tips for running an environmentally sustainable business in Africa
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.”
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.