The rainy season has exposed the drainage systems in Africa for what it truly is, abused and under-maintained. Heavy downpours usually leave behind a backlog of trash in their wake. Thus, making uncollected or ill-disposed trash a massive problem, especially Africa. According to a World Bank Urban Development Series report, Africa currently produces just about 70 million tons of waste every year. With its rapid urbanization and growing economies, waste production in Africa will exceed 160 million tons by the year 2025. Sadly, only about 10% of the waste generated every day in Africa is collected. The bulk of it is disposed of in illegal dumpsites, gutters or drainages in African Cities, limiting input for waste recycling.
Thankfully, some African socio-preneurs are waking up to the potential of a multi-billion-dollar waste recycling industry just like in the USA and Europe. These entrepreneurs are not just driving sustainable cities but they are creating jobs, building wealth and saving Africa’s natural environment in the process.
Bilikiss Adebiyi Abiola – Wecyclers, Nigeria
Bilikiss is the CEO and co-founder of Wecyclers, a for-profit waste recycling social enterprise working to help communities reclaim their neighbourhoods from unmanaged waste. Founded in 2012, Wecyclers uses low-cost cargo bicycles called “wecycles” to provide convenient recycling services to households in Lagos by using an SMS-based incentives system.
Thato Kgatlhanye & Rea Ngwane – Repurpose Schoolbags, South Africa
Thato and Rea were just 21 and 22 years old respectively when they founded Repurpose Schoolbags. It is a green initiative to help hundreds of school children in their local community in South Africa. Their idea provides recycled and low-cost school bags with an interesting twist. Their young business collects and recycles plastic waste into school bags for local disadvantaged students. But that’s not just it. These “upcycled” plastic bags have a solar panel in the flap, which charges as the children walk to and back from school. The bags also have strips of reflective material, an added safety design to make the children more visible to traffic in the early hours.
Andrew Mupuya – YELI, Uganda
Andrew Mupuya was just 16 years old when he founded YELI, Uganda’s first paper bag production company. He got the idea to start this business in 2008 when the Ugandan government banned the use of plastic bags to reduce the environmental damage it was causing. Today, the business has grown quite dramatically. Andrew’s paper bag company now employs over 20 people and produces more than 20,000 paper bags every week.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu – soleRebels, Ethiopia
Bethlehem grew up in Zenabwork, a poor village in the suburbs of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Today, she’s the founder and owner of soleRebels, the most popular and fastest-growing African footwear brand in the world! SoleRebels’ footwear is unique because it is 100% made by hand using locally-sourced and recycled materials like old car tyres, discarded clothes and hand-loomed organic fabrics. She uses experienced and highly-skilled local craftsmen to transform these recycled products into world-class footwear products.
Lorna Rutto – EcoPost, Kenya
Lorna Rutto left her bank job in 2009 to start EcoPost, one of Kenya’s biggest plastic recycling businesses. Her business recycles plastic waste, which is collected from dumpsites and garbage cans across Nairobi, to manufacture fencing posts. These posts, used to fence houses and forest reserves, are fast becoming a preferred alternative to timber.