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Using a sector development agency to mobilize a local green economy: The case of GreenCape in South Africa

Read how GreenCape, through its work across government, business and academia, has generated significant private sector investment and employment in green business, technologies and manufacturing.


South Africa is working at national and subnational levels to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and to secure a cleaner, renewable energy future. In 2011, the national government established the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) 3 to secure electricity from private sector producers to assist in realizing this target. The REIPPP is designed not only to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, but also to stimulate a local renewable energy industry (through the procurement of locally manufactured products), and to contribute to socioeconomic development and environmentally sustainable growth.

In 2010, in direct response to the opportunities to be created by the IRP and anticipated REIPPP, and in response to the unreliable supply of nationally produced electricity, the Western Cape Government, one of the nine provincial (subnational) governments of South Africa, established a sector development agency. The agency, called GreenCape, was set up as a nonprofit organization to support businesses operating in the green economy in the Western Cape. GreenCape has been highly successful in supporting the establishment of the renewable energy sector in the Western Cape and has extended support to other sectors in the green economy.

This case study* outlines how GreenCape was established, how it is structured, what services it offers, and how it has refined its approach over time. It explores why the GreenCape model is successful and the key lessons learned to enable this success. It further illustrates the sector development agency model with some key examples of successful initiatives. Further examples can be found in an Appendix with more Green Cape project results.

*downloadthis publication from the right-hand column of this page.

One of GreenCape’s business support activities is skills development in the renewable energy sector. This photo (from page 9 of the report) shows employees from iSOLAR learning practical skills at the South African Renewable Energy Business Incubator (SAREBI), Atlantis. iSOLAR receives incubation support as part of SAREBI’s work providing nonfinancial assistance to entrepreneurs in the renewable energy industry.

Key Messages

The publication highlights the factors contributing to GreenCape’s success, drawing on the experiences of those involved from the organization’s conception to the present day. The following factors are central to GreenCape’s success in supporting the development of the green economy at subnational level. Further detail on lessons learnt and factors contributing to GreenCape’s sucess can be found in the featured document that can be downloaded from the right-hand column of this page.

  • Strong financial and nonfinancial support from the provincial government, which sees GreenCape as a key partner to support the achievement of its Green Economy goals
  • Strong alignment with national, provincial, and local green economy policies and strategies, while remaining an entity separate from government
  • Strong links to industry across all sectors of the green economy, and a strategic position that allows access to multiple stakeholders (in business/industry, all tiers of government, and civil society)
  • An initial specific focus on renewable energy that helped build its reputation through clear and visible impact
  • A diverse, multidisciplinary team that takes a robust approach to problem solving, while also being able to adapt strategies rapidly to changing circumstances
  • Maintaining an independent view at all times—supported by technical competence, legal independence, and political neutrality.

In the report

This publication contains the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • How GreenCape was established
    • Initial motivation and focus on renewable energy
    • Expanding the focus to the wider green economy
  • GreenCape’s structure, management, and funding
    • Advisory Board
    • Board of Directors
    • Operational control
    • Organizational structure and size
    • Staff
    • External input and oversight
    • Prioritization and decision making at GreenCape
    • Funding
  • GreenCape’s business support activities
    • Box 1: Free, credible, impartial market intelligence
    • Box 2: Policy and regulatory advocacy and support
    • Box 3: Access to networks of key players in government, industry, finance, and academia
    • Box 4: Skills development partnerships
    • Box 5: Free facilitation service to enable businesses to benefit from exchanging underutilized resources, with associated economic and environmental benefits
  • Defining targets and success
  • Factors leading to GreenCape’s success
  • Lessons learned
  • Concluding remarks

This publication from LEDS GP’s Subnational Integration Working Group is authored by GreenCape, a South African sector development agency—an independent organization that bridges the public and private sectors with the goal of enabling growth in a given industry and region.

Suggested Citation

Basson, L., Mulcahy, M., and Bronkhorst, S. (2016) Using a sector development agency to mobilize a local green economy: The case of GreenCape in the Western Cape, South Africa. LEDS in Practice. LEDS Global Partnership.

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