Opportunities in Clean Tech - #DMVCTAFRICA

by: Samuel Suraphel on

Summary of DMV African Entrepreneurs Meetup on Clean Tech  by Etayenesh Asfaw and Larissa Mark of EvolveGreen, LLC. 

Register to watch full meetup at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1143682680582332162

Three days after digging out from the DMV area blizzard, the DMV African Entrepreneurs Meetup, held a clean tech gathering.  The session was co-organized by EvolveGreen, LLC, and Mansa Colabs, LLC.  On the panel, were representatives from Sanitation Solutions Group, Solar Sister, and eMaji

Access to clean water, clean energy and sanitation are major hurdles on the African continent. These challenges also present opportunities for entrepreneurs. According to the World Bank, clean tech is a $6.4 trillion dollars of investment will be in the sector over the next decade.  With unlimited opportunities, the financial sector, nonprofits, and small business enterprises are all looking to make an impact in this sector.

eMaji, cofounded by Taf Makura, is an open source technology to test the water quality of groundwater supplies/boreholes and alert water authorities when conditions are dangerous for public health.  eMaji is  interested in building a prototype and proof of concept upon which to create an open source platform for others to use. This is a new technology with the potential to prevent water contamination from causing public health problems around the world.

Sustainable Solutions Group works to provide latrines in Uganda.  This industry is vital for continued sanitation since bacteria associated with sewage is a major source of water contamination.  SSG grew out of a nonprofit model by staff from the Water for People charity. SSG focuses on latrine construction, placement and removal of waste. The latrine uses a precast concrete model and includes collection and disposal of waste. SSG imports some parts associated with the latrine construction from China and Bangladesh but has found that costs for importing and transporting into Uganda could be expensive. Understanding the demand for latrines, the cost of construction and the local land ownership are critical to the promotion and widespread adoption of these facilities. The future goal of SSG is to focus on collecting and reusing the waste. 

Solar Sister, the final panelists, addressed the unreliability of energy in many African nations.  Millions don’t have access to electricity in rural parts of Africa and, as such, Solar Sister staff empowers women entrepreneurs to market and sell solar powered electricity for residential use.  The production of the solar components for Solar Sister is mostly from China, although there is an effort to have more of the work done in Africa. Currently Solar Sister operates Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania.

There are several challenges to developing a water technology tool but efforts continue.  In order for effective implementation of clean technology in these areas, businesses must work to develop an effective set of partners and partnership with government and researchers.  It is also necessary for clean technologies startups to hone their financial management and project management skills so that projects can move forward.  Workforce education and effective partnerships are key for production and promotion of products in the clean technology sector. 

Overall it was clear the market opportunity for clean technology is huge and support for local clean-tech industries are growing and will provide huge economic and environmental benefits for the future.  Mansa Colabs, an advisory focused on the growth of African entrepreneurs and the organizer of the DMV African Entrepreneurs Meetup, will host future meetups focused on opportunities in the health and creative sectors in 2016.

Evolvegreen, LLC, is an environmental consulting firm operating at the interface of science and policy.

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