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Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr calls for further investment in sustainable African start-ups

With significant investments in Africa’s green energy start-ups in 2020, a growing commitment to the sustainability sector is clear–but ensuring the future of eco-friendly businesses depends on continued investment across the continent.

During a panel discussion at the Africa Tech Festival, Amujae Leader and Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, discussed the many ways that her city has supported start-ups that are taking an environmentally-conscious approach to drive socio-economic development through the Transform Freetown 4-year development plan. 

Launched by Mayor Aki-Sawyerr in 2019, Transform Freetown seeks to improve the quality of life for Freetonians, engaging with focus group participants to understand the key needs of residents before working with technical experts to translate the findings into measurable targets. So far, according to Mayor Aki-Sawyerr, “we’ve stimulated a whole ecosystem of business right from the self-employed to businesses,” which has encouraged economic growth.  

A key example of Mayor Aki-Sawyerr and Transform Freetown’s work can be seen in the tricycle garbage collection initiative, which since 2019 has provided over 1,000 household waste collection jobs to people within local communities. The scheme has expanded rapidly since its inception, bringing together several youth and activist groups under a unified business plan, proving that sustainable initiatives can be economically viable. Mayor Aki-Sawyerr stressed that the tricycle initiative was a response to “the needs of the city – and we want these to happen. Our door is open, come talk to us.”

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr also emphasized that the economy cannot simply rely on big corporations – rather, it is investment in the ecosystem of small business owners that “create the jobs we need to see.” With “60% of employment in the informal sector,” such as local food and goods markets, Sierra Leone is seeing an increase in informal workers leveraging new digital modes of engagement to grow their businesses. Mayor Aki-Sawyerr highlighted the work of local women who, during the pandemic, have set up online purchasing from their market stalls. Initiatives like these have created a vital bridge between local business and the wider economy, she said. 

During her closing remarks, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr called for further investment in and recognition of smaller businesses: 

“I really want to encourage more local authorities, more governments, to recognize the value that start-ups bring.”

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr was joined on the panel by Mark Victor, Governance, Risk & Compliance Partner at Deloitte, and Grace Wachori, Partnerships & Engagement Lead at B Lab East Africa.

Watch the full session here: https://atf.app.swapcard.com/event/africa-tech-festival-2021/planning/UGxhbm5pbmdfNzA2NDAw (Note: registration required).

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