The defining challenge of our times is climate change. No country is immune from the dramatic planetary shifts that are producing everything from droughts and massive hurricanes to widespread crop failures and scarcities of freshwater.
The centrally located and landlocked nation of Zambia is no exception. Record levels of drought over the past two decades have created regions of food insecurity in many areas. In the past two years, some 2.5 million Zambians have faced severe food shortages.
Zambia does have some natural advantages to work with, however. For example, it holds 60% of south-central Africa’s freshwater resources. Local authorities have achieved remarkable clean energy gains by tapping into hydroelectric power generation. Zambia gets 85% of its electricity from hydroelectric dams. It operates just one coal-fired plant.
It’s significant that Zambia is a signatory to the Paris Climate Accords which has called for the elimination of coal plants worldwide by the year 2040. Global analysts have noted the proactive way that the private business sector in Zambia has stepped up to meet the responsibilities of climate change mitigation.
A company that exemplifies such efforts is SAVENDA Group, the Pan-African supply management and logistics giant founded by Clever Mpoha in 1997. Mpoha sees considerable challenges ahead in shaping business practices around the inevitable mandates that will fall out of official mitigation policies.
But he also views this as a time of opportunity. Mpoha believes money, jobs and economic expansion can result from converting the old fossil fuel-dominated economy to one underpinned by clean-green energy systems.
“Instead of producing energy, we began to focus on ways to save it,” Mpoha said in a recent interview with The Economist. “We’re working diligently on creating innovative avenues for our country to become more energy efficient.”
Under the leadership of Mpoha, SAVENDA Group has already made significant investments in green technologies. Just one outcome of this policy was the creation of SAVENDA Electric. It became the first company in Zambia to begin manufacturing and selling energy-efficient LED light bulbs. They’re built by Zambian labor for Zambians. The bulbs are already enjoying significant market penetration and selling briskly across the country. The product line includes ceiling lights, streetlights and tube lights.
Clever Mpoha said another area where SAVENDA can make a significant difference is in ICT –- Information and Communications Technology. In fact, it was trading in cell phones that launched the company 20 years ago. Mpoha has steadfastly remained and pursued new opportunities in the ICT space ever since.
During the past two decades, the SAVENDA vision for ICT has evolved considerably.
The company has been working cooperatively with international partners, especially Israel, in building cable and fiber optics infrastructure platforms that will be centered in Lusaka, the location of SAVENDA headquarters.
“Zambia is not only well-positioned as a logistics hub,” Mpoha said, “but our nation is also extremely well suited to be the African leader in ICT and telecom. That’s because most ICT networks must pass through Zambia to connect the surrounding region. Lusaka is the logical choice for creating an African cyber center.”
But how does ICT address the problem of climate change? Clever Mpoha offers three examples:
- Emission within the ICT sector itself can be driven down through the introduction of more efficient equipment and networks.
- By reducing emissions through leveraging energy efficiency in other sectors. An example might be substituting travel for teleconferencing. Another is replacing physical objects with electronic implements, a process called “dematerialization.” An example is moving away from cutting down trees to make newspapers and switching to digital formats for reading materials.
- ICT-based systems can provide superior capabilities for monitoring monitor weather and environmental conditions nationally and worldwide. The real-time data and AI-assisted database analysis of weather and environmental information lead to better management and reaction times to natural conditions that affect everything from agriculture to the logistics of transportation.
The ICT realm holds a special place in Clever Mpoha’s strategic vision for SAVENDA. That’s because it provides incredible potential for innovation. It encourages new ideas and helps forward-looking companies move beyond “the old way of doing things.”
From the beginning, Mpoha has maintained that innovation and “fresh thinking” have been the lynchpin of SAVENDA’s success.
The future is digital. Mpoha said that the fast-paced development of things like IoT (the Internet of Things), cloud computing, 5G networks and more will result in “a tsunami of data.” SAVENDA is determined to stay ahead of that trends and build the capability to operate efficiently in a data-centric business environment.
Furthermore, experts say that the very data centers that will run the digital revolution will also, ironically, present a fast-growing source of carbon pollution. An enormous amount of raw power is required to maintain the servers that store all that information.
Clever Mpoha said SAVENDA Group will remain cognizant of these kinds of issues as it embraces ICT and digital technology. He said the inevitable growth of this realm cannot counterbalance the energy conservation gains already made by Zambian businesses.