The newly established Gauteng Climate Innovation Centre at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria will give entrepreneurs and technologists across Gauteng province access business mentoring and financing to develop climate-smart technology to meet local needs.

Alexandra entrepreneur Robert Mtshali chats with World Bank programme director Jonathan CooneyAlexandra entrepreneur Robert Mtshali chats with World Bank programme director Jonathan Cooney about his plans for Young Minds Cleaning Services, a car wash service that will use less water than manual washing and provide part-time employment for young people. (Photo: at the opening of the World Bank-funded centre on Tuesday, 24 March, Innovation Hub CEO McLean Sibanda said the facility would act as a catalyst for innovation, concentrate its efforts on three areas to start. “We looked at the challenges and capabilities in the region,” Sibanda said. “Our focus on water, waste and energy is in response to competencies we identified.”

Gauteng’s “green surge” is in line with provincial and national government development plans, as outlined in the New Growth Path and National Development Plan. Transforming, modernising and industrialising Gauteng’s economy will require more than just repeating historical development. As Sibanda explained, development must improve the quality of life of Gauteng’s population while providing employment.

The range of services available at the Gauteng Climate Innovation Centre (CIC) is meant to spur that sort of growth. Entrepreneurs can access financing and business advice, and make use of the facilities at the Innovation Hub. The CIC also offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to network and collaborate.

“The question we asked ourselves is, how do we move from a carbon-intensive to a less intensive economy, and how can we assist?” Sibanda said. “As important was, where would the ideas come from that would transform the quality of life of people in the townships?”

Gauteng’s Green Economy Strategy is designed to boost economic growth and job creation in a sustainable and environmentally sound way.

The province is also keen to take advantage of opportunities that will become available as more economies embrace the idea of low-carbon growth. And having as it does the continent’s strongest industrial and technical base, it is best placed to do this. Using the country’s renewable resources, and riding the political will to embrace the green economy, the Gauteng CIC foresees a future as a green research and advisory hub for the continent.

As the World Bank’s Jonathan Cooney explained at Tuesday’s launch: “Instead of bringing in technology and telling communities this is what they need, the CIC will take innovative local ideas and help to scale them up.”

Sibanda, expounding on this strategy, gave the example of kerosene and paraffin lamp usage in informal settlements. Not only are kerosene and paraffin toxically corrosive, they are also incredibly flammable chemicals that have long been the source of tragic fires.

“How do we move informal settlements from paraffin and kerosene to solar power? Where are the entrepreneurs and engineers who will develop more efficient, safer kerosene lamps? Who is going to develop better photovoltaic cells? Is it possible to convert waste to energy? The CIC will be the catalyst for innovation in these fields.”

Sibanda highlighted the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs, especially those coming out of previously disadvantaged communities, as being access to finance. The Gauteng CIC will smooth the path for new entrepreneurs to access early stage financing.

“We can achieve national and provincial green growth objectives,” he said. “We can achieve job growth. These are not mutually exclusive. The CIC will show the way forward; will find the best way to harness environmentally sound ideas to spur a successful growing economy.”

The Gauteng CIC model was developed by the World Bank’s infoDEV Climate Technology Programme, and has been tailored to fit into the Gauteng developmental and business ecosystem.

The process of doing this took six months of consultations and workshops with public, private and academic stakeholders, and included outreach workshops in Soweto, Alexandra and Ivory Park.

The Gauteng CIC is the newest member of the World Bank/infoDev’s global network of Climate Innovation Centres, which includes hubs in Morocco, Vietnam, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana and the Caribbean.