Engaging with Stakeholders and Building Capacities for Clean Energy in Southern Africa

The increase of both native and invasive woody species has been an ongoing challenge for countries across Southern Africa. Exacerbated by climate change, invasive bush outcompete other plants in the savanna ecosystem, overcrowding rangelands and competing with livestock for water. While this affects farmlands and rangelands in particular, it also poses threats to the environment, the economy, and society in general. By employing a novel superheated steam (SHS) technology, our SteamBioAfrica (SBA) project is working with key local and international stakeholders to convert the encroaching woody biomass into clean-burning solid biofuel and water. Through targeted training programmes, local micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are empowered to take a proactive role in ensuring a wide-scale acceptance of the solid biofuel by the local markets.

In autumn 2023, in collaboration with the project partners Ekasi Energy, Namibia Biomass Industry Group (N-BiG), and Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST),  the CSCP hosted stakeholder engagement and MSME training sessions in two locations in South Africa, Stellenbosch and East London.

Stakeholder engagement

Discussions among key stakeholders focused on the effective transformation of invasive species into valuable products for strengthening local as well as regional economies. The sessions revolved around the potentials of the SHS technology and solid biofuel to create viable business opportunities for local MSMEs. The new business opportunities and roles that women entrepreneurs can play in the process were also explored.

During the dialogue, key topics included the examination of current government policies, analysing market trends of potential competing fuels, and highlighting the unique attributes of the SBA solid biofuel. The sessions also delved into how to build on the ongoing initiatives by the South African government, such as the Working for Water (W4W) program.

Key insights included promoting sustainable harvesting and land management practices, integrating a value addition approach, and establishing markets for the resulting biomass to drive sustainable and effective land restoration. On the topic of funding, it was emphasised that several financing instruments for South African MSMEs are in place in the form of grants and loans. Leveraging these opportunities could significantly boost the wide-scale commercialisation of the solid biofuel and the adoption of SHS technology across the country. This will create new income streams and viable prospects for both households and businesses.

Moreover, the stakeholder dialogues elaborated on how to integrate local MSMEs into the commercialisation strategy. New business models that support the new technology and biofuel may strengthen the local livelihood of rural communities affected by invasive bush in South Africa.

MSME training workshops

The focus of the MSME training workshops is to empower startups and small businesses, especially those led by women and youth, by providing them with essential business skills to start and thrive in the biomass sector. In South Africa, these sessions incorporated eight modules designed by the CSCP, covering various topics such the development of business models, efficient business operations, financial management, marketing and communication, sustainability and circular economy.

During the training sessions, a gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) team from the Naimbia University of Science and Technology – NUST introduced gender-inclusive and socially equitable practices that businesses can adopt, aiming for a broader positive societal impact.

In Stellenbosch as well as East London, the MSME participants appreciated the training, expressing interest in further capacity building as well as in actively testing and marketing the solid biofuel.

Participation in the 2023 Tropentag International Conference

The SteamBioAfrica project was also represented by the CSCP in the Tropentag International Conference that took place in September 2023 in Berlin. Presenting the latest project results through, the team contributed to the current research and discussions on renewable energy and circular economy in a water-food-energy nexus, particularly in the global south. A summary of the SteamBioAfrica presentation at the conference can be found here.

For further questions, please contact Kartika Anggraeni.