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[OUDTSHOORN] South Africa launched its first clean technology fund last month (30 September) in Johannesburg with around 400 million South African rand (US$39.3 million) ready for its first investments.

The Evolution One fund will inject capital into projects like water treatment technologies, waste management and thin-film solar panel development, says Zuko Kubukeli, an executive director with Inspired Evolution Investment Management, which is managing the fund.

Five clean technology projects in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) are likely to receive their first cheques before the end of the year, Kubukeli told SciDev.Net.

These investments start at US$980,000 and could go as high as US$14.7 million, paid over a period of three to five years.

"We would be happy to see a good mix of clean technology investments and clean power generation," says Andrea Heinzer, investment manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets (SIFEM).

SIFEM has invested US$7.31 million in the new fund as it "contributes to the fight against climate change, which is having a major impact on Africa", Heinzer says.

Jaakko Kangasniemi, managing director of the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (Finnfund) — which has invested US$8 million in the project — says clean technology is a vitally important driver of the region's economic development.

"We are ready to invest opportunistically in those areas where high environmental benefits and economic returns are likely. What best fulfils these criteria is likely to differ from one place to another and evolve as technologies improve and relative prices change. Waste-to-energy, solar water heating and landfill gas are likely to be among the high-potential sectors in Southern Africa," Kangasniemi told SciDev.Net.

According to a report in Engineering News, the fund is targeted to grow to US$98 million by next July.

Kubukeli told SciDev.Net that 13 more projects based in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and South Africa should receive funding early next year.