SEED Malawi National Dialogue Forum 2019
Leveraging Entrepreneurship for a Climate-Smart and Socially Inclusive Southern Africa
Event: SEED Malawi National Dialogue Forum
Event Date: 24th October 2019
Venue: Umodzi Park (BICC)
City, Country: Lilongwe, Malawi
Southern Africa continues to face challenges in addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation needs alongside objectives for sustainable and inclusive economic development. Malawi’s long-term development aims, outlined in Vision 2020 and currently operationalised by the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III, aim at building a resilient and productive nation through sustainable economic growth, characterised by reduced gender inequalities and sustainably managed natural resources. These national objectives translate international goals such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement into national strategies for development and National Determined Contributions to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Small and growing enterprises that directly address environmental and social issues through their business models are essential contributors to achieving these goals in Malawi and the Southern Africa region. Climate-smart and socially inclusive enterprises provide market-based solutions that help to enhance the climate change adaptation and mitigation capacities of the Malawian economy and society. Entrepreneurship bears immense potential to drive the transition to a green and inclusive economy while empowering the capacities of marginalised groups, including women and rural communities. However, many small and growing enterprises are unable to start-up and scale-up in light of significant barriers to accessing tailored business development services and long-term financing solutions.
From Challenges to Sustainable Development Opportunities
The SEED Malawi National Dialogue Forum 2019 brought together around 140 entrepreneurs, policymakers, financial institutions, business development service providers and others to celebrate the journeys of eco-inclusive enterprises and collaboratively mobilise support for building the capacities of socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable entrepreneurship in the region.
Highlights of the National Dialogue Forum
In his opening remarks, Nicolas Bosscher, Deputy General Representative of the Government of Flanders: Development Cooperation, Government of Flanders, stressed that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) enhance competition, entrepreneurship, job creation and economic growth and urged governments to implement policies that build export opportunities for Malawi’s SMEs. Mr Bosscher encouraged entrepreneurs to grasp opportunities and for the country to promote entrepreneurship in its effort to move forward.
Rainer Agster, Global Director of Operations at SEED, celebrated SEED’s 258 Award Winners from 40 countries since 2005, noting that 90% remain in business and continue to deliver environmental, social and economic benefits across their value chains. Mr Agster indicated the importance of targeted SME financing to ensure that these socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable small and growing enterprises are able to scale. Equally, aspiring entrepreneurs can greatly benefit from opportunities to adapt successful business models from other contexts to their local markets – a core focus of the SEED Replicator programme. Furthermore, in implementing the Government of Flanders supported programme in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, SEED has been active in building an ecosystem of policy-makers and practitioners to support role of eco-inclusive enterprises in core development and climate action agendas, in part during the 2019 cycle of the SEED Practitioner Labs for Policy Prototyping in Malawi. Looking to SEED’s work across regional and global contexts, Agster set the scene for discussions during this Dialogue Forum, posing a key question to all participants around commitments to scalable solutions: How can we finance enterprises offering climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions, and at the same time identify huge opportunities to invest in locally?
Before diving into sessions, Bytonie Simwela of Ziweto Enterprise, 2016 SEED Africa Award Winner, mobilised participants by sharing his testimony on how winning a SEED Award transformed his business. Ziweto Enterprise won $5000 USD in financial support as well as an enterprise development support package that helped them scale up their business. Ziweto grew from 3 shops and 3 employees to 7 shops and 24 employees. Learning from the enterprise’s success, Mr Simwela shared that entrepreneurs in Malawi continue to face many challenges, which deter young people from establishing their own start-ups. The Ziweto founder called on financial and lending institutions, in particular to develop and extend access to financial solutions that target the needs and cater to the lending profiles of start-ups.
PANEL AND ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS | Future of eco-inclusive entrepreneurship promotion for a climate-smart and gender-equal economy
The panel looking to the future of eco-inclusive entrepreneurship for a climate-smart and gender-equal economy, moderated by Christine Meyer, Head of Ecosystem Building at SEED, welcomed policy experts and eco-inclusive enterprises to share their perspectives on further leveraging entrepreneurial innovations to act on Nationally Determined Contributions for climate action and broader commitments to socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable development.
Frankie Washoni of Hortinet, 2015 SEED Africa Award Winner, revealed how unemployment remains a central issue in Malawi. Hortinet is involved in banana production because, according to Mr Washoni, as it currently stands, 90 per cent of the bananas being consumed in Malawi are imported (largely from South Africa), thus exporting jobs. The enterprise is actively involved in linking smallholder farmers to markets as it is difficult for small enterprises to access larger markets. Mr Washoni reiterated the importance of supporting climate-smart and sustainable agriculture and addressed policy-makers and financial institutions who, from his perspective, tend to have limited understanding of the potential of these businesses or lack of will to support climate-smart enterprises. He called on policy-makers to ensure that women take part in entrepreneurship and that there are deliberate policies to support entrepreneurs in their efforts to start-up.
Joyce Sikwese (Green Impact Technologies, 2019 SEED Africa Award Winner) discussed how Green Impact Technologies focuses on social and economic impacts as they provide solar access to rural communities using a pay-as-you-go financing model. Despite the financing solutions offered by this eco-inclusive enterprise, Ms Sikwese noted that financing tends to miss female-led entrepreneurship initiatives which are central in delivering social, economic and environmental benefits to communities.
Sipho Billiat, Senior Development Planning Officer within the National Planning Commission, Government of Malawi, explained how the National Planning Commission is responsible for long and medium-term development for the country. Mr Billiat noted that entrepreneurship creates many job opportunities and that in light of the Malawian economy’s reliance on natural resources and the sustainable use of these resources, enterprises – including those that offer adaptation and mitigation measures – should be targeted through policies. In conjunction, the private sector has a core role to play in climate change management. For example, larger companies should be engaged to help smaller ones and share information properly in the effort to find tangible solutions for poverty alleviation – particularly targeting implementation measures that are focused on social inclusion and allow women to flourish.
Beatrice Makwenda (Head of Policy and Communication, National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM)) talked about the need to interrogate organisations to determine whether they are producing in a sustainable manner and to look at the entire value chain holistically to see if it is sustainable. NASFAM’s core business involves promoting farming business promotion and stresses the importance within their work on engaging the wider private sector to embrace SMEs. SMEs within the agriculture sector are already contributing positive social and environmental work through their value chains and governance structures, including in terms of the incorporation of women in market-driven solutions.
Following inspiring inputs on the future of entrepreneurship for sustainable development and climate action, participants were engaged during the National Dialogue Forum to share their perspectives on their key takeaways and expectations to delve further into these topics throughout the forum.
PITCHING AND INPUT PRESENTATION | Public showcase of policy instrument prototypes and looking to the future of policy advocacy around eco-inclusive entrepreneurship
This plenary session, moderated by Tione Kaonga (Malawi Coordinator, SEED), presented policy insights from SEED’s policy advocacy activities and outcomes from the ongoing SEED Practitioner Labs Policy Prototyping and invited participants to look at action areas for future policy engagement.
In a global context of commitments to sustainable development and the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, Malawi has set out ambitious agendas to increase resilience to climate change and move towards a green and inclusive economy. Translating these ambitious agendas into impact at the community level requires concerted efforts in the decentralisation of policy initiatives and capacity building of local actors. SMEs play a key role in aligning local markets to national development goals and can have a transformational impact on the achievement of these goals. Drawing on discussions from SEED Practitioner Labs Policy Prototyping process in Malawi in 2019, SEED’s recently published policy brief on Leveraging Eco-Inclusive Entrepreneurship for Localised Development Solutions – launched during the National Dialogue Forum – presents recommendations to policymakers for leveraging the potential of SMMEs to transform the agriculture, waste, and clean energy sectors in Malawi, and across Southern Africa.
After exploring some of the key policy recommendations included in this SEED policy brief, National Dialogue Forum participants worked within smaller groups to develop their ideas for working together to further drive collaboration in supporting eco-inclusive enterprises and shared their proposals ranging from approaches for engaging the broader private sector, information sharing, and replication of successful business models across contexts.
As tangible solutions or mechanisms to address some of the core challenges facing eco-inclusive enterprises, practitioners involved in the SEED Practitioner Labs for Policy Prototyping were invited to the stage to present the policy instruments developed over the nine-month Labs process in Malawi in 2019. For more details on these solutions and contact details for the solution developers, please explore the solution summaries at the links provided:
- Malawi Waste Management Consortium: Building markets for waste innovation value chains, hosted by International Conservation and Clean up Management (ICCM)
- Agriculture insurance and climate-related risk assessment: Stimulating climate-smart agriculture markets, hosted by MicroInsurance Services Ltd.
- Cooperative-to-Cooperative Platform: Expanding networks for community-led business development, hosted by Malawi Federation of Cooperatives (MAFECO)
- Off-grid renewable energy private-public partnership model: Improving market access and affordable technology financing, hosted by Community Energy Malawi
Enterprise matchmaking with business development opportunities to scale-up environmental, social and economic impacts
This session, co-hosted by enterprises support institutions – including mHub, Planetarium Institute, Mzuzu eHub, Empower, Social Enterprise Academy, Equip Consulting Group and Segal Family Foundation –, targeted early-stage enterprises looking to scale-up, especially former participants of the SEED Starter and Replicator programmes. The session matched earlier stage socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable enterprises with key enterprise support institutions offering entrepreneurship training and networking, legal, branding, impact measurement and financial support. From here, matched enterprises and support institutions will remain in contact to continue developing and delivering support packages that address the main challenges across the support topics addressed during the SEED Malawi National Dialogue Forum.
Mobilising the private and public sectors to extend climate finance to small and growing climate-smart enterprises
This session primarily targeting private and public sector actors interested in exploring their role in delivering targeted support mechanisms for eco-inclusive enterprises and heard from various enterprises about their financing experiences, including Joyce Sikwese, SEED Africa Award Winner 2019, from Green Impact Technologies. Experts included Efrem Chilima of the World Bank, George Mwase of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, FDH Bank and Marnix van Holland of Hivos, These experts started discussions by sharing some of their insights into the major challenges facing government and financers in delivering targeted support for SMEs. The session then explored how to build on the momentum gained on the global stage during high-level engagements around our socially inclusive green economy transition and determine the next steps for engaging the private and public sectors in extending financial and non-financial support for “missing middle” socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable enterprises.
Session participants identified focus areas for policy-based interventions to promote SMEs including: the provision of support to Malawi’s microfinancing network; supporting Bankers Open Day which allows banks and entrepreneurs to engage each other; the development of a new SME policy which is aimed at ensuring easy access to financing by SMEs; and the promotion of non-finance initiatives, e.g. bulk procurement systems. Furthermore, multi-stakeholder solutions were proposed building in part on the experiences of SMEs in the room to ensure:
- Continuous learning: SMEs were encouraged to invest in learning from various sources including banks so as to improve their understanding of various issues including with business management and financing.
- Promotion of partnerships: SMEs requested that financiers encourage youth-led enterprises to partner with businesses that have more advanced financial management systems to minimise financial risks. SMEs were also encouraged to partner with others to help themselves in pooling their diverse expertise.
- Investment in capacity building: Financiers were asked to help in building the capacity of SMEs in various areas of business management.
- Learning from the informal sector: It was observed that there was a need for financiers to learn from the informal sector, which was reported to be thriving in Malawi due to its non-restrictive lending conditions.
BDS knowledge sharing to maximise eco-inclusive entrepreneurship impacts through quality business development services
This session targeted active BDS providers, enterprises and others interested in delivering targeted and quality services for small and growing enterprises. Participants were invited to engage in discussions to share knowledge and cultivate ongoing collaboration opportunities between business development service (BDS) providers to improve the quality and reach of business development opportunities for environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive enterprises. This session resulted in tangible proposals for cultivating ongoing collaboration between business development services (BDS) providers to improve the acceptability, availability and accessibility of BDS to both entrepreneurs (in terms of value perceptions) and the wider network of ecosystem stakeholders. These proposals included:
- Raising awareness among enterprises to overcome any top-down approaches, helping SMEs to understand that BDS providers are there to help them grow.
- Standardising materials at the national and regional levels to improve the quality and consistency of training while allowing the adaptation of services depending on the specific context.
- Implementing quality control mechanisms that are supported by policy and regulatory measures to ensure the greater coordination of BDS providers for capacity building and sharing of best (and worst) practices.
- Networking among BDS providers to address challenges with a diversity of and inconsistencies with support services approaches.
- Expanding on enterprise support through pro bono and corporate social responsibility initiatives.
- Establishing additional training programmes through rural enterprise hubs and training programmes at universities.
- Collaborating with the private sector and government to improve internet infrastructure to improve access to information on quality BDS support across communities.
- Aligning BDS fees and payment structure based on the capacity to pay and subsidising services through private sector support as well.
SEED AWARDS CEREMONY
Following the interactive parallel session, participants reconvened in plenary to hear from and celebrate the achievements of the SEED Africa Award Winners 2019 and Top-5 Finalists from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe during the SEED Awards Ceremony. Our SEED Africa Award Winners 2019 include:
Dytech of Lusaka, Zambia uses unwanted wood offcuts from commercial wood processing centres and plantations to produce and sell double-decker $4 low cost, high productive beehives. Hives are consigned to outgrowers, engaging them to produce honey for increased production for export into global markets such as Germany, China, Egypt and South Africa. Payments to outgrowers are provided in cash, supplies or solar products. Please click here find out more and collaborate directly with Dytech.
ENRAPOWER, Harare, Zimbabwe, provides renewable energy solutions to households, commercial entities and utility-scale clients. As a wholesaler, ENRAPOWER focuses on the supply of renewable energy equipment for small and medium-sized enterprises. They ensure an efficient supply of these products through the sale of energy equipment, solar installation, and project management services. The company also partners with equipment suppliers to train their network of partners for specific product-related knowledge. This establishes a network of distributors that is the core of their wholesale business model. Please click here find out more and collaborate directly with ENRAPOWER.
Green Impact Technologies (GIT), based in Lilongwe, Malawi, operates a PAYG business model, where last-mile customers pay local agents an installation fee and then upload credit periodically through mobile money. GIT is also developing a biogas plant which will generate energy from agricultural waste at Tsangano market for use by local restaurant entrepreneurs. Alongside the innovative PAYG model, Green Impact Technologies provides certified products with a 2-year warranty and after-sales service. By training local agents, GIT ensures both quality products and services. Please click here find out more and collaborate directly with Green Impact Technologies.
Kibebe, a Lilongwe-based enterprise, trains marginalised artisans to produce upcycled products to sell at their brick and mortar outlet and at a local farmers market. The product line includes 35 products made from recycled materials. They also offer tours of the production centre and camp to bring customers closer to the communities that make the products. Profits are also given to a partner organisation that runs vocational training programs, where graduates may also be integrated into the Kibebe workforce. This creates jobs for marginalised communities. Please click here find out more and collaborate directly with Kibebe.
Kukula Solar from Chipata, Zambia purchases solar products wholesale from the manufacturer and sells them to customers directly through the solarpreneurs stationed at the community or nearby. Solarpreneurs are the link between Kukula Solar and local communities. Engaging Traditional Leaders is key to building trust and credibility within the villages. Customers are generally families living on less than $2 a day without access to electricity. Some products, generally smaller units, are sold outright, others are purchased under a rent-to-own system. Please click here find out more and collaborate directly with Kukula Solar.
To find out about all SEED Africa Award Winners and Finalists in 2019 from across Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, please visit this link and connect directly with the enterprise by using the contact form provided.
The event is part of the implementation of “Advancing the Transition to Inclusive Green Economies in Southern Africa through Eco-Inclusive Enterprise Development”, a project supported by the Government of Flanders.
Discover outcomes of past SEED events here.