The Namibia Business Innovation Institute (NBII) at the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the Hanns Seidel Foundation Namibia (HSF) co-hosted a 2-part series titled ‘The Eco-Entrepreneur Jump-Starter Series’ held on 27 October and 10 November 2016 at Gateway Centre and NIPAM respectively. The information sessions were aimed at promoting eco-entrepreneurship, especially among Namibian youth, as a means to fight unemployment and eradicate poverty.

 

The first event in the 2-part series focused on exposing the audience to cases of eco-entrepreneurship from across Africa. These cases included Eco-post (Kenya) which is preventing deforestation by transforming plastic waste into fence and sign posts,  Eco-Shoes (Ghana) improves waste management by empowering people with disabilities to make shoes from tires and fabric scraps, Spouts of Water (Uganda) provide affordable safe drinking water to the communities in Uganda, Waste Enterprises (Ghana) improve sanitation services by reusing human waste, Trees for Global Benefit (Uganda) reduce unsustainable exploitation of the forest while increasing income for farmers and, lastly, Solar Sister (Uganda) empower women to become micro-entrepreneurs and provide clean energy.

 

The second part of the series focused on the local innovations of six Namibian eco-enterprises and their products, motivation, market opportunities and challenges they face.

 

Rodney Cloete from Elephant Energy Namibia

 

Elephant Energy is a non-profit organization that aims at reducing energy poverty particularly in Namibia in informal settlement and rural/off-grid communities such as the Northern and Central parts of Namibia. The organization provides training of micro-entrepreneurs on solar technology and distributes affordable and high quality renewable energy technologies such as solar-powered lights, cell phone chargers and solar/crank-powered radios. The organization also empowers thousands of community members by providing education on the significance and benefits of solar energy.

 

Greenville Solutions (GVS) proposes green/sustainable solutions to directly benefit the Namibian society with a special focus on the youth. Greenville solutions currently creates awareness on solar energy while highlighting the dangers of using other sources of lighting such as candles, paraffin and/or wood (especially in informal settlements where shack-fires and health problems are rife from the use of these forms of energy). GVS also imports and sells multi-functional solar lights which are ideal for rural or off-grid communities and also outdoor camping.

 

Sylver Kibelolaud from GreenVille Solutions

 

Mathews and Orlale (M&O), are eco-entrepreneurs who recycle waste into affordable products such as gift bags, light shades and décor products. They aim to reducing waste by up-cycling items such as bottles and boxes as well as promoting social empowerment for young Namibians through such businesses.

 

Aska Orlale from M&O Decor

 

Green Earth Creations (GEC) is an upcoming re- or upcycling business, which transforms waste into different useful products such as ottoman seats, dustbins, baskets, stationary holders and decorations for events. The business aims to reduce, reusing and recycle waste as a contribution to waste management in the country.

 

Liina Mutilifa from Green Earth Creations

 

Agricycle Namibia is an upcoming green business in the nutrient recycling industry. The business farms with the insect Hermetia illucens (Black Soldier Fly) which converts organic waste into proteins that are useful in animal feed. The business teams up with various industries (agriculture, animal food, households as well as human waste) to provide a highly nutritional protein source that can be used as feed for small livestock and also provides organic fertilizers for crop production.

 

Toivo Thomas from AgriCycle Namibia

 

Cuvelai Co-operative, harvests invader bush and processes them into wood chips and saw-dust which are packed into large clear plastic bags used as a medium for growing mushrooms. The harvested bush is also used to make paper which is then used for packaging mushrooms.

 

Freeman Ngulu from Cuvelai Cooperative

 

Namibia is currently faced with slow economic growth and a high employment rate (especially among the youth). These eco-entrepreneurs are striving for green business opportunities that are environmental friendly, promote waste management and environmental protection which minimizes our carbon footprint as well as improves the lives of communities by creating jobs, generating income and providing affordable environmentally-friendly products. However, green businesses also face many challenges such as a lack of education and awareness on the importance of green enterprises in an economy like Namibia’s, less market opportunities as consumers are not informed about the value of their products and also a stigma towards them (especially those involved in waste related businesses) about the quality and safety of their products despite meeting rigorous standards set by the NSI.  

 

The information events make up part of the broader Environmental Awareness and Climate Change Project hosted at the HSF and the ThinkNamibia Environmental Awareness Campaign. In follow up to these events, a call will be made in early 2017 for businesses and start ups to pitch their ideas and undergo a focused 3-day training followed by mentorship to develop their eco-businesses.