tips for running an environmentally sustainable business in Africa

By Polycarp Kazaresam

Parminder Vir (CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, investors in African entrepreneurship)

1)    Use natural products

“A lot of African men and women suggest utilising natural products like avocado and cocoa. How can we produce make up that is made of natural products? This is what the founder of The Body Shop, Anita Roddick, did. She travelled around the world and leveraged a lot of the ancient, innate knowledge that’s here in Africa. Our entrepreneurs (whether they’re rural or urban based), they’re tapping into that.”

2)    Keep the supply chain at home
“This is one of the biggest sustainable things that an African entrepreneur can do. I was in Uganda and I spoke to the president of Uganda. He shared some mind blowing statistics with our entrepreneurs, like Uganda imports the most second hand clothes and second hand shoes. This is the country that is the largest cotton grower in Africa. There are over 40 million cows in Uganda. What the hell is Uganda doing importing second hand shoes?”


Xavier Helgesen (CEO of Off Grid Electric, provider of clean, affordable energy to off-grid Rwanda)


3)    Avoid using imported oil

“If you’re importing diesel to run a generator or if you’re importing kerosene to light your home, not only is it contributing to global warming, it’s also keeping countries poor. A country like Tanzania has a huge safari industry. The amount of money Tanzania brings in through tourism, is roughly similar to the amount they spend on importing oil. So this really does keep countries from investing in themselves.”
4)    Consider how your staff travel

“Remember that your transport of staff (both to and from work, as well as out of the office) drives a huge environmental impact. Find ways that staff can share transport or 
travel less in the course of work.” 

Jérôme Douat (CEO of Vergnet, global renewable energy solutions provider)


5)    Swap generators for renewable energy

“One challenge for sustainability is having energy consistency across African economy. Because of the fragility in energy infrastructures, most companies, industries, and businesses have to provide their own power. There’s a high cost of living with thermal generators and businesses can reduce this drastically by the integration of renewable energy technology
6)    Learn from other successful green businesses

“African businesses that are trying to be sustainable can learn from businesses that have already done it. There’s our Kiffa plant in Mauritiana, there’s other plants across Africa. It’s possible to integrate renewable energy into processes.”

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