When we think about “biodiversity”, we usually think about birds and butterflies. However it’s crucial that we begin looking beyond and consider that 70% of Namibians depend on biodiversity and natural resources for their livelihood. Nature has age-old wisdom that can be applied to our growth as an economy and culture.
Driven by the knowledge that Namibia is an ideal landscape to create digital strategies aimed at adding value to the people and their ecosystem - we welcomed over 40 participants from various companies and entrepreneurial ventures within the tech, gamification, tourism, and conservation sectors to the well anticipated Lab of Tomorrow biodiversity sprint, in collaboration with GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit).
What better way to help its biodiversity than by ideating digital, biodiversity-based businesses in the conservation and tourism landscapes, and capitalizing on the expertise and resources of its local population?
Lab of tomorrow is a business development programme aimed at creating entrepreneurial solutions for development challenges. The design of the workshop focused on uniting design thinkers from across the globe to find digitized solutions in support of biodiversity protection and tourism in Namibia. With the desired result of establishing new ventures with self-sustaining business models owned by private sector actors or new partnerships to make a sustainable impact.
The project was initiated by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).
During the 4-day period of the 16th Lab of Tomorrow biodiversity sprint, participants were divided into five teams and tasked to use their strengths and expertise, alongside their local business coaches to produce sustainable entrepreneurial ventures. Each team was given a particular sub challenge parameter in which to ideate, ranging from finding digital wildlife experiences for tourism & zoos to discovering digital co-creation opportunities for local artisans.
At the opening of the sprint Mr. Teofilus Nghitila, Executive Director of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism shared a few insights on the adverse impacts of Covid-19, in which we saw countless changes not only to our structural lives but also the resulting effects it had on our tourism industry and the need for “diversification of local income streams and biodiversity protection going hand in hand in Namibia. The lab of tomorrow focuses on developing new digital business solutions for this. This will benefit Namibia as well as other countries with a strong biodiversity economy.”
The ideation phase was set as the foundation for the teams to present to a pool of local and international jury members and investors. On the 31st of March, the teams shared their insights and discoveries for potentially viable opportunities.
After which, the teams presenting the business ideas will be evaluated, based on their potential to develop businesses. The promising business ideas will be further supported during a 2-month incubation program entailing tailor-made business training. At the end of the incubation program, the business ideas will have the opportunity to pitch in front of selected investors and will be supported to enter the market phase.
While Namibia is recognized as a biodiversity champion, the post-Covid landscape made prevalent the value of investing in opportunities of innovations and economic resilience using digital technology to tackle challenges linked to deforestation, poaching, and human wildlife conflict to mention a few. From mapping the impact of climate change to using artificial intelligence to restore biodiversity, digital solutions are being applied to preserve natural habitats and protect species, while allowing for growth through ecology-based economic development. As a result, there are many opportunities for foreign investment.