Zimbabwe to construct first utility geothermal power plant

The Zimbabwean

Steaming pipes at Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant. Getty Images Image used for illustrative purpose.
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Zimbabwe announced that it will construct its first utility-scale geothermal energy Independent Power Producer (IPP) and support the reduction of greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the country, of which the energy sector is the highest contributor.

The initiative emanates from the Green Resilient Recovery Rapid Readiness (GRRRR) and Geothermal Energy Development Project in Zimbabwe, which was identified as a key area of intervention after the investment plan and the GRRRR support for Zimbabwe were approved under the Green Climate Fund, according to Diana Tapedzanyika, project coordinator, Climate Finance Department at FBC Holdings Limited.

Zimbabwe’s total energy generation in 2021 comprised of 29 per cent from non-renewable sources and 71 per cent from renewable sources, with hydropower (at 69 per cent of total energy generation) comprising the largest share, according to the Climate Change Management Department (CCMD) under the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife.

The department said, however, that increased drought frequency, rainfall unpredictability and reduced water levels exacerbated by climate change have severely impacted hydropower levels, causing intensive load shedding, increased reliance on fossil fuels, fuelwood and electricity imports to make up for the deficit.

They added that the objective of the Geothermal Energy Development Project is to increase access to clean and reliable energy. According to CCMD, there is currently no operational geothermal IPP project in the country and the plant will complement and integrate with other existing energy systems.

They added that there are currently four existing Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority power stations, the Kariba South Hydroelectric Power Station and the coal-fired Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati thermal power stations.

The project will involve the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of a 10MW geothermal power plant, located in the Chimbwatata Hot Springs in Binga District of Zimbabwe, CCMD noted.

Binary cycle geothermal technology was considered best and appropriate based on the proposed site conditions, which produces electricity as well as the potential exploitation of waste heat as an additional revenue stream, said the department.

Electricity generated will be distributed through a transmission line under the responsibility of Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), they added.

In 2021, Zimbabwe’s share of global GHG emissions was only 0.03 per cent, but the country is highly sensitive to extreme climate events despite its very low contribution to global GHG emissions and is ranked among the top 10 countries to be most affected by climate change, the officials of the department said.

At least 84 per cent of the current hydropower energy in the country is generated by the Kariba South hydroelectric power plant, the biggest power plant by installed capacity in Zimbabwe and the biggest source of domestic electricity supply in Zimbabwe.

Water levels in Lake Kariba dam, which feeds the plant, are reported to have dropped to below 1 per cent at the end of 2022, compared to 20 per cent a year earlier. This is reported to be causing an energy crisis in the country  with power cuts lasting many hours and also impacting neighbouring Zambia.

The CCMD said that given the energy generation mix being significantly dependent on hydropower, climate change-induced decreases in mean levels of precipitation are impacting hydro-based power. This highlights the need for alternative sources of renewable energy such as geothermal energy and minimising the use of fossil fuels, it added.

Zimbabwe has various renewable energy resources that have to date not been fully exploited. These include solar, hydro, wind and geothermal. There are no installed geothermal electrical energy plants despite 32 potential geothermal energy sites being identified by the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, the officials pointed out.

The project aims at reducing Zimbabwe’s reliance on hydropower energy sources by diversifying its energy mix and ultimately lowering the energy sector-based emissions compared to the business-as-usual scenario, according to the department.

Geothermal power generation is one of the best options to provide additional capacity to the grid to meet the growing power demand, they added.

Resultant short-term intervention measures created by higher incidence of droughts have included increased thermal inputs in the energy mix, massive load-shedding and severe power cuts, according to CCMD.

Various capital build electricity projects are proposed to increase generation capacity in Zimbabwe but the projected costs for the plants are beyond the financing capacity of the power utility, said Tumai Murombo, professor of law at Witwatersrand University in South Africa, in a presentation on the potential for low-carbon renewable energy, who acknowledged that the country has immense access to renewables ranging from solar and wind to biomass and biofuels

Unless the utility enters into joint ventures or private international capital which it is allowed to play a role, most of the projects will fail to take off, he added.

There is continuing aversion to solar projects by the power utility as well as the private sector, despite the country’s substantial solar potential owing to its geography, Murombo noted.

Ordinary solar system energy outputs are low and cannot provide power for cooking, heating or productive purposes such as welding, grinding or charging batteries commercially.

These constraints on solar have seen it play only a limited role in developing countries where, unfortunately, the bulk of solar energy is abundantly available throughout the year.

Other potential alternative energy sources in Zimbabwe include wind, methane gas, nuclear and biofuels, they added.

“These are not touted as solutions to the current energy crisis, but they could be used to complement and supplement thermal and hydropower,” Murombo said.

Africa: A torchbearer in AI innovation and application


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Forecasts suggest that AI expenditure on the continent will jump from $3bn in 2023 to $6.4bn by 2026.

As global developments in AI, like OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 and conversational agents like ChatGPT, continue to shape the future, our continent stands ready not just to adapt but to lead.

The concept is not high-minded or unattainable. It has immediate potential in the device sitting on your desk or in the palm of your hand.

Integration of AI into gadgets

Gadgets, once considered mere tools, have evolved into intelligent companions, as the integration of AI into gadgets has unlocked a realm of possibilities.

Modern smartphones, equipped with AI, can recognise scenes, adjust settings in real-time, and even enhance images post-capture, all autonomously.

Similarly, in the world of wearables, AI-driven algorithms analyse sleep patterns, heart rate variability, and stress levels, providing insights that were once the domain of specialised medical equipment.

Whether it is smartphones adapting to user habits, smart speakers processing voice commands, or fitness trackers analysing health metrics in real-time, AI is at the heart of these advancements, making gadgets more intuitive and user-centric.

AI innovation and application in Africa

A new McKinsey Global survey says global AI adoption is surging, doubling from its commencement in 2017 and the continent is not just a follower in this narrative.

With its exponentially growing youth demographic, burgeoning middle class, and escalating mobile and internet penetration, there is convincing evidence that the continent could soon be a torchbearer in AI innovation and application.

For instance, AI’s imprint on healthcare in Africa is transformative. Companies like Eden Care from Rwanda, which is streamlining health insurance processes, and Zuri Health in Kenya, which extends healthcare access to remote regions, show how Africa is harnessing AI for the greater good.

And AI’s potential does not merely orbit around healthcare. Pioneering startups across the continent are leveraging AI to tailor-make solutions for unique African challenges.

This is the pivotal moment

So, look, there it is. The bandwagon is ready and waiting for you to climb on. But what do you need?

Companies need to partner with local talent, understand grassroots challenges, and develop solutions in collaboration with communities. Building robust data infrastructure will be paramount.

Then recognise that one-size-fits-all solutions will not suffice. Develop AI models that cater to Africa’s unique socio-economic and cultural landscape.

Ethics need to be considered so companies need to develop AI responsibly and ensure that it does not perpetuate biases or inequalities. Address ethical concerns head-on and ensure transparency in AI processes.

So, to corporations, governments, startups, and individuals—this is the pivotal moment. Engage with AI, funnel investments, stimulate innovation, and in unity, craft an AI-led era where Africa does not just adapt but paves the way.

IBM and AWS expand partnership to accelerate generative AI adoption in Africa


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IBM announced an expansion of its partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help more clients operationalise and derive value from generative artificial intelligence (AI). As part of this expansion, IBM Consulting aims to deepen and expand its generative AI expertise on AWS by training 10,000 consultants by the end of 2024. The two organisations also plan to deliver joint solutions and services upgraded with generative AI capabilities designed to help clients across critical use cases.
Generative AI holds exciting potential to drive transformation and boost productivity in Africa. According to a recent IBM report, CEO Decision-Making in the Age of AI, 69% of African CEO’s see the broad benefits of generative AI across their organisation, while in the Middle East, 43% of CEOs are currently leveraging generative AI for strategic decision-making.

IBM Consulting and AWS already serve clients across a variety of industries with a range of AI solutions and services. Now, the companies are enhancing those solutions and services with the power of generative AI designed to help clients integrate AI quickly into business and IT operations building on AWS.

Initial solutions

Contact centre modernisation with Amazon Connect. IBM Consulting worked with AWS to create summarisation and categorisation functions for voice and digital interactions using generative AI, which are designed to allow for transfers between the chatbot and live agent and provide the agent with summarised details that expedite resolution times and improve quality management.

Platform services on AWS. The new generative AI capabilities give clients tools to enhance business serviceability and availability for their applications hosted on AWS through intelligent issue resolution and observability techniques. Clients can expect an improvement of uptime and mean time repair which means they can act quickly and effectively to potential issues that arise.

Science, technology, innovation critical to revive economy — Nigeria

Nigerian Tribune

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The Federal Government has said that science, technology and innovation are critical to the revival and renewing of the economy and naira, stressing the need to adopt the right technology and partnership to explore opportunities in the sub-sector.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Nnaji Uche, stated this during the 38th annual national conference and scientific workshop of the Association of Science Laboratory Technologists of Nigeria (ASLTON) held at the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Moor Plantation, Ibadan, Oyo State.

Uche who was represented by the Chief Scientific Officer, Science and Technology Promotion, Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, Mrs. Fisayo Omowumi Eneh, in Abuja, said that adopting the right technology could help entrepreneurs automate processes and engender national development.

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He stated that the laboratory acts as a catalyst for innovation, knowledge, partnership, incubating and piloting, and promising new ideas that would build entrepreneurial ecosystems.

The professional body at the event inducted nineteen fellows.

Dr. Jackson Osuh, in his lecture titled: ‘Entrepreneurial Role of Science Laboratory Technology in Sustainable Development for National Growth’, stressed the need for members of the ASLTON to do away with colonial master mentality, but embrace entrepreneurship.

Also, in his message, Provost of Oyo State College of Nursing and Midwifery, Eleyele, Ibadan, Dr. (Mrs.) Gbonjubola Owolabi, said: ”We are not supposed to continue to be a dumping ground for all other nations of the world.”

Director-General/Registrar, Nigerian Institute of Science Laboratory Technology, Ibadan, Yemi Gbadegesin, said: ”We have a long way to go as we continue to deal with the proliferation of quacks in both teaching and manning of science laboratories across all sectors of the economy.

In his message, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde encouraged scientists to take advantage of licences issued for the growth of the nation and not depend on white-collar jobs.

Also in his speech, National President of ASLTON, Ayotunde Omorilewa, maintained that with the current crop of technologists, the nation could migrate from importation to massive exportation.

Qatar, Rwanda Sign MoU in the field of Communication and Information Technology

Qatar News Agency

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Kigali – The State of Qatar, represented by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of communications and information technology with the Republic of Rwanda.

The MoU was signed by HE Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammed bin Ali Al Mannai and HE Minister of Information Technology, Communications, and Innovation in Rwanda Paula Ingabire.

The MoU was signed during an official visit by an official delegation from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Qatar to the Rwandan capital; as part of the state\’s efforts to enhance collaborations in the field of information and communication technology in Africa.

The areas of collaboration include public key infrastructure, formulation of information and communication technology policies and strategies, support for research and development in artificial intelligence, exchange of experiences in digital transformation and e-commerce, cooperation in smart cities, and in cross-border data flow.

HE Minister Mohammed bin Ali Al Mannai commented “This collaboration is a testament to our commitment to promoting innovation and technological advancement on both local and international levels.”This partnership aims to strengthen synergy for mutual growth and development, fostering knowledge and resource exchange in various key areas of the information and communication technology sector, he added.

Google opens its AI-Integrated search to Africa


Google logo and AI Artificial Intelligence words are seen in this illustration taken, May 4, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Google wants to, once again, redefine the landscape of internet search. Only this time the search giant is starting at a deficit with its unlikely biggest competitor – Microsoft’s Bing – leading the search with generative AI charge. Google’s response after a couple of false starts with Bard is an experimental version of its search feature, known as the Search Generative Experience (SGE).
This new experience integrates artificial intelligence (AI) to generate answers directly into the search results, offering immediate responses to user queries right on the Google Search webpage.

Generating these conversational responses will significantly increase the cost of search queries because Google now has to spool up more compute power to run its large language model.

OpenAI found out very quickly that making ChatGPT freely available to the public was not cheap and quickly slapped a price tag on the full capabilities.

Microsoft has also curtailed general access to the service formerly known as Bing Chat (now Copilot) and invested $10bn into OpenAI for the license to use the ChatGPT engine.

Universally accessible

“Our mission is to make the world’s information universally accessible to all,” explained Wambui Kinya, GM of Google Search for Sub-Saharan Africa to a contingent of African journalists during a briefing call.

Kinya quickly dismissed any questions surrounding a future subscription for the SGE service by parroting this company PR line.

She went on to explain that SGE responses prioritise the quality of information above paid for responses, pointing out that “search ads are only for queries that have commercial intent”.

“We have over the last 25 years built an understanding about what providing high quality search results entail, and that is not changing as a result of search with generative AI,” said Kinya.

“Over time, and that is why we have released it as an experiment in Search Labs, we will continue to refine and improve the experience. Then we will be able to increase the number of queries we can serve.”

Google says that SGE is designed to streamline the search process in three significant ways:

Simplifying complex topics. If users are faced with a decision that requires a detailed breakdown, such as “learning ukulele vs guitar,” the SGE provides an AI-powered snapshot to help understand the factors to consider.

Offering quick tips for specific queries. For specific questions, the SGE can provide a range of content from across the web.

Enhancing product discovery and comparison while shopping. For example, if users are searching for removable wallpaper for their kitchen, the SGE can provide information on key factors such as ease of removal, and present a list of stylish options, including price, customer ratings, and purchase links.

Three products, one outcome

The reality is that Google now has three separate ways that users can interact with its core search business; Google Search, Google Bard, and Google Assistant.

“I think we’re trying to attract the same users. It comes down to what is the intent, and then what is the tool, feature, or product that makes the most sense to get the answers or the product that you’re looking for,” Kinya tells Bizcommunity.

“When it comes to gen AI experience in search, it really is how do we evolve the way one seeks information to be able to become more natural and intuitive, or conversational in nature. And how can we get you to your answers faster and be able to give you the opportunity to deep dive and be able to follow up a little bit more.”

According to Kinya, search is the same as it has always been. Google still assumes its role as helping users on their “path to the information that you seek” only now its powered by generative AI models.

To be part of these experiments, users can tap the Labs icon in the latest version of the Google app (available on Android and iOS) or on Chrome desktop. Users can also visit the Labs site to check their waitlist status.

Minit Money eases South Africa-Zambia money transfers


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Minit Money’s blockchain-based remittance app opens a Southern Africa corridor, allowing South Africa-based Zambians to send money home efficiently.
Speaking from the Africa Fintech Summit in Lusaka, Zambia Minit Money co-founder and chief executive officer, Angus Brown said, “We’re delighted to announce the launch of Minit Money’s ability to serve the Zambian diaspora community in South Africa.

“We have experienced significant growth in our existing corridors of Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast & Kenya and the Zambia launch marks our first foray into the Southern Africa region.”

South Africa and Zambia have a long history of co-operation. During the apartheid era in South Africa, Zambia played a pivotal role in supporting the South African liberation movement. As a neighbouring country with a commitment to justice and equality, Zambia provided refuge and assistance to anti-apartheid activists, including prominent figures like Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.

South Africa and Zambia share a strong economic connection, primarily driven by the copper mining industry. Zambia is one of the world’s leading copper producers, while South Africa is a key player in the mining and metallurgy sectors.

This collaboration saw South African mining companies investing in Zambia’s copper industry, fostering technological advancements, and promoting job creation. The economic ties extend to infrastructure development, with South African companies involved in building and upgrading transportation networks and power supply in Zambia, supporting the efficient extraction and export of copper resources.

This economic partnership not only benefits both nations but also contributes to the growth and sustainability of the global copper market. Many Zambians have family members who have found work in South Africa’s economic hubs.

Minit Money provides an easy-to-use consumer digital remittance app that leverages blockchain technology to make sending money easy, fast and low-cost. The launch of the South Africa to Zambia corridor is set to create significant savings for users, improve sending speeds and provide a seamless user experience for Zambians living in South Africa.

Solar mini-grids offer clean-power hope to rural Africa

Agence France-Presse (AFP)

A general view of a hybrid minigrids station in Doma Town which is mainly powered by solar energy in Doma, Nassarawa State, Nigeria on October 16, 2023. Mini-grids — small power stations usually supplying rural communities — are not new. But the drop in solar technology costs over a decade has prompted a growth in clean energy minigrids with rural Africa poised to benefit the most. Nearly 600 million Africans live without electricity access, and in Nigeria alone that figure is 90 million or around 40 percent of the continent’s most populous nation. And while Africa may have the most potential to generate solar power, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the continent lags behind installed capacity. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)
Agence France-Presse (AFP)/AFP

Working as a nurse in her rural Nigerian village, Andat Datau faced more than her share of challenges. But delivering babies by torchlight was always hard.

Off-grid for years, her Sabon Gida village relied on diesel generators or lamps and, like millions of other Africans, Datau often got no light at all.

But a year ago, Datau’s village in north central Nasarawa State hooked up to a solar-powered mini-grid supplying half of her community’s households and most businesses with almost constant electricity.

Sabon Gida now has more light at times than Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, where many get by on around half a day’s power — at times much less — from the unstable network.

Mini-grids — small power stations usually supplying rural communities — are not new. But the drop in solar technology costs over a decade has prompted a growth in clean energy mini-grids, with rural Africa poised to benefit the most.

“It was stressful holding torchlights,” Datau told AFP at her clinic.

“Even giving injections without electric light would make it difficult for us.”

Nearly 600 million Africans live without electricity access, and in Nigeria alone that figure is 90 million — about 40 percent of the population in the continent’s most populous nation.

And while Africa may have the most potential to generate solar power, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the continent lags behind installed capacity.

Tripling renewable energy, including solar, will be on the agenda for COP28 climate talks next month in Dubai.

Africa is responsible for the smallest amount of greenhouse gas emissions, but is often impacted the most while also under pressure to avoid fossil-based development.

Solar mini-grids are not a low-scale solution: the World Bank and IEA see them as one of the most viable ways to get fossil-free access to electricity for rural sub-Saharan Africa.

In a report this year, the bank said solar mini-grid use expanded from only 500 installed in 2010 to more than 3,000 installed now. Another 9,000 are seen coming online in a few years.

Still, scaling up solar in Africa faces huge challenges, including securing investors wary of its viability, inflationary pressures on equipment, better state financing and clear policies to promote its use.

To meet the sustainable development goals of bringing power to 380 million in Africa by 2030, 160,000 mini-grids are needed. The current pace sees only 12,000 new grids by then, according to the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program.

Already though for Sabon Gida — a rice-farming community an hour from Nasarawa state capital Lafia — a year of solar power has brought changes beyond light to Datau’s small clinic.

Sabon Gida is one community in a private-public initiative involving the World Bank and US-based mini-grid maker Husk Power Systems with the country’s Rural Electrification Agency.

“Light… it was only for the rich before, they were the ones using power generators in their homes,” Dauda Yakubu, a traditional Sabon Gida community chief, said.

– Viable solution? –

Solar is now the cheapest source of energy for utility-scale power — an attractive proposition for Africa where poor investment and badly maintained power networks often mean limited energy.

The World Bank says Nigeria’s “market-driven” approach to solar mini-grids already helped bring more than 100 projects online, while Ethiopia and Zambia have passed new regulations to attract private investment.

Kenya also introduced favourable regulations for a public-private initiative for 150 mini-grids, the bank said.

“Solar mini-grids are integral to Nigeria’s energy transition plan,” Abba Aliya at Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency said.

“The government views this model as the most effective means to rapidly increase electricity access.”

Solar in Africa still needs more work, especially financing and creating profitable models. States often lack funds for large-scale projects while small-scale projects aren’t viable for the private sector, said Abel Gaiya, a researcher for Abuja-based think tank Clean Technology Hub.

Still, combining new technology such as electric transport and green hydrogen with solar mini-grids could make projects more attractive as well as efforts to “bundle” mini-grid investments together, he said.

“If you remove mini-grids from the equation, you remain with the problem of extension of national grids not being available to so many communities. So mini-grids are essential,” he said.

– Bikes and more –

Husk, which also works in India and other African nations, operates 12 grids in Nigeria, but plans 60 more by the end of next year.

An hour from Lafia along an unpaved earth road, Igbabo village in Nasarawa joined the scheme two years ago. Now around 350 households and businesses access Husk Power’s 172-panel solar plant.

His diesel generator sitting quiet in his roadside workshop, welder Jesse Eneh couples his tools to the solar grid.

Where he spent almost 30,000 naira ($30) a week on diesel, he now pays the same price a month as a business for access to the solar grid.

Private households pay an average of 2,500 naira a month for power. Businesses pay an average of 10,000 naira a month though more energy-consuming operations like the welder rack up more.

Nearby, Husk Power has a pilot project for electric motorbikes, part of its integrated approach offering power and equipment to rural communities.

John Buhari still offers the same price at his phone-charging business, but now makes more profit because he no longer pays to fuel his generator.

In Sabon Gida, no one could be happier with solar than Shagari Abari, owner of a viewing salon, where locals gather on concrete benches to watch football and movies.

“Most times with my generator, there are failures and breakdowns during the matches, and the crowds would start screaming at me,” he said.

“But with solar it’s steady and it’s cheaper.”

ICT sector comes out tops in latest Southern Africa venture capital industry survey

Africa Business

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A low-growth economy, high unemployment and the mounting pressures posed by the ongoing energy crisis have continued to weigh heavily on start-ups in Southern African over the past year. Early-stage investors likewise reported that these challenges have had a material impact on the local venture capital industry, with an overall decrease in the value of deals during the 2022 period. The local information and communication technology (ICT) sector, spearheading efforts to digitise the South African economy, has retained its position of attracting investor interest and confidence, despite the subdued investment climate.

This was one of the key findings to emerge from the 2023 Venture Capital (VC) Industry Survey, published by The Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SAVCA). Speaking at the annual launch of the survey was SAVCA CEO, Tshepiso Kobile, who believes that the results of this year’s survey reflect that the sector is indeed experiencing trying times, yet the business case for it remains strong, with some attractive opportunities for investors.

In a country that has no shortage of successful entrepreneurs, she believes that the role played by venture capital (VC) in supporting high-growth, early-stage businesses has not only become more pronounced but has also become an effective approach and means to address deepening socioeconomic challenges.

Of notable interest was the fact that although the value of VC deals concluded during the survey period (2022), showed a 14.5% contraction from the year prior, the 2023 survey marked the fifth consecutive year that the industry has attracted over R1 billion in early-stage investments. At 48.1%, South Africa’s ICT sector represented the largest combined sector by number of deals in 2022.

Likewise, the local ICT sector held the largest allocation by number of active deals held in portfolios at the end of 2022 (40.6%). A detailed look at the spread of ICT-related investments revealed that the leading sub-sectors within this category were FinTech (12.3%), Software (8.9%), Telecoms (4.0%), AgriTech (3.9%) and Electronics (2.3%).

Furthermore, the overall allocation of capital based on the primary sectors of the economy, showed an abundance of ICT deals in active portfolios (37.7% by value, 40.6% by number of deals). This was followed by deals involving Consumer Products and Services (18.0% by value, 14.1% by number) and Business Products and Services (13.3% by value, 15.4% by number).

The 2023 survey found that investment sectors involving education technologies (or ICT EdTech) featured prominently in the 2022 investment year but makes up a small percentage of the overall portfolio allocation as it has only recently been introduced as an investment sub-sector.

For Kobile, these findings are indicative of the high level of innovation that exists within Southern Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Of particular relevance is the fact that the FinTech category overtook the Food and Beverage category this year – a testament to the sector’s ability to leverage technology to address the mass market and existing inefficiencies in delivery of services.

While fund managers and institutional investors within the VC sector remain steered by the commercial viability of deals and fiduciary duties, the ICT sector also holds promise as a bedrock for social development as evidenced in areas such as education, by providing much-needed access to information and e-learning resources”.

Startups in the portfolios of South African VC fund managers pursue advancements in healthcare, governance and various industries through technological solutions. As a driver of innovation and efficiency, the sector can position South Africa on the global stage – attracting investment and fostering international collaboration.”

Speaking at a panel discussion which formed part of the SAVCA VC Industry Survey launch event was Kabelo Themane, Senior Investment Associate at small business development firm, Edge Growth. Echoing Kobile’s sentiments, Themane asserted that a dual focus on return-on-investment and impact involves the need to strike a delicate but important balance.

As she elaborated: “The unique challenges that face the Southern African market has warranted a closer look at the way ‘impact’ is defined. For Edge Growth, ‘impact’ needs to go beyond the bounds of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and should also touch on issues that affect society at a grassroots level. Some of these issues include unemployment, the global sustainable development goals, imperatives such as financial inclusion, the emergence of the green economy and how to enable the way forward for education in the country.

These objectives can be met by deploying investment into homegrown businesses and truly investing in their growth – not only from a financial standpoint but in terms of mentorship, ongoing support and training.”

Motivated by the general findings of the survey, including funds under management (FUM), overall investment activity and exits, Kobile holds high hopes for early-stage investments heading into the new year. According to the survey’s findings, the bulk of available funding was allocated to new deals, which comprised either investment into start-ups, or the first investment from an investor. This trend can be attributed to an increase in follow-on funding into existing portfolios reported for the 2022 investment year.

Reflecting on the 2023 SAVCA VC Conference, which took place in Stellenbosch the day after the VC survey launch, Kobile expressed her belief that this important conversation must be taken forward and must remain a priority for all industry stakeholders. During the conference, local and international institutional investors, fund managers, entrepreneurs, advisors, and policy makers shared their ideas on the future prospects of the VC sector in Southern Africa.

South Africa advances green hydrogen economy with BMW trial


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Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Sasol and BMW used the 2023 Green Hydrogen Summit as a platform to launch a trial of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. This initiative is a result of a collaboration between these companies to explore the viability of new energy vehicles (NEVs) in the country and expand the domestic green hydrogen economy, according to the Minerals Council South Africa.
Green hydrogen is emerging as a pivotal fuel to help curb greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.

South Africa is the world’s largest supplier of platinum group metals (PGMs) that are used in the electrolysis of water to split hydrogen and oxygen, and in hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity. In this capacity the country can play a crucial role in global decarbonisation.

The trial could potentially stimulate a demand for up to 5 million ounces of PGMs annually if hydrogen fuel cells find application in 10% of the global car market. This development promises to bolster job security for the 175,000 individuals employed in the PGM mining sector.

South Africa’s production of PGMs in 2022 amounted to 269.5 tonnes, 5.5% lower than the 285.3 tonnes recorded in 2021. Export volumes for the entire basket of the six metals that comprise PGMs fell by nearly 13% to 230.7 tonnes in 2022 from 264.6 tonnes the year before. Local sales volumes were 15.7 tonnes in 2022, a 24% increase from 12.6 tonnes in 2021.

Understand the role of the mining industry

The Minerals Council and its members are engaged in the early stages of a project to understand the role the local mining industry can play in South Africa’s emerging green hydrogen economy and to encourage the use of PGMs.

The Amplats, BMW and Sasol project is an important development for the automotive and mining industry. BMW will provide its recently launched iX5 Hydrogen to evaluate how these NEVs perform in real-world conditions in South Africa.

Amplats will provide the PGMs used to make hydrogen and convert it to electricity and Sasol will provide the green hydrogen and the mobile refuelling system.

This project comes soon after the launch of the world’s largest mine haul truck with a 290-tonne payload by Anglo American at the Mogalakwena platinum mine in Limpopo. Sasol produced its first green hydrogen at its Sasolburg facility in June.

Accelerate transformation in the mobility sector

“Hydrogen is a versatile energy source that has a key role to play in the energy transition process and therefore in climate protection. After all, it is one of the most efficient ways of storing and transporting renewable energies. We should use this potential to also accelerate the transformation of the mobility sector,” said Oliver Zipse, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG, at the launch of the iX5 Hydrogen in February.

The powertrain of this vehicle can produce a maximum output of 295kW from its electric drive train. It also uses regenerative braking to feed power back into a high-performance battery.

Gaseous hydrogen required to supply the fuel cell is stored in two 700-bar tanks made from carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). Together, they hold six kilograms of hydrogen, giving the BMW iX5 Hydrogen a range of 504km in the WLTP cycle.

Refuelling the hydrogen tanks takes only three to four minutes, which addresses many of the problems associated with electric drivetrain vehicles.