various plants and animal species, carrying out important regulatory services such as flood attenuation and water cleansing. The local communities also enjoy this wetland park for recreational activities, collection of medicinal plants, ritual cleansing, watering and feeding living stock and more. Over the months, I witnessed many changes to the wetland with the introduction of more infrastructures to benefit the local community and attract tourists.

Of interest to me was the introduction of the concrete palisade fencing. This was introduced perhaps as a border for the park, zoning of the area or to serve some other purpose. However within the short time that this fence has been up, it has already been vandalized to create access points for people and livestock not allocated in the earlier planning. In the process of creating a space for the benefit of the community, the fence and it being broken down implies the creation of parameters by the state for the use of the commons and how it is accessed.

This may seem as a bit of a leap. However in the discourse around ‘green’ development, the dominant claim is that there are many ‘unpriced’ and often unowned biophysical assets that could if inserted to the global markets, create revenue streams that would be able to support much needed socio-economic development (Dempsey and Robertson, 2012). This is the current discourse around the development of the KWP.

… discourse around ‘green’ development, the dominant claim is that there are many ‘unpriced’ and often unowned biophysical assets that could if inserted to the global markets, create revenue streams that would be able to support much needed socio-economic development

Conversely in the case of the KSW, the state’s management of natural resources using neoliberal rationalisations capitulates ‘command and control’ solutions under the guise of economic growth, economic efficiency; economic and social development for marginal and low income communities and sustainable development.

My argument is this approach fails to allow for adequate engagement in understanding the activities, importance and meanings drawn from the interaction with this natural resource. The services provided by the KWP cannot be separated from their embodiment in beings and lives. The benefits of the conservation, preservation and restoration of the KWP are often largely accrued by the state, private entities (e.g. tourist agencies) and donors and less so by the locals. Neoliberal environmental policies, in many ways like their economic counterpart, are grossly inadequate in addressing poverty and inequality.

The services provided by the KWP cannot be separated from their embodiment in beings and lives.

As mentioned by Kosoy and Corbera, 2010)

“When ES are commodified, they become the basis for new socio-economic hierarchies, characterised by the re-positioning of existing social actors, the emergence of others, and very likely, the reproduction of unequal power relations in access to wealth and … resources.”

Kosoy N and Corbera E. 2010. Payments for ecosystem services as commodity fetishism. Ecological Economics (69): 1193–1364.

Dempsey, J. and Robertson, M. 2012. Ecosystem services : Tensions, impurities, and points of engagement within neoliberalism. Progress in Human Geography 36(6): 758 – 77


About the author:

Nikiwe Solomon is a research fellow with the African Centre for a Green Economy and is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities at the University of Cape Town, where she looks at the Kuils River to better understand how the relationship between the river and communities shape each other. Her interests lie in exploring the human nature relationship in the context of interacting social, political and economic systems.



Climate finance, information and education for CSA

Left to right: Nick Kingsmill (Vivid Economics), Seth Shames (EcoAgriculture Partners) and Dr Mao Amis (African Centre For a Green Economy)

Left to right: Nick Kingsmill, Seth Shames and Dr Mao Amis at Mozambique Agriculture Ministry


Continued population growth inadvertently results in an increase in consumption and demand for food. This means that there will be a significant increase in competition for land, water and energy which will paradoxically compromise our ability to produce enough food. This will also have a negative impact on the environment and in turn the global poor who are largely dependent upon ecosystem services. At the same time, climate change is posing a great threat to food security at a global and local scale. However, the demand for food can be met through agricultural practices that consider the environment as well as the socio-economic contexts to ensure sustainable and equitable food security.

Climate change is posing a great threat to food security at a global and local scale

How can this be done?

Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is  an apporach for shifting and reorganizing agricultural systems to support the sustainable and equitable production of food given the new realities of climate change. The objectives of CSA are to increase the resilience (adaptation) and production otput of farmers while reducing the impact of the process on the environment.

Why is CSA different?

Unlike previous approaches to agricultural production, CSA promotes an integrated approach to agricultural production at different levels (from farm-to-landscape level), whilst taking into consideration relevance at local and national level over varied time scales.

CSA promotes an integrated approach to agricultural production

CSA also promotes coordinated actions by farmers, researchers, private sector, civil society and policymakers towards climate-resilient pathways through four main action areas: (1) building evidence; (2) increasing local institutional effectiveness; (3) fostering coherence between climate and agricultural policies; and (4) linking climate and agricultural financing. CSA differs from ‘business-as-usual’ approaches by emphasizing flexibility while being cognizant of context specificity  and needs whilst being supported by innovative policy and financing actions.

CSA in Africa

Agriculture remains important to the economy of most African countries. Its development has significant implications for food security and poverty reduction in the region.

CSA in Africa has been explored from different perspectives. For instance, Nick Kingsmill (Vivid Economics), Seth Shames (EcoAgriculture Partners) and our own Dr Mao Amis (African Centre for a Green Economy) met with officials at the Agriculture Ministry in Mozambique where they discussed various issues on how to scale up CSA in Mozambique, including its financing and the scaling up of training programmes. The trio are working on climate finance for CSA, education and information gathering. Dr Amis also visited Zambia where he witnessed innovative interventions which improved the quality and quantity of food yielded while possing less damage to the environment and improving the livelihoods of communities.

For Africa to benefit from the CSA approach, significant action needs to be taken to (see Williams et al, 2015)

  • improve the evidence base for certain strategic choices
  • improve the training and wider adotpion by farmers
  • create conducive policies and institutional arrangements to support farmers
  • enhance private and public investment
  • apply and scale-out CSA from farm level to agricultural landscape level
  • strengthen technical, analytical and implementation capacity

The ultimate goal of CSA in Africa is to reduce the costs to the environment that agriculture often entails whilst improving yields to enhance the livelihoods of the majority of the regions inhabitants.

Nikiwe Solomon is a reseach fellow with the African Centre for a Green Economy. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities at the University of Cape Town where she looks at the Kuils River to better understand how the relationship between the river and people is shape each other. Her interests lie in  explorign the human nature relationship in the context of interacting social, poltical and economic systems.


Lessons from the informal economy

It’s a well-documented fact that the informal sector is key in many developing countries, accounting for most employment opportunities, delivering a full range of services and providing social cohesion. In Kenya, for example, the informal economy is referred to as Jua Kali in Swahili, which loosely translates to the ability to solve any problem.

But can it also provide useful lessons for delivering green growth?

In Kenya’s thriving informal sector, all needs are catered for. If you have a bad hair day, a salon is just a few steps away. If your car is broken down? No problem, there is a roadside mechanic. And who needs a supermarket when you can pick your fresh vegetables from the Mboga (vegetable) lady in front of your housing estate?

It’s no surprise that 2.5 million people in Nairobi are employed in the sector. In South Africa the sector contributes between South African Rand 150- 300 billion (around US$10-20 billion) to the country’s gross domestic product.

Indeed the informal economy is so intricately connected with people’s daily lives, it boggles the mind when we attempt to box it in as the ‘other’ sector. If we are to achieve the green growth agenda, it makes sense to look to the informal sector as a starting point.

Lessons from the informal sector

In the last couple of years significant strides have been achieved in driving the green growth agenda, with various strategies and action plans at country level. The real challenge is how to translate all those policies and strategies into action.

In that regard the informal sector offers many lessons that we could all learn from in driving the transition to a green economy:

  • Collaboration is the currency of the informal economy. Informal traders often have to collaborate with their competitors in order to forge ahead, whether its through pooling resources to bulk order goods, or helping to staff each other’s stores, they value building coalitions and social capital. If the protracted climate change negotiations are anything to go by, we could learn a few things from the informal sector in how to close a deal.
  • The sectors where informal actors are most active, such as manufacturing, agriculture, construction and transport, are also the key sectors that are vital for driving the green growth agenda. Due to the creativity and flexibility in the sector, it presents an excellent opportunity to test new business models that more inclusive, and that can be applied in the mainstream economy
  • The informal sector mostly employs young people, a key demographic in charting the transition to a green economy. The green growth agenda can learn a lot from models of youth engagement, and how to inspire a generation. Youth in the informal sector are also the future business leaders, community organisers and politicians whose buy-in will be key to achieving the green growth agenda, and
  • In the agricultural sector, many smallholder farmers have been implementing sustainable agriculture practices for millennia. There is an opportunity to tap into those practices to promote climate smart agriculture. The current top down approach to driving the green growth agenda has stifled local involvement, resulting in farmers questioning the tools and practices being forward to promote sustainable agriculture.

The thriving nature of informal enterprise in developing countries provides clear potential for promoting green growth. In South Africa estimates suggest there are on average 10 enterprises per square kilometre in the townships; while Uganda was voted as the most entrepreneurial country in the world in 2015.

Indeed, I would argue that the informal economy should be seen as providing solutions to many of our problems, a place where anything and everything can be fixed, including our planet if need be.

NB: This article was originally published here: http://www.iied.org/lessons-informal-sector

Impact investment in a new economy

Impact investment has emerged as an important approach for mobilising financial resources for sustainable development. Through impact investment, it has been possible to divest from harmful business practices to sectors that have strong social and environmental outcomes. If well harnessed, impact investments have the potential to unlock significant financial resources that could be used to address systemic challenges as outlined in the sustainable development goals, while at the same time getting a financial return.

Even though impact investments present significant opportunities, there is a lack of awareness of what impact investing is, and how the opportunities it presents can be harnessed to drive economic development. On the other hand, a lot of traditional investments have been packaged as impact investments. It’s important to therefore to be able to navigate through the maze of potential offerings, and to strategically situate oneself.

The African Centre is primarily interested in impact investments that signficicantly alleviate poverty, by focusing on creating opportunities at the base of the pyramid, and helping to promote the emergence of sustainable enterprises. In this regard, we are very keen to initiate dialogue with industry players with a view of making sure impact investments are widely inclusive as possible. For example in South Africa, strategies of investing for impact are mostly focused on investor engagement, thematic investments and to some extent impact investments.

A major question that still remains to be answered is, how do you achieve tangible outcomes from impact investing, and how do you measure that impact?

This is the question we will be exploring in the coming months through strategic discourse and engagement with key stakeholders in South Africa and the continent, with a view of mobilising investors to support sustainable enterprises at the base of the pyramid.

To kick-start this year long conversation, we recently held a public dialogue on the role of impact investment in driving the transition to a new economy. The dialogue, which  was well attended brought together various impact investment houses in South Africa. The keynote address at the dialogue was delivered by the manager of Sustainable Investment Practices at Futuregrowth Asset Management, one of the premier impact investment houses in South Africa. The next major dialogue on the topic is scheduled for April in Cape Town.