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Green business opportunities in Africa

Discover how and why Africa is abundant with opportunities for green business and expansion.

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As organisations around the world look towards green business opportunities to ensure a sustainable future, Africa comes into focus as a region ripe with such possibilities.

The Africa Environment Outlook for Business, a recently published study by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), predicts a promising future for Africa in the realm of green business.

The study finds that the opportunities in Africa presented by green business include bolstering its green agenda to drive GDP, creating tens of millions of jobs, and encouraging collaboration between governments, businesses, and communities.

The UN Environmental Programme Deputy Executive Director, Elizabeth Mrema, said:

“This report shows that policymakers can create an enabling environment for investments that address the triple planetary crisis [climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution] by adopting robust regulatory frameworks, investing in research, innovation, and education, as well as promoting public-private partnerships and fostering collaboration across governments, businesses, and local communities.”

The report highlights recent successes in green business in Africa, alongside the areas of potential for environmentally conscious growth. Sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and digital technologies are essential for enhancing productivity while minimizing negative impacts on ecosystems.

Africa is considered to be a market with great potential for green business opportunities. Let’s take a look at the areas in which these opportunities are plentiful.

The blue economy

According to Brookings, the Blue Economy (BE) “consists of economic activities taking place below, on, or adjacent to the ocean... These activities include subsistence and commercial fishing, as well as emerging sectors such as renewable energy and blue carbon.”

UNESCO notes that the African continent includes thirty-eight coastal and island nations, and over 90% of African imports and exports are transported by sea.

In 2018, the Africa Blue Economy Strategy was published, highlighting the potential of Africa’s Blue Economy to create millions of jobs. The BE currently generates about $300 billion in economic activities for Africa, supporting nearly 50 million jobs, with these figures predicted to continue rising. While challenges such as overfishing and pollution need to be addressed, Africa’s BE presents excellent green business opportunities.

According to UNESCO, countries  such as the Seychelles have begun including ocean-based activities in their development plans. In 2014, South Africa launched Operation Phakisa, aiming for sustainable ocean-based transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, and aquaculture. UNESCO also notes that Togo and Senegal have adopted strategies to build a sustainable blue economy.

The circular economy

While a traditional linear economy is comprised of a ‘make, use, dispose of’ formula, according to the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN), a circular economy is an alternative economic structure, seeking to keep materials and resources in use for as long as possible, before being recycled.

The ACEN champions a number of projects throughout the continent focusing on the circular economy and sustainability. An example is Rwanda’s Transforming Food Systems, a project funded by the IKEA Foundation, which aims to “catalyse food systems transformation in Rwanda through circularity, [and] presents an opportunity to translate global ambitions of a circular economy on food systems into real outcomes. By focusing on Rwanda, it is recognition of the country’s leadership role in circularity, and a reminder that Rwanda was the first country in the world to ban single-use plastics.” The project provides development support to SMEs to encourage the use of circular business models, and also enables regulatory framework and stakeholder engagement; encouraging and maintaining circularity in food systems transformation.

The circular economy in Africa provides many green business opportunities in the realms of agriculture, manufacturing, sanitation, plastic waste management, sustainable packaging, and plant-based proteins, which - the ACEN points out - can be utilised to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty.

Energy efficiency

In September 2023, during a session on Harnessing Africa’s renewable energy potential at the Africa Climate Summit, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina called for investment in renewable energy; pointing out Africa’s numerous energy offerings, including hydro power, wind power, solar power, and geothermal power.

Despite being rich in energy, the continent remains home to 600 million people who do not have electricity, a fact that Adesina called unacceptable,  and urged businesses to address.

Also speaking at the Africa Climate Summit, Abdeslam Saleh, Mauritanian Minister of Economic and Sustainable Development, said “We have put renewable energy at the centre of our Vision 2030 - 2040 development plan. With this, we envision a bright future for Africa.” Mauritania is a leader of the Desert to Power initiative, which aims to maximise the vast solar power potential across the Sahel region, and seeks to transform the Sahel into the world’s largest solar production zone.

The blue economy, the circular economy, and the area of energy efficiency all play host to myriad opportunities for green business on the continent of Africa. If you are interested in expanding your business into Africa, Mauve Group can help. Contact our team of experts for more information.