Working towards a Greener Future in Africa – Hivos and VC4Africa join forces

Photo by EDWARD XU
At VC4Africa we seek to promote entrepreneurs working to scale green solutions. Large-scale deforestation, water pollution, global warming and loss of local crops show us that sustainable development is impossible without the use of sustainable energy and the maintenance of biodiversity and traditional crops. Organic farming, energy savings, gentech- free crops and protecting biodiversity are core focus areas.

Today we are pleased to announce our partnership with Hivos, that will see the joint development of a program dedicated to Green Entrepreneurship. This track is dedicated to VC4Africa community members that share an interest in seeding a greener African future, promoting promising ventures, sharing knowledge and aggregating resources.

Today we had a chance to connect with John van Duursen, Program Manager for Green Entrepreneurship at Hivos to talk about his efforts in the space and how we can work together more closely moving forward. We share a combined interest to see green solutions realize their potential.

Can you tell us about the Green Entrepreneurship program at Hivos?

“The Green Entrepreneurship Program aims to contribute to the lives of the rural poor. The program has three, often interrelated, focus areas which are 1) Renewable Energy, 2) Financial Services and 3) Agriculture, Ecosystems and Markets. With different interventions across 6 regions in Africa, Latin America and Asia, we reach out to some 7 million people through access to finance, improved agricultural yields and market linkages for producer organizations and installing domestic biogas digesters.”

What do you see as the major environmental challenges faced by Africa?

“Water scarcity, soil fertility, climate change and corruption.”

Can you highlight some of the exciting developments/best innovations you see coming online?

“I would highlight to following initiatives:

SCOPE insight is an independent rating agency that assesses the level of professionalism, reliability and creditworthiness of producer organizations in agriculture, forestry, dairy/livestock and aquaculture.

Cambio2 accredits smallholder-based agro-ecology as a generator of Environmental Services, in a simplified and highly reliable way. Businesses can reduce their own environmental impact, while helping regions committed to agro-ecology in developing countries.

BiD Network engages thousands of entrepreneurs, experts and investors from all over the world to stimulate entrepreneurship and economic growth in emerging markets.

Mission Markets provides investors with an array of social impact investing opportunities. These investments can provide financial and social returns on investment (SROI) addressing some of society’s greatest needs.”

What role can entrepreneurship play in scaling greener alternatives?

“A key role. No donor, NGO or government has the ‘ownership’ and the outreach potential needed to connect producers / rural communities with markets, information/knowledge and finance. Furthermore, entrepreneurs – once successful – are there to stay. This longer term security offers additional opportunities for sustained rural development impact.”

How can Venture Capital support the development of this space and what would your message be for the international investment community?

“Risk capital is required but often unavailable. Not because there is no money to be made but often because of the ‘perceived risk’ related to the investment. Investing in emerging markets is not as risky as you may think. There are professional people there. Why not give it a try? Give me a call if you want to discuss a co-financing arrangement.”

Why did you decided to join the VC4Africa effort and help us develop a track dedicated to Green Entrepreneurship?

“To see what happens. The VC4A community holds an interesting promise around the firepower that can be generated by SME’s and investors. This needs to be developed and needs to grow in general. With the green entrepreneurship track, we hope to give this firepower a push in a direction we feel is important.”

Thanks John. Indeed there is a lot of potential to do more in the space and we look forward to working together to achieve these goals.