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Over the past two years, Impact Investor E Squared has made three investments in environment-driven businesses.
The scale and sector areas of these multi-million Rand investments have been wide: R2.2 million in Western Cape-based textile recycling startup Rewoven in 2019, R2.5 million in Makhanda-based insect protein for livestock feed startup Nambu, and R100 million in NAFASI Water, a 100% Black-owned South African leading water technology and water utility service company, in 2020.
In the words of young entrepreneur Esethu Cenga of Rewoven, a UCT graduate and Mandela Rhodes scholar, “South Africa faces a pressing need to divert waste from landfills, an issue that has been endorsed by local government through the country’s waste management plan 2017-2022. This is also evident in the city of Cape Town’s target of zero waste in the medium to long term.”.
Within the textile industry “most organisations, especially clothing manufacturers, are in search of cheaper, more convenient solutions for textile waste.”
Start-ups such as Rewoven can be a big part of the solution by collecting and processing textile waste such as fibres and fabrics, which can be used to make clothing, accessories, and homeware products.
Lowell Scarr, the founder of Nambu, aims to turn the business into the largest supplier of Black Soldier Fly (‘BSF’) protein feed in Southern Africa.
Nambu has been working on an innovative process to mass-produce BSFs using a fraction of the space and at significantly lower costs than traditional feed protein sources – the technology is already established in Asia and Europe, though nascent in East and Southern Africa.
It also presents important cost-saving and job creation opportunities within the agricultural sector – while absorbing and recycling more than 60-80 tonnes of organic waste monthly, within the first three years of operations.
NAFASI Water, managed by Suzie Nkambule, an engineer by training and Allan Gray fellow, is described by E Squared as a business that has the potential to become “a jewel in South Africa’s environmental crown”.
NAFASI specializes in recycling chemically contaminated water and sea water with water treatment plants in South Africa and Namibia. It employs in excess of 200 people, and has developed a unique track record and water treatment expertise that positions it to become a major player in the SADC region.
In the words of Ms Nkambule: “Our partnership with an Impact Investor such as E Squared is an important strategic element to drive NAFASI’s current and future growth. Projects take a long time and are very capital-intensive in the water sector – investors who are patient, can stay the course, and understand the specific challenges new black-owned infrastructure players face can make a huge difference for ourselves and for our country.”
All three businesses present tremendous opportunities for South Africa, provided that local municipalities and government bodies are willing to support them and remove the myriad of critical logistical and administrative obstacles that might hinder their growth.
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