Sustainability, the development of present society without compromising the future, is a popular topic in business and society today. However, this concept has been practiced in African communities for many decades in different forms, from indigenous farming methods to housing and architectural designs. The continent is rich in natural resources, including gold, crude oil, diamonds, cocoa, and solar energy, both renewable and non-renewables coupled with high populations and human capital. Many countries thus depend on these resources to support their economies and development. Nonetheless, being an export-dependent continent endowed with such resources and sourcing its revenues from these resources, actions need to be taken to preserve these resources and their ecosystems in the interest of African countries, whilst exploring other avenues of economic growth and sustainable development. Here are different organizations taking initiatives towards the progress and development of the continent in alignment with the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.
Reform Studio – Egypt (North Africa)
Hend Riad and Mariam Hazem founded Reform Studio in 2013, as a sustainable lifestyle brand based in Cairo, Egypt, with an aim to create only responsible and thoughtful products. It is an award-winning design studio that pioneered the invention of Plastex, a new eco-friendly material made by weaving discarded plastic bags. The studio makes furniture, home, and fashion accessories including shoes and bags, from these waste plastics, while assisting to eliminate waste in the environment and hiring women from low-income backgrounds. It seeks to give back to its community, environment, and revive its culture through spreading its story and awareness.
Freedom Won – South Africa
Freedom Won is a South African company founded in 2012 by Antony English and Lizette Kriel with the first electric vehicle conversion, electric Jeep Grand Cherokee used for safari drives. It has a mission to “provide game-changing battery storage solutions to make independent alternate energy systems for default choice homeowners and businesses who require stable, quiet, clean, and efficient power.” The company offers Electric Vehicle Conversions to most existing car models, being the largest energy storage manufacturer in Africa. Its lithium-ion batteries and stationary storage systems provide energy for commercial and residential use, whilst protecting against power outages with the feature of solar power panels.
SoleRebels – Ethiopia (East Africa)
SoleRebels is an Ethiopian footwear company founded by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu in 2005, with a mission to make the world a better place, one step at a time. Bethlehem founded the company as a means to blend her Ethiopian community’s creative artisan talents with the traditional ‘barabasso’ (Ethiopian recycled tire) shoe. The firm produces hand-crafted shoes from a combination of recycled, organic, and bio-based sustainable materials. It also cares for its community, employing local artisans who are paid wages significantly higher than industry averages (3 times more), to support their families and wellbeing. It also embraces sustainable and traditionally zero-carbon methods of production integral to the Ethiopian cultural fabric having low impacts on the environment. Accredited as the world's first World Fair Trade Federation (WFTO) and FAIR-TRADE certified footwear company, it has stores in Ethiopia, the US, UK, Japan, Greece, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, and Singapore.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, SoleRebels Founder
Axxela – Nigeria (West Africa)
Axxela, an energy solutions provider in Sub-Saharan Africa, is a pioneering private sector-led developer of natural gas distribution in Nigeria. It is on a mission to power Africa with innovative energy solutions that create sustainable and efficient energy utilization. Recently dubbed as ‘Africa’s Most Sustainable Company of the Year’ in 2021 by World Finance, the organization is another innovative company that prides itself in meeting the continent's increasing demand for energy while prioritizing economic and environmental sustainability. It delivers a peak of 80 million standard cubic feet of natural gas daily to over 170 industrial and commercial customers including Dangote Sugar, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc., BUA Group, PZ Cussons, and Nigerian Bottling Company, etc. via a vast network of gas infrastructure.
At the end of the day, all organizations both indigenous and foreign companies seeking to benefit from the future potential and success of Africa need to first understand and appreciate its deep-rooted history and culture in order to succeed and help create sustainable growth and development of the region.
Learn more about these organizations on their websites: