February 1, 2023

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Why green growth is an avenue for entrepreneurship to young people in Rwanda and Beyond

BY Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU

While many, especially those with lower levels of education, understand green growth as the act of planting trees and avoiding cutting down trees, experts in the sector find that there is a need to raise awareness on Green Growth as its impacts reach all levels regardless be it environmental or economical.

According to experts, having an extensive understanding of the Green Growth concept is what can help a certain country or a certain sector to transition from the business as usual towards the green Growth pathway.

On a Green-Preneurship level for instance, an entrepreneur or an organization and even a business must be aware that to transition to a green growth pathway, one must also know how does that affect others?

Speaking at Carnegie Mellon University Africa’s inaugural Entrepreneurship Forum, Okechukwu Daniel Ogbonnaya, GGGI Rwanda Country Representative explained that businesses transitioning to green growth should look at it from three approaches.

He said “We must be looking at it from the structure, the systems that are put in place and in the way that our economies are grown”

“That shift has to be fundamental. That is to say, if I’m starting my business, I shouldn’t be thinking about the people that will make up the business as an afterthought, they should be at the center of what my business should be. That is what we call inclusive growth.” GGGI’s Daniel said.

“If I’m starting a business, I shouldn’t be thinking about the environment enough. Because if no resources or raw materials are going to be extracted from the environment and then I should take it at the center of my business, if I’m thinking of my model, from a financial perspective, how do I ensure that I budget all these two into what I do, and most times what we call business, as usual, uses the old structure and struggles to meet with the realities of today.” He explained.

He extended his explanation noting that green growth, when it comes to entrepreneurship is something that one should focus on or add bases of any planning, any model, any implementation that one has to deal with.

“When we run our business, before we bring it back home to Rwanda, you know, what we’ve done we’re really glad that we have an enabling environment where the policies are really strong, there is a strong political willingness to make that transition, knowing that there are trade-offs. What we’ve done is to say there are quite a number of startups, lots of entrepreneurs that are doing several things, how do we bring them together. And we started by setting up the usual boot camps to award dream road projects in collaboration with the government and other partners.” He explained

However, Mr. Daniel added that “we realized that it’s not sustainable, because you throw out a couple of 1000s to award the first, second, third winner, and you realize that when they go out there they struggle. They give up! You know, we’ve heard it a lot in the past sections and we say, how do we set up a network that looks at the broader ecosystem, to say if Mr. A is doing this, and Mr. B is also doing similar things? How do they come talk together, and realize that there is strength not only in partnership, when it comes to paperwork, but in partnership, when it comes to leveraging the strengths you can have as a small business  to be able to access the resources you need.”

“So we look at it from the capacity point of view. So in green growth, we talk about sustainability, economic growth, social and environmental aspects that are inclusive.” said Mr.Daniel

Commenting on the sustainability of Green Growth, Mr. Daniel mentioned that “You realize that a country’s GDP is sometimes growing, the jobs are not being created. Why? Because most businesses are still structured in the old way that it favors just a few while leaving out the most.”

He added as “GGGI we said when we talk about capacity building, what are we missing? If you go to a typical traditional acceleration harbor, collaboration lab, they’ll teach you the real thing that is taught sometimes in school, but most times nobody teaches you the human skills that lead to sustainability. I use practical example, some of the things we realize when we were dealing with the focal groups within the network is someone says, I’m starting a business that will ensure that I grow cash crops, you know, crops that could be sold not only in the market here, that could be expanded, but I realized that the soils are not that fertile to support the growth of the yield.

“And what is the next big thing to do? You pump in a lot of chemical fertilizers. Whereas Ms. B, who is also in a startup business, that is dealing with livestock, dairy needs water to grow the livestock, and my chemical fertilizer gets washed away, goes downstream. And my colleague who is also struggling to set up, you know, loses her business.” He explained.

“So how do we look at the structure for a very system approach where you look at the whole value chain, and say, the policies are good. Maybe the projects are very solid. Why is implementation not happening? And that comes to resources.”He added.

“There are times when we interview entrepreneurs within the network, the first thing that they should be ahead for is finance. We learn a lot about climate finance, rightly so this is a huge challenge.” He noted.

However, Mr. Daniel advised that one should look beyond finance while the finance institutions should also show interest in supporting the transition to green growth.

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