Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

African entrepreneurs changing trash to cash

19.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
The question of climate change, environmental protection and waste management tops the agenda of many international conferences around the world today. This shows how important proper waste management is, and how much it affects every living thing on the planet. Many government, organisations and even individuals are trying to clear off and properly dispose of some of the waste that has become a major problem for the world today. The most recent example is the #trashtag challenge which swept over the social media and motivated individuals to clear up waste dumps in their neighbourhoods.

According to the World Bank, global waste will increase by 70% by 2050 if nothing is done to provide substantial waste management programs. The world is currently producing over 2.1 billion tons of solid waste every year, and Africa is among the continents producing the highest amount of waste. It should be noted that while more than one third of solid waste produced in the developed world is recovered through recycling and composting, only 4% of waste is recycled in Africa. To make matters worse, Africa has become a dumping ground for waste from many developed countries, especially from Europe.

It is commonly said that “inside every problem lies an opportunity”. It is true that the piling waste in Africa is a major problem that needs quick action. Nevertheless, this solid waste has become a big opportunity for many African entrepreneurs who have decided to make money out of the trash.

African entrepreneurs making money out of trash 

Olabanke Banjo

Olabanke Banjo is a Nigerian woman who is doing her community some good by recycling/upcycling used tires to create beautiful and ultra-modern home and office furniture. She got inspired to recycle tires after she saw a pile of tyres about to be disposed by her neighbours and decided to collect and put them to use. Today, Olanbanke Banjo as created Cyrus45 Factory, a company which focuses on recycling and producing furniture out of waste tires.

Makafui Awuku

He is an African entrepreneur whose main aim is to make something good out of plastic waste in Ghana. With this in mind, he created Mckingtorch Creatives in 2018, a clean-tech company involved in turning plastic waste into art and other useful objects such as bins and foot wears. Makafui partnered with a water production company in Ghana and built a fence with over 10,000 used plastic bottles in 2018 to mark World Environment Day. He also built a giant Christmas tree with over 6,000 plastic bottles. As Makafui dreams of ridding Ghana of plastic waste, he hopes to create awareness among other young Africans who can use such opportunities to make an honest living while helping the continent at the same time.

Alshaimaa Omar

Alshaimaa Omar is a young Egyptian female chemical engineer who is engaged in turning organic waste to renewable energy and organic fertilizer for farmers, thereby reducing environmental pollution. The young woman was able to defile the gender stereotypes of her community to create Biomax, a company in charge of turning agricultural waste into biogas. Apart from making the environment a better place to live in, Alshaimaa Omar is creating jobs for other young people in her community.

Today, the company has changed their strategy by giving biogas in exchange for animal waste. This waste is used to make organic fertilizers. Her company has also been able to come up with “Ferto-Max” and “Green Ferti”; new liquid fertilizers that help in increasing crop quality and quantity. Today, BioMax is considered as the second largest local company involved in biogas and organic fertilizer production in Egypt.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Bethelehem is another African entrepreneur who saw a golden opportunity in old car tires. Growing up in      Zenabwork, a poor village in Addis Ababa, Bethlehem realized that there was much she could do with the skills of the craftsmen in her community and also with the old car tires and discarded cloths that were lying around and polluting her community. In this light, she created SoleRebels, which is the fastest growing and most popular African footwear brand in the world. The footwear they produce is 100% made by hand using locally sourced and recycled material.

It should be noted that SoleRebels is the first footwear brand to be certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation. Today, Bethlehem’s eco-friendly footwear is sold in over 50 countries around the world. Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu does not only make a lot of cash from the trash around her community, she also empowers members of her community by providing them with jobs so they can improve their livelihoods.

How can the government encourage such ventures?

It is obvious that the government of any country cannot solve all the problems the country is facing. Nevertheless, they can assist those who have ideas and potentials to build a cleaner and eco-friendly community while reducing unemployment by creating jobs; no matter how informal they may be. This can be done through subventions and organisation of free training programs on how to recycle waste.

African governments should also review their tax systems, especially for small companies that are involved in recycling. This will enable waste entrepreneurs do their jobs efficiently and be able to pay the people they work with, so as to ensure continuity.

Domestic and industrial waste (especially plastic) is a big threat to the entire world if not handled with care. Thanks to recycling schemes put in place by individuals and organisations, some of this waste has been put to good use. Notwithstanding, there is still a lot that needs to be done in order to find a lasting solution to proper waste management and recycling, especially in Africa.

Article from AFRIC editorial

Photo credit: google images/ illustration

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