Tanzania’s green startups tap blue economy wealth

What you need to know:

  • In June, the Tanzanian government stressed that the blue economy agenda would be its top priority in order to leverage untapped economic opportunities available at sea and in other Tanzanian water bodies.

Nairobi. Startups in Tanzania are busy attracting investment for operations along a 1,424 km coastline as they look to build on opportunities in the blue economy, support biodiversity and build resilience to climate change.

In June, the Tanzanian government stressed that the blue economy agenda would be its top priority in order to leverage untapped economic opportunities available at sea and in other Tanzanian water bodies.

Since then, Africa’s red-hot venture capital scene has not delivered on funding for climate action projects in the sector but a number of startups are working hard to change that.

Key to their hopes is the rollout of matchmaking platforms for investors and entrepreneurs working in the ocean, or blue economy sector. In September, EU-led BlueInvest Africa convened a business-to-business (B2B) meeting in Seychelles in a bid to unlock crucial financing for blue economy startups. That included three from Tanzania.

Eco-Act, a Tanzanian startup firm manufacturing plastic products from recycled plastic waste, is in the VC market for funds to purchase machines in a bid to ramp up production. ENdep Limited, an energy services company that provides customized end-to-end solutions, is also seeking funding to scale, while NovFeed wants to scale bacteria-based protein feed for the aquaculture industry.

“Tanzania is endowed with the Indian Ocean and three major inland lakes. Therefore, the blue economy is of utmost relevance in uplifting the economic livelihoods of her citizens. It is my expectation that the BlueInvest Africa event will open doors to meet investors and technology partners crucial for realizing the full potential of (the) blue economy in Tanzania,” said ENdep chief executive officer Rugola Mtandu. ENdep creates a solar-powered plant providing fish refrigeration storage to support women and young traders.

Cooling is offered as a service to smallholders, suppliers and aggregators to preserve food quality and reduce post-harvest loss, at an affordable price. ENdep also offers affordable rental of solar cold rooms.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of a third startup, NovFeed is looking to help the aquaculture industry grow sustainably. Diana Orembe’s groundbreaking experience with the production of bacteria-based protein for feed, particularly aquaculture is tipped to help reduce the carbon footprint of food waste. “We take food waste that would normally go to the dumpsite and add our well-characterised and safe-for-human-consumption bacteria,” she explained.

“We put these inputs into our proprietary biology and equipment system, through the bacteria fermentation process and end up with a high performance and cost-effective protein ingredient for feed, notably aquaculture.”

According to Orembe, this helps local solutions to the challenges facing fish farmers in Tanzania and potentially the region. NovFeed produces cost-effective fish feed based on indigenous, locally produced, and sustainable ingredients and will seek investments to boost production.

Orembe was inspired to start NovFeed while studying microbiology, where she saw how microbes could be used as a source of food for fish.

This comes as the EU plans to launch a $140 million intervention in Tanzania aimed at contributing to a climate-resilient blue economy in Tanzanian coastal areas - particularly around Zanzibar and the country’s Indian Ocean Exclusive Economic Zone - for the benefit of the economy and local communities, and for the preservation of the environment.

The support is expected to stimulate an industry which despite its significant potential, has not received enough policy attention. Meanwhile, BlueInvest is also pushing for Blue Bonds, to create a fund worth $15 million over 10 years to support projects to improve the sustainability of fisheries.

Seychelles is the first country in the world to use this fundraising mechanism for fisheries activities. In Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island state off the coast of mainland Tanzania, ocean-based activities contribute over 29 percent to GDP and employ 33 percent of its labour force, while tourism accounts for another 30 percent of its GDP. Additionally, 98 percent of Zanzibar’s foreign trade is maritime-based.

Already, Brussels and Dodoma have partnered to support projects in sustainable agriculture in coastal areas and in Zanzibar, as well as the development of renewable energies, sustainable cities, investments and community-based activities promoting livelihood and climate change adaptation.

Worldwide, trillions of dollars are being spent to stimulate the economies of coastal communities, offering an opportunity to ensure that the focus is on sustainable activities, such as protecting coastlines using mangroves instead of concrete structures and improving waste-water management to cut ocean pollution and boost marine tourism.

New financial mechanisms are also being tested by the global environmental organisation, The Nature Conservancy, to try and boost sustainable solutions, including insurance for natural infrastructure like coral reefs which help protect coastlines from storm surges, and blue bonds for ocean conservation.