“We are back in 2024, aligned to the Formula E and E-Fest again”
The hugely successful Africa’s Green Economy Summit held in February during the E-Fest in Cape Town, culminating in the sold-out Formula E championship race attended by more than 25-thousand people, “created that extra kick-start for the much-needed green invasion that our continent needs” says David Ashdown, CEO of VUKA Group, organisers of the summit in partnership with e-Movement and Bellcrescent Partners.
Ashdown adds: “It was a great success. Besides the various presentations and discussions, we had entrepreneurs pitching projects to investors at our pitch deck lounge, and our concierge match-making service set up in excess of 120 meetings, with one project securing US$2 million in seed funding on the day. That is the excitement of creating a deal-making environment. We’ve created a very robust platform to build from for the future.”
With a jam-packed programme of more than 80 expert speakers, Africa’s Green Economy Summit brought together financiers, project developers, and government representatives, highlighting investment prospects that exist across the continent in the fields of green hydrogen, EVs, energy storage, solar, hydro and wind energy, infrastructure development, urban sustainability as well as manufacturing.
Cape Town and Western Cape proud hosts
As host province of the event during a week that loadshedding continued to cause problems for South African households and businesses alike, the Western Cape government had a strong presence at Africa’s Green Economy Summit, including the Premier Alan Winde, and took every opportunity to explain the steps that the local government was taking to alleviate the effects of the current electricity crisis on consumers and businesses as well as providing opportunities for investment in the local green economy.
“Cape Town was proud to host Africa’s Green Economy Summit,” says the city’s Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis. “We’re on a mission to not only make our city the best and easiest place to do business on the continent, but also to position it as the green economy capital of Africa. But building a green economy is about far more than the City’s own energy programme. The opportunities that exist in green hydrogen, energy storage, electric vehicles and a wide range of manufacturing, to name but a few, have the potential to transform our local economy.”
Go Green Africa
Iain Banner, the founder of e-Movement, that brought the Formula E to Africa, was part of the stellar line-up of local, continental and global leaders from the spheres of politics, business and institutions. During the opening session, he announced the launch of Go Green Africa, a collaborative platform to accelerate Africa’s just energy transition.
“No one government, organisation, or individual will ever solve the problem of climate change and environmental damage,” Banner stressed, adding that the South African utility, Eskom, was a founding partner in Go Green Africa and was working with World Bank Funding on one of Africa’s largest battery energy storage projects, highlighting the innovative ways the continent will collaboratively solve its energy access and security problems.
Other headlining speakers included Cape Town’s Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, Western Cape Provincial Minister for Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Anroux Marais, Gautrain Management Agency CEO William Dachs, AfDB DDG Southern Africa Kennedy Mbekeani, EU Ambassador to South Africa H.E. Sandra Kramer, World Bank South Asia Regional Director of Sustainable Development John Roome as well as the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy H.E. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, who professed to have been a racing driver in her youth, and impressed and delighted delegates during a keynote with her spirited delivery, sense of humour and depth of knowledge.
Formula E inspiring example
A real-life inspiring and successful example of how a specific vision and years of patient dedication to the development of green technology can create an entirely new industry was reiterated during a session with the organisers and teams in the Formula E racing competition.
“When we started the Formula E 12 years ago, we had no technology,” Alberto Longo, Co-Founder and CCO of Formula E remembered. Longo was involved in the regular (combustion engine) Grand Prix prior to this venture but increasingly found that sponsors wanted to be involved in greener, more sustainable branding activities.
He explained that during the first four years of the Formula E competition, every team needed two cars to finish a race because of the limited range of the batteries. “Now, step by step, the technology is helping us to have faster and sexier cars, and without the technology we would not be here. Twelve years ago, there were two barriers for EVs, price and range of battery. The cars and batteries are still more expensive but we are getting there.”
Other highlights seen and heard at Africa’ Green Economy Summit include:
- “As of June, we will increase the rate to R1.12 per KWh for every KWh sold back to city” – Cape Town’s Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis announcing that the city will grant distributed energy providers a revenue increase.
- “The Western Cape will be allocating R1.1 billion over the next three years to work towards increasing its energy resilience” – Western Cape Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, MEC Mireille Wenger.
- “We want to see Namibia become the green hydrogen hub not only of Africa, but of the world” – Michelle McLean-Bailey, Namibian business ambassador and representative and MC on Day 2 of the summit.
- “Three words: implement, implement, implement. Let’s not let perfect be the enemy of good” – Mandy Rambharos, formerly of Eskom’s Just Energy Transition Office and currently the Vice-President: Global Climate Cooperation, Environmental Defence Fund in the USA, during a panel discussion on Accelerating Green Investment in Africa.
- “Africa has huge potential but we are not delivering on it. Three things give me hope. One is the falling costs of concentrated solar polar. Second, is the combination of technology innovation and business innovation on the continent. And then, what gives me a huge amount of hope, is the large number of small-scale African start-ups.” – South African-born World Bank sustainability expert John Roome.
- “At Uber, we’ve seen the light” – Kagiso Khaole, General Manager of Uber Southern Africa announcing that the company will become a zero emissions platform globally by 2040.
- “We understand that our customer will become part of the value chain by becoming a producer” – Monde Bala, Eskom Group Executive for Distribution Division on Eskom investing in rural micro grids, and that the deployment of some 100 containerised microgrid pilots for rural areas and informal settings had started in December.
- “As an automotive manufacturer, we see Africa as the last frontier. How do we ensure that we create sustainable solutions for mobility in Africa when one considers that by 2025, we’ll have 1.5 billion people?” – Michael Whitfield, Managing Director of Nissan Africa.
- “I am not arguing against a shift towards EVs or hydrogen-based fuel technologies, the real challenge lies outside these doors, the congestion on the N1 a few hundred meters away and the N2 a few kilometers away and on countless urban roads in South Africa and in Africa” – William Dachs, CEO of Gautrain Management Agency (GMA).
“There are various views around green funding and what it actually means” says Arvana Singh, Head of Sustainable Finance Solutions at Nedbank CIB, “Is it a marketing tool, is it making a credible impact? It is really important to understand that capital flows towards green project and green financing are really important and needed. There is also some transparency around it to ensure that there are reporting mechanisms in place around the use of proceeds.”
She adds: “It is important for Africa to communicate its story effectively around the potential to be an energy powerhouse. It is also important for our credit fundamentals to remain intact, to have a solid policy and governance framework around that as well as the ability to effectively translate investment into tangible outcomes on the ground.”
Africa’s Green Economy Summit was supported by the following key partners: The Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town, Wesgro, CSIR, Atlantis Special Economic Zone, South African Tourism. The following companies and institutions were event sponsors: Gautrain (platinum), ABB, AfDB, Eskom as well as Nedbank CIB, Nissan and Uber.
The event in numbers
More than 350+ delegates from some 20 countries attended the summit, of whom more than 60 were potential investors and 90 were project developers. The conference sessions provided the insights and discussions of more than 80 high-level speakers and 12 start-up companies and innovators had the opportunity to do project investment pitches in the fields of renewable energy, emobility, manufacturing and infrastructure. For more information on the project pitches, please download the post-event report on the website and check out the session highlights and speaker interviews.
“We are back next year”
“We are going on to bigger and better things” says VUKA Group CEO David Ashdown. “We are back next year, we will be aligned to the Formula E project and the E-Fest series again, there will be an electric vehicle road trip across the country next year, as well connecting to our consumer audience around the E Prix precinct in Green Point.”
The next summit will take place in February 2024, dates to be confirmed.