Africa is home to some of the most innovative and sustainable global solutions in 2016

The 2016 Sustainia100 presents this year’s 100 most innovative, available, scalable and sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Almost a third of this year’s solutions are either developed or rolled out in Africa. From pay-as-you-go off-grid solar energy in Kenya to electric mini-cabs in South Africa, we can say that Africa is a fertile ground for disruptive opportunities.

Africa innovation Sustainia

After reviewing more than 1,200 solutions from all over the world, Sustainia has chosen 100 of the most innovative and sustainable solutions that exist in the world today and collected them in its annual Sustainia100 publication. This year’s edition is the fifth of its kind, making it clearer than ever before that Africa is home to innovators with new sustainable business models and approaches. For example, the incredible electric mini-cab, Mellowcab, can soon be spotted in the biggest South African cities, providing low-cost and eco-friendly transport for city-dwellers. Further to the north, investments from the Chinese Railroad Group Ltd. has secured a 34 km long light-rail system in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, which causes less congestion, less CO2 emissions from transport, and easier, faster commutes, much needed for the rapidly growing city. These two examples show that sustainability increasingly drives development in cities and communities around Africa. 

Disrupting the Electrical Grid

Disruptive energy production and distribution represents one of the biggest trends identified in this year’s Sustainia100. Businesses and communities are improving existing electrical grids by developing new technologies and applying innovative business models for distributed renewable energy production, energy savings, and storage. Solar power is central to many of the solutions, including those found in Africa. Nigerian company ColdHubs installs cold rooms fueled by nothing but the sun, which allows farmers to keep their produce fresh, while Kenyan greenhouse producer Illuminum Greenhouses uses solar energy to power its advanced greenhouse system, which includes five sensors that monitor temperature, humidity, and soil moisture.

One of the most innovative solutions from the new Sustainia100 comes from Nairobi-based company M-KOPA, which has already connected more than 340,000 homes in East Africa to solar power. The company points its success to its smart solar systems and its ingenious business model: An M-KOPA customer purchases the solar system with an initial deposit of $35 followed by 365 daily payments of just 50 cents (US), which is less than the daily cost of kerosene. The system comes with a battery, a phone charger, and a SIM card; the customer’s payment via mobile phone immediately activates the battery in the solar system, which then provides power. After a year of daily payments, the customer owns the solar system outright. 

Sustainable solutions to African problems

The Sustainia100 proves that disruptive sustainable solutions pop up in every corner of the African continent. Businesses are increasingly seizing the systemic opportunities that emerge from the challenges the African countries face. Water shortage, rising temperatures and unreliable energy systems represent risks that are solved by new groundbreaking and sustainable solutions, which are not only good for society but also good for the bottom line. Sustainia100 pays tribute to these solutions, as they help light the way towards a more sustainable, healthier and happier world.

The 2016 Sustainia100 is freely available at

This guest article was written by Joachim Christensen at Sustainia.

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