The green economy has the potential to drive economic growth that is inclusive and sustainable. How to do this was the topic of a panel discussion that took place at the 2023 Trialogue Business in Society Conference. Recognising the urgent need to transition towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious economy, the discussion shed light on the green economy’s potential to drive positive change.
Panellists included Maluta Netshaulu from Nedbank, Gaylor Montmasson-Clair from Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), Dr Mao Amis, founder and executive director of the African Centre for Green Economy, and Hleziphi Siyothula-Mtshizana, founder of KP Cares.
Dr Amis introduced the African Centre for Green Economy, which was founded in 2012 to support entrepreneurs across South Africa and the African continent, serving as both a think tank and a “do tank”. By connecting South African entrepreneurs with opportunities across the continent, the centre recognises the potential for Africa to lead the way in sustainable development.
Montmasson-Clair highlighted the need for a comprehensive and systemic transformation of the economy. “While piecemeal policies have been implemented, there is a pressing need for a coordinated effort to transition the entire economy towards sustainability,” he explained. Montmasson-Clair also noted the contradiction between policies supporting the green economy and the continued allocation of substantial subsidies to fossil fuels. To accelerate the transition, policy instruments must be fully utilised and scaled up, channelling funds and resources into the green economy.
Nedbank’s role in fostering entrepreneurship in the green economy
Netshaulu explained that as a bank committed to responsible business practices, Nedbank recognises its role in driving change through lending, investments, and innovative solutions. The bank focuses on supporting existing companies in transitioning to the green economy, ensuring their resilience and efficiency. By understanding the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and society, Nedbank develops tailored solutions to bridge gaps, such as providing access to clean drinking water and supporting the township economy.
“We are helping our clients to transition into the green economy, tailoring and developing innovative solutions, because it doesn’t help to create new enterprises if existing ones are failing,” explained Netshaulu. “When it comes to entrepreneurship and CSI, we see ourselves as a centre of excellence and innovation. So we are doing a lot of work and investing time in understanding the issues and how we can solve them,” he continue. Through these initiatives, Nedbank contributes to job creation, social upliftment, and sustainable economic growth.
KP Cares: Bridging the skills gap
KP Cares is a non-profit partner of the Netbank Foundation. Recognising the increasing demand for renewable energy and the associated shortage of skilled workers, KP Cares focuses on training local people. By equipping grassroots communities with the necessary skills, the organisation aims to enhance their employability and reduce unemployment. “There is a skills gap in the South African renewable sector and there are opportunities for us to bridge that gap”, explained Siyothula-Mtshizana. “We need to hold international companies investing in the green economy accountable for skills transfer so that when they leave, the skills remain in the local economy,” she added.
Policy, innovation and collaboration are key
The panel discussion shed light on the crucial role of African organisations in driving the green economy. While challenges remain, such as the need for comprehensive policy frameworks and the skills gap, the opportunities for entrepreneurship, job creation, and economic growth are significant. By leveraging resources, fostering collaboration, and aligning policies and actions, organisations and leaders can play a pivotal role in realising a greener, more prosperous future for all.
The key insights identified by the panellists were:
Policy is key to enabling the transition to a green economy, and there is a need for comprehensive and systemic changes rather than piecemeal approaches to policy development
The allocation of resources for renewable energy and other green industries needs to be scaled significantly for a more impactful transition
There is a significant opportunity for Africa to lead in the green economy due to its abundant resources and the potential for local value chains
Existing businesses can play a crucial role in transitioning to the green economy by implementing innovative solutions, and contributing to job creation and societal issues
Collaboration between the private sector and civil society can help bridge some of the skills gaps and support the development of local expertise in renewable energy and other sectors of the green economy
Local communities, especially those in grassroots areas, should be targeted for training and employment opportunities to alleviate poverty and unemployment while ensuring skills transfer