Building an inclusive green economy in Africa, one entrepreneur at a time
To imagine a green economy alone is not enough in a world where the dominant economic model actively promotes inequalities and encourages wasteful consumption to spur unnecessary demand and production in a vicious cycle. It is the inclusive green economy that truly provides a solution to the pressing problem of environmental degradation that is affecting not only the present generation but also holding children across the globe to ransom in our hurried pursuit of quick gains.
As the United Nations notes, the inclusive green economy is a fitting alternative to the traditional economic model of capitalism which generates widespread environmental and health risks, encourages wasteful consumption and production, drives ecological and resource scarcities and results in inequality. The concept of an inclusive green economy is rooted in economic growth that goes hand in hand with sustainable development and social equity.
Starting this revolution in Africa then seems inevitable, as the emerging continent is writing a fresh story of growth for which an economic model that has led the developed world to the verge of ecological disaster is certainly no fitting start. As the United Nations Environment Programme highlights in its seminal work ‘Building Inclusive Green economies in Africa‘, Africa has been fortunate to realise early on that continuing with business-as-usual models of development was not a practical option in a world of increasing environmental scarcities, economic uncertainty and widespread poverty. Today, having built on a strong endowment of natural resources, skills and cultures, Africa is well-poised to benefit from a global shift to more sustainable models of economic growth.
At GroFin, we believe that partnering with small and growing businesses to generate sustainable economic growth, jobs and social benefits, as well as protect vital natural resources, is our way of contributing towards an inclusive green economy in Africa. Ultimately, the inclusive green economy is a guaranteed pathway towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals for eradicating poverty while safeguarding the environment.
Founded in 2004 by a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about environmental conservation, GroFin has strong roots in championing the green economy. GroFin’s chairman and founder Jurie Willemse started a solar electricity business in 1988 when the technology was largely unknown. It is in keeping with the vision of its founding entrepreneur that GroFin prioritises energy as a sector of focus, together with allied services such as water and sanitation, all of which are the pillars of a green economy.
Indeed, GroFin’s footprint in the energy and allied sub-sectors space is a growing one and comprises of investments within the value chain related mostly to the supply of water, electricity and waste management. GroFin has invested in 24 SMEs in this sector, representing a total investment of over USD 9.5 million and sustaining a total of 11,605 jobs across Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East & North Africa (MENA).
GroFin provides a unique value proposition of finance as well as value-added business support to such investee SMEs. GroFin has designated in-house key services ‘industry experts’ that work with external technical assistance partners to provide business planning, quality management systems, cash flow management and propose efficient business operation and management as well as marketing and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) best-practice knowledge to funded SMEs in the sector.
With its dedicated focus on the energy, water and waste services sector, GroFin has provided medium term finance and business support to SMEs engaged in borehole drilling to facilitate access to potable water, production of purified drinking water sachets, manufacturing and sale of renewable energy products (solar and wind), plastic recycling as also to auxiliary service providers in the utilities sector. From clients in Nigeria who provide access to clean drinking water to large segments of the population, to clients in Kenya who innovate indigenous technologies in the solar energy space, our footprint in the green economy arena covers multiple sub-sectors and geographies.
One of our clients is Botto Solar, which is a leading solar energy company in Nakuru, Kenya. Botto Solar is run by entrepreneurial couple Ephraim and Edith who have spent 20 years building the local business from a small scale solar installations to a pioneering energy savings company in Kenya.
GroFin’s investment in Botto Solar has been one of the catalysts in developing a solution to the challenges of the Dadaab refugee camp that hosts refugees from war-torn Somalia. Innovations such as a stove that runs on solar energy have helped multiple families to have access to food, which was otherwise impossible as the camp faced an increasing influx of refugees and could not cater to all of them with conventional cooking methods. Apart from finance, the business has received support to implement a new accounting system and a debt collection strategy as well as key inputs for marketing and product development.
With finance and business support from GroFin, Botto Solar is set to expand and touch many more lives. Botto Solar sustains 39 jobs and employee development is a key focus area given that many of the new hires are unskilled or semi-skilled and some are high school dropouts.
Going forward, GroFin’s objective is to further grow investments in this sector from 4% to 10-15% over the medium term, thereby facilitating access to water, sanitation and energy to a wider population, especially to those in severely underserved regions in Sub-Saharan Africa and MENA. We are looking for partners in our mission to build an inclusive green economy, one entrepreneur at a time.
Ultimately, we believe at GroFin that every person deserves to have a stable job and to access basic services such as food, water, healthcare, sanitation, energy and education. Impact investing is GroFin’s mission and our contribution to the world is to continue our focus on job creation and to accelerate our work in our priority areas of Water, Energy and Waste, Agribusiness, Healthcare, Education and Manufacturing.