Boosting support for social and environmental entrepreneurship in Namibia

Although ranking among the upper-middle income countries, Namibia’s income distribution is among the most unequal in the world. Unemployment has remained extremely high for decades and about one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. Among the 2014 Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum Namibia ranks 88th out of 144 countries, outlining shortcomings in areas such as domestic market size and innovation. Even though all major production sectors – mining, tourism, livestock and meat production, and fisheries – are vulnerable to climate change and poverty reduction represents one of the country’s main challenges, social and environmental entrepreneurship – as promoted by SEED – is a rather new concept in Namibia.

Small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) contribute an estimated 12 per cent towards Namibia’s gross domestic product and employ about 20 per cent of the country’s workforce. However, due to the fact that unemployment is one main reason for becoming an entrepreneur, there is a lack of SMMEs with considerable growth potential and the capability to scale up. The development of the SMME sector in Namibia involves a paradigm shift in culture and attitude of taking up small business activities for subsistence reasons towards taking ownership and exhibiting entrepreneurial behaviour that is socially and environmentally responsible.

Through an annual award scheme, SEED is promoting social and environmental entrepreneurship in Namibia, providing targeted financial and business development support services. Furthermore, SEED is fostering the ecosystem for social and environmental enterprises in Namibia through capacity building and networking activities for local service providers.

Triple bottom line meets Namibian enthusiasm

-- Experiences from a Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop in Windhoek


As part of a regional programme funded by the Government of Flanders, SEED aims at building capacity among local service providers in Namibia, Malawi and Mozambique to improve their services towards social and environmental entrepreneurs. The Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop from September 29 to October 2 2014, in Windhoek, Namibia was the second event in the region, implemented in cooperation with Namibia Business Innovation Institute and Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS).

Eleven experienced advisors and trainers concerned with business support for SMMEs came together in Windhoek to discuss the concept of social and environmental entrepreneurship and to get acquainted with the SEED advisory methodology. Among others, representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Namibia National Cleaner Production and Sustainable Consumption Centre, the University of Namibia and the Namibia Small Contractors Association took part in the training.

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Since social and environmental entrepreneurship is rather new to the Namibian business context, the first session focused on defining the concept and discussing exemplary cases of SEED Award winners outlining different types of business models. In this regard, participants also learned about the triple bottom line (TBL) approach the SEED methodology is built around. The approach encourages businesses not only to measure and report on their single bottom line performance, i.e. financial outcomes but also on social and environmental impacts.

During the subsequent sessions, participants enthusiastically worked in small groups applying the interactive SEED methodology. Based on fictitious case studies from the energy, waste and agriculture sectors participants applied the SEED tools focusing on key business areas such as market analysis, value proposition or risk assessment. Every tool, however, is considering the triple bottom line, taking not only into account the economic aspect but also the social and environmental dimension.

By applying the SEED tools to the case studies that are as close to real business cases as possible, participants were able to explore the benefits of each advisory tool from the perspective of a social and environmental enterprise. Participants’ feedback showed that this approach helped them to gain a first-hand experience of how the SEED tools are perceived by a potential client. Following this, they felt very confident to integrate the SEED methodology in their personal advisory and training programmes to boost social and environmental entrepreneurship in the region.

This article is part of a series about SEED Training of Trainer (ToT) sessions on social and environmental entrepreneurship in selected African countries. Read more about the last ToT that took place in Malawi in the blog article Creating an enabling environment for social and environmental entrepreneurship in Malawi.