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By Devina Haripersad

Senior Business/Finance journalist

Female entrepreneurs are the gold in Nedbank’s green-economy strategy

These women truly are the gold in our Green Economy CSI strategy, says Executive Head for Strategy and CSI at Nedbank.

In celebrating Women’s Month, Nedbank has paid tribute to the impact that female entrepreneurs are making on South Africa’s nascent green economy. Poovi Pillay, Executive Head for Strategy and CSI at Nedbank declared that the energy these women bring to their social enterprises is making a significant positive impact on the country as a whole.

“They truly are the gold in our Green Economy CSI strategy,” he said, speaking at a gala Women’s Appreciation Dinner held in Sandton.

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“When Nedbank launched its Green Economy CSI Strategy late last year, our goal was to look beyond environmental sustainability to create a green ecosystem that would also have a significant socio-economic impact by growing jobs and ultimately supporting a more stable social order,” he said.

“We knew we could not do it alone; this initiative is an opportunity to support the real drivers of this change. Nedbank is privileged to work with a growing band of great individuals and organisations, and to see the change happening. Passion, skills, commitment, and discipline are needed. These women and others like them demonstrate those qualities every single day,” he added.  

Speaking at the event, Nondumiso Sibiya, co-founder of Boomba.mobi, told of her journey as a “wastepreneur”. She began by tackling the problem of illegal dumping in Diepsloot township. Boomba.mobi (the name alludes to the Boomba or dung beetle, which puts waste to practical use) is essentially a business based on collecting garden waste and building rubble and providing evidence it was disposed of responsibly.

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The next stage was to tackle the problem of food waste. She noted that waste scavengers were hampered from collecting plastic, tins, cardboard and other recyclables because they were often mixed up with rotting food waste. She began to collect this food waste from households to use for making compost which she then sold. She barters used clothes and food that is past its sell-by date with householders for access to their food waste.

In the process, Boomba.mobi has created 150 jobs, with more to come. By monetising food waste, she is effectively incentivising its removal from general waste thus supporting the work of the recycling community generally.

This innovative enterprise embodies the principles of the circular economy, which sees value and opportunity where conventional wisdom would see only waste.

“We love to collaborate,” said Sibiya, pointing to another key characteristic of the green or circular economy.

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Claire Blanckenberg of Reel Gardening spoke about her project to bring food security within reach of every South African. Reel has developed a kit which provides the seeds and equipment necessary for a household to cultivate enough vegetables on a 16m2 plot of land to provide one serving each for a household of four. The company’s name comes from the “reel” of biodegradable seed tape that is planted straight into the ground.

The next phase of the project, which is underway at the moment thanks to assistance from Nedbank, is to create an agrihub in the Cradle of Humankind. A thousand households have been supplied with additional Reel kits to grow vegetables for sale. The agrihub will process the produce and sell it on and guarantees each householder R5 000 for its produce.

“R5 000 may not seem like a lot of money to you, but to somebody who subsists on a social grant it’s a ton of money,” Blanckenberg said. Aside from processing and marketing produce, the agrihub will also offer training for aspirant farmers.

Nedbank’s Woman’s Appreciation Event. Image: Supplied.

The third green entrepreneur to speak at the dinner was Hleziphi Siyothula-Mtshizana, who founded and chairs In Pursuit Africa, a renewable energy company. Her long-standing commitment to create renewable infrastructure for social projects, such as schools and hospitals, spawned a parallel endeavour to train youth in the communities surrounding her projects. These young people acquire the skills needed to themselves begin installing renewable solutions in the community. She pointed out that the renewable energy value chain is exceptionally long, and thus offers multiple opportunities for entrepreneurs.

All these projects share a focus on sustainability underpinned by opportunities to deliver financial rewards, and so boost social security and create jobs. They also see collaboration as a key business strategy, promoting to the social cohesion South Africa so desperately needs.

“These women and the enterprises they run find value in what other see as waste, creating sustainable economic opportunities for others,” says Mr Pillay.

“It is only by passing on skills, creating proper jobs and developing sustainable businesses that we will create the new economic order we all want to see. These women are powering that revolution.”

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