South Africa is developing at a rapid pace. While this is a sign of an economic boom, to Siyanda Qabaka, it’s a possible environmental red flag. The co-founder of Earth Free Environmental Consultancy with Lwando Ruyeni, Siyanda is passionate about environmental management.
“We need to consider the environment and develop the country in the best way possible by taking into account the pros and cons of all projects. This includes encouraging public participation to help communities understand what each development will bring or take away. For instance, a new development might yield certain benefits but it could also be taking something away from the community. It could contaminate grazing fields or lead to health problems later on.”
This doesn’t mean that he is against development. On the contrary, Siyanda realises development in South Africa and Africa is a big business opportunity. “We want to grow the consultancy to be bigger and compete with bigger organisations. We know that it took them years to build their reputation but our vision is to get there sooner, hopefully, through partnerships that add value to our consultancy. We want to have offices around the country and, at a later stage, around Africa,” he explains.
His passion and his wish for the government to be strict about enforcing existing environmental legislation stem from his conviction that without undertaking environmental impact assessments and management programmes to prevent harming the environment, all developments will be to our detriment.
“Our actions have created global warming. We have to try by all means to protect the environment because we are not the only people who need it. Future generations also need to reap the benefits of a healthy planet.”
He decided to become an environmental entrepreneur in the second year of his studies at the Cape Town University of Technology. “The course included classes on entrepreneurial skills, where we were advised to consider going into business because there’s only so many jobs that the economy can create.”
While gaining valuable experience working at an environmental company, he realised that his field didn’t have a lot of young black business owners. This makes the story of Earth Free Environmental Consultancy (EFEC) all the more powerful as it’s helping to transform the industry. It also shows young people that there are opportunities beyond other, more visible sectors. “It became one of my goals to try and bring the environmental aspect of development and industry to previously disadvantaged people and communities.” The company does this by education communities and employing young people.
In 2017 EFEC was accepted on the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme. The 18-month programme offers intensive skills training workshops, face-to-face mentorship, and access to funds and markets. Entrepreneurs are upskilled in all aspects of running a successful business – from costing and pricing, marketing & PR, to financial management and human resources.
Siyanda’s Tholoana mentor, Corinne Clack says that EFEC can be used as an example to other young entrepreneurs on how to grow your company in a healthy and planned manner. “The shareholders are 100% hands-on with their business and active in implementing thought-through growth strategies where required. Initially, the business showed signs of outgrowing the existing structures and capacity it had at that time. Due to excellent teamwork between the shareholders and the Tholoana team, structures were broadened and capacity increased for the future, resulting in – among others – an immediate and ongoing increase in job creation and operational capacity.”
Since joining the Tholoana programme, EFEC has seen a phenomenal growth of 695% and an impressive 60% increase in jobs created, specifically in the crucial segment of unemployed previously disadvantaged youth.
Essentially, EFEC is more than a business. It is also a social project. “This is where being part of the Tholoana programme really helped us. We were never exposed to running an organisation. The programme exposed us to some of the things we were lacking like financial, people management skills and so on. We got to understand risk and sustainability. We know the value of skills management training for directors because that’s where failure starts; with directors who can’t manage cash flow and other aspects of being a fully operational business.”
For more information about Earth Free Environmental Consultancy, contact Siyanda Qabaka or call him on 0475310970 / 073 465 7685.
For more information about the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme visit their website.