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Nairobi Sparks 2019: 3 Promising Green Startups from Kenya to Pitch to Investors in Tanzania

By Basil Malaki

It is rightly said that, “if you really want to help Africa, don’t send money – send sustainable business plans”.

Indeed, it is on this basis Sahara Sparks in collaboration with Tectona Consulting Group, WWF-Kenya and other partners organized Nairobi Sparks 2019 event with the aim of nurturing the current relations between African businesses.

The Nairobi Sparks platform is designed to expose African businesses to emerging markets, bringing together different stakeholders from various regions across the country who facilitate integration with the regions to discover, appreciate and reward sustainable business models presented during the event.

Looking at Africa in the fourth industrial revolution, Nairobi Sparks 2019 was tailored to look at potential business areas that facilitate the growth of businesses. Most especially growing the green economy, agriculture, tourism, health, and e-financial services just to mention a few. The event aimed at exploring areas of investment and growth opportunities for African businesses looking to expand to other continental and global markets.

The Nairobi Sparks platform is designed to expose African businesses to emerging markets, bringing together different stakeholders from various regions across the country who facilitate integration with the regions to discover, appreciate and reward sustainable business models presented during the event.

We acknowledge that tackling unemployment and poverty requires a different focus, rather than just money. It requires partnerships and practices such as Nairobi Sparks that promote learning, particularly in relation to cultural and self knowledge. Having communities identify their own problems, then collaborate to find solutions, is crucial.

Emerging green market as an opportunity for green entrepreneurs

Nairobi Sparks 2019 was hosted during the Nairobi Innovation Week (NIW) where we managed to fill a room with an eager audience of 68 innovation stakeholders and enthusiasts, 12 startups and 3 expert judges all awash with optimism on the fate of sustainable businesses in Kenya. Fireside chats conducted during the event were sure to put to perspective dynamics of the underlying factors surrounding sustainable businesses in the fourth industrial revolution.

In the opening speech of the event, the Chief Guest, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Finland in Kenya, His Excellency Ramses Malaty stated that, “the Finnish public and private sector approaches have many similarities to the current Kenyan context. The formation and launch of the Association of Sustainability Practitioners in Kenya (ASPK), an initiative by Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) – is meant to expand the culture and practice of sustainability in the Kenyan business sector”.

He further asserted that, “as more and more Kenyan businesses see the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a business opportunity and not just a corporate social responsibility, the country can not only tackle climate change but also see economic opportunities”. Certainly, green economy investment is one of the ways through which Africa can achieve economic growth that is sustainable, inclusive, and transformative.

Social entrepreneurship creates a green industry, which helps to solve environmental problems through the development of innovative solutions. Some companies go green either to reduce environmental harm or to gain consumer support. Green startups are attracting venture capitalists and are gaining new support from socially responsible investors, green investors, and popular crowdfunding platforms.

In the opening speech of the event, the Chief Guest, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Finland in Kenya, His Excellency Ramses Malaty stated that, “the Finnish public and private sector approaches have many similarities to the current Kenyan context. The formation and launch of the Association of Sustainability Practitioners in Kenya (ASPK), an initiative by Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) – is meant to expand the culture and practice of sustainability in the Kenyan business sector”.

Out of the twelve (12) startups who pitched during Nairobi Sparks 2019, three (3) startups stood out as best overall and won a chance to pitch at the high level Sahara Sparks stage on 9th – 10th October, 2019

One of the three startups selected during Nairobi Sparks together with other winning startups from other countries – will go through the selection for the Africa 4.0 week; where the selected startups from participating countries will pitch at Angel Fair Africa and the rest will showcase at Sahara Sparks 2019, all getting the privilege of the Deal Room and Entrepreneurs Bootcamp.

Meet the winners of Nairobi Sparks 2019 Green Startups – below:

BENTOS ENERGY

This startup company addresses the SDG for Clean Renewable Energy and Climate Change by providing alternative and sustainable energy solutions through recycling of bio-waste into eco-friendly green charcoal briquettes.

In the recent past the company has produced 41,150 tons of green charcoal briquettes, translating to 4,150 mature trees, equivalent to 161.85 tons of carbon emission saved from the environment. Altogether, they have lifted 430 tons of waste from landfills and created over 20 job opportunities directly and indirectly among the youth and women.

KOFAR

KOFAR provides an easy to apply and affordable fortified compost and soil conditioners that reverses acidity, increasing production of quality food per unit area for the small & large scale farmers who have either misused, over-used or abused their soils.

The goal of KOFAR is to contribute to food security by increasing yields; reduce poverty through jobs and increase farmers’ income; and promote a clean environment and get safer food to the community.

ANISAN 

This young and brilliant team of high school girls have come up with Ndovu Care – a product that seeks to address the rise of the negative bond between elephants and humans. Ndovu Care helps communities living with elephants to promptly; 

 

  • Detect elephants as they come closer to homes through a motion mover detector 
  • An alert system with siren and LED lights to inform the community and scare off the elephants
  • Automated voice and SMS notification system for GSM used to transmit prompt notifications to subscribed community members of the elephant intrusion

 

The Ndovu Care product will significantly reduce the number of people killed by elephants annually, reduce the number of children dropping out of school due to the fear of elephant attack and promote a positive bond between elephants and humans.

Undeniably, there is an increase in startups that have sustainable development as part of their core agenda from the start.

What is the criteria of a successful sustainable business? 

Truly, if immediate revenue and short-term profitability is the answer, then sustainable startups are in trouble. Eventually, competitions, venture capital funds, and accelerators remain the few options for sustainable startups. Even then, the environment for new sustainable businesses is still far from perfect. 

The future of sustainable businesses in Kenya is promising with the rise of more specialized support systems such as Tectona M&E Lab; the first impact-driven innovation lab of its kind in Kenya. 

Tectona M&E Lab is geared towards supporting sustainable businesses, social enterprises, and entrepreneurs towards realizing innovation with impact by helping them improve their performance and realize evidence-based impact through research, results-based monitoring & evaluation, learning, reporting, communication, and adaptive project management. 

This will be critical in informing the innovation ecosystem in Kenya for strategic growth, data-driven decision making as well as for impact investing.

The future of sustainable businesses in Kenya is promising with the rise of more specialized support systems such as Tectona M&E Lab; the first impact-driven innovation lab of its kind in Kenya. 

The organizers of Nairobi Sparks that is Sahara Sparks, Tectona Consulting Group and WWF Kenya and allied partners such as the Embassy of Finland in Kenya are committed to promote inclusive and sustainable businesses to help improve their practice by encouraging them to take responsibility for their full business impact and make the world a better place through creation of positive value and impact on People, Planet and Profit.