At the new South Africa Climate Innovation Center's headquarters in Tshwane, the power of innovation is clear. Aside from open workspaces, 3D printers and futuristic prototypes, visitors are greeted with a mural-painted quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” It’s a fitting quote for a site that for a few days last week was home to hundreds of people committed to reimagining the ways in which researchers, entrepreneurs, and governments can address climate change while also creating jobs and inclusive growth.
The conference offered plenty of learning opportunities on the subject. The panel discussions focused on key topics related to green entrepreneurship and inclusive growth, spanning from access to finance for small and medium enterprises to job opportunities for youth in the green economy. Other sessions offered insights and latest trends on some of the fastest-growing clean technology sectors in the region, including solar energy, waste and water management.
In addition to offering panels and presentations from international experts, the event created also a collaborative space where entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers could connect and brainstorm new ways to work together and support innovate business models. For many participants the chance to discuss new policies and technology trends was among the highlights of the conference: “We came to this conference to learn, as well as to share with our colleagues,” said Quentin Eister, a CIC incubatee and a partner in the sustainable tech company iGreens.
The rich program of lectures and hands-on workshops helped the participating entrepreneurs refine their product strategies, improve their business models, and sharpen their marketing skills. Furthermore, an expo provided local businesses with the unique opportunity to showcase their innovate technologies in front of an international audience of investors, peers and media.
The rich conference's program included also internal sessions specifically designed to facilitate knowledge sharing within the newly established global network of Climate Innovation Centers (CICs). With the addition of the South Africa CIC, the network has centers in six other countries around the world – Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, the Caribbean, Ghana, and Vietnam. By gathering delegates from the seven CICs in the infoDev’s network, the conference served as a unique opportunity to share experiences, compare the needs of local entrepreneurs, and identify concrete actions to amplify the collective impact of the network.
“We need something that allows us to open our horizons; a platform where we can exchange our ideas, talk about what works and what doesn’t.” suggested Suzanne Buchele, a professor at Ashesi University and part of the consortium that supports the Ghana CIC.
In addition to innovative sustainable products and the latest trends in clean technology, the conference offered the opportunity to cement the foundations of a global network of CICs and roll out a collaborative platform that allows stakeholders around the world to collaborate across borders. “I enjoyed the panels,” said Tehut Tesfaye Sidelil, CEO of the Ethiopia CIC. “But what’s really exciting is being part of building this collective vision.”