A week ago I got back from South Africa after an inspiring week at the first pan-African sustainability conference: Sustain Our Africa (SoA). I see a continent that’s far from the picture painted by most Western media of hardship, struggle and poverty instead I see ambitions, courage and a will to make a difference. It’s NOT true that Africa doesn’t care about climate, but the Africans see different on the challenges, they see African solutions to African problems. There was an exciting line-up of speakers and attendees from corporates, entrepreneurs to non-profits. David Brittain, Director of Coca-Cola’s Water Stewardship program, explained the work being done to protect the water sources. I heard a South African business entrepreneur Jason Drew, dubbed the Lord of the Flies, turning flies into animal feed and taking urine from the slums and selling it at the price of a bad bottle of wine to use as fertilizer. I could go on and on, it was an impressive and inspiring first step for the SoA conference.
My single biggest learning wasn’t all the innovations and the ambitions, but when it comes to Africa, one has to understand that when we’re talking climate change, sustainability and environment – the initiatives must go hand in hand with social betterment. It’s maybe not surprising for a continent where many still lives for less than a 1,25$ a day. If we want to solve the sustainable challenge, we must not forget that the majority of people don’t live like Europeans or Americans, they demand a different solution – and the potential is enormous for those companies or non-profits that get it right.