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The winning business concept involved producing eco-friendly coal sourced from Marula nuts.


KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (09 October 2022) – A business plan to create a cheap source of energy using “eco-friendly coal” sourced from Marula nuts has landed a trio of Grade 11 learners top spot in a national green entrepreneurship competition – with prizes that include bursaries, tablets, R20,000 in seed funding and a trip to Silicon Valley.

The three learners from Sibusiswe Comp Tech High School in KwaZulu-Natal were announced as winners at the Step Up 2A Green Start-Up National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards in Johannesburg. Second place went to learners from LEAP in Alexandra for their “eco log brick” concept, and third place went to a team from Gauteng’s Buhlebuzile School for their plan to extract raw materials from electronic devices.

The KZN’s team-winning business concept involved producing eco-friendly coal sourced from Marula nuts. They recognised the insufficiency of coal as an energy source and decided to create an environmentally friendly alternative.

“I think the judges liked our idea because of the potential to disrupt the coal industry and because it would help the community in many ways,” said Zanele Khwela from the winning team.

“I still can’t believe we have won; I need someone to wake me up from this dream,” said fellow team member Tiffany Ogbonnaya. “I still need to tell my mom – she’s the one who told me this team was going to win. Now we have to be practical and do more research to make this idea a reality.”

The Step Up 2 A Green Start Up National Youth Green Entrepreneurship Programme, run by youth development agency Primestars, has over the last eight years shown nearly 100,000 youngsters how they hold the power to be a positive force for both the planet and job-hungry South Africans, by harnessing environmental challenges as new business opportunities.

“To create entrepreneurs and reduce our high unemployment rate, our youth will need to learn skills and develop competencies that will enable them to create businesses and become gainful employers in a circular, restorative, inclusive and clean economy,” said Primestars MD Martin Sweet at the event.

The award ceremony marks the last stage of the 2022 instalment of the Step Up 2A Start-Up programme. In the days running up to the event, learners and teachers had also participated in a business boot camp in Johannesburg, with workshops led by representatives from a few of the programme partners, including Nedbank, Johannesburg Business School, Uber, Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge, Raizcorp and Clicks.

Photo Cred: Step Up 2A Green Start-Up National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards | Supplied

With Prizes valued over R5 million, prizes for learners include a trip to Silicon Valley sponsored by Sage/EGL Institute, degree bursaries from Richfield to the value of R112,000, bursaries to the Johannesburg Business School Entrepreneurship Programme; access to business incubator Razicorp’s P3 programme and Seed Academy’s internship programme; seed funding from YouthStart Foundation; vouchers from Clicks; and tablets from Sizwe Africa IT Group. Prizes for teachers also include tablets, as well as an invitation to attend Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Circle of Excellence Conference. Additional prizes were pledged on the spot by Signa Group, EOH and Proudly South African at the event.

The Step Up 2A Green Start-Up programme consists of four stages:

  • The Edutainment Feature Film (Karabo’s Kitchen), which tackles the potential of social and environmental entrepreneurship, using a network of cinemas to reach thousands of young people.
  • The Entrepreneurs Tool Kit, that provides a practical step-by-step guide based on the Lean Start-up methodology.
  • The STEP UP 2A START UP National Youth Entrepreneurship Competition, where the ideas of school teams are heard, tested, and supported.
  • The Boot Camp and National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards.

Martin Sweet says that Primestars is extremely passionate about this programme.

“We are honoured to have sponsors on board that share the same passion for the programme and the potential it holds in offering young South Africans a better future,” concludes Martin Sweet.

Sources: Step Up 2A Green Start-Up National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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