Empowering tech startups for a greener tomorrow
Milou van Bruggen
International Trade Centre
A closer look at how ITC turns the digital transition of small businesses in Africa into a sustainable proposition.
In a rapidly evolving world, the green and digital transition is surging forward at an unprecedented pace, capturing the spotlight in media headlines and global conversations. These two transformative journeys, running in parallel but closely entwined, hold the key to addressing pivotal challenges concerning environmental sustainability, economic growth, energy security, public health, innovation, and resilience.
They are the threads that weave together the fabric of a more sustainable, prosperous, and resilient future for our societies. The FastTrackTeam at the International Trade Centre (ITC) supports small business’ growth of digital technology. Given the above, we firmly believe that this growth must occur in harmony with our climate and planet.
A closer look at the environmental impact of tech startups
Over two years ago, we conducted a survey that analysed the environmental impact of almost 80 tech-driven startups in East and West Africa. The results showed that less than half of these companies had put robust strategies to effectively manage their business’s environmental impact. Additionally, less than half were aware of the bandwidth (computing data) their company consumed.
Yet, an astonishing 97% of respondents expressed a profound interest in learning how to make their information and communications technology (ICT) operations environmentally sustainable.
In response, ITC joined forces with Sustainable Business Consulting (SBC) in Kenya and B Lab East Africa to craft tailor-made training programmes that address the precise needs and aspirations of these tech pioneers.
These training modules delve into energy efficiency, sustainable data storage, energy management opportunities, electronic waste management, and the broader spectrum of ICT sustainability standards, among others.
The benefits of sustainable practices
You may wonder why these startups, primarily concerned with business survival and growth, would invest in such training. The answer lies in the tangible benefits they derive. By embracing sustainability practices, these companies can significantly reduce office costs, proactively prepare for impending regulations, position themselves for valuable sustainability certifications, and become more attractive to impact investors who are placing a growing emphasis on responsible business practices.
Our journey has been paved with collaboration and expertise, thanks to our partnership with Gladys Kivati, the visionary founder of Sustainable Business Consulting. Together, we have developed the “Greening ICT” training programme that looks at Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Data Storage, E-Waste Management, and ICT Sustainability Certification.
This in-person and online training has helped transform numerous tech companies across Africa. It is now accessible to a global audience through the ITC SME Trade Academy, where eager minds can further their sustainability journey.
In our continued commitment to nurturing sustainable tech ecosystems across Africa, we are currently reforming the “Greening ICT” training together with the Institutions and Enterprises team at ITC, turning it into a “Training of Trainers” initiative tailored for tech hubs in Africa. The programme is in its pilot phase, engaging with two hubs in Africa, with plans to expand and empower more hubs in 2024.