Africa: Youth Create Businesses That Are Geared to Protecting the Environment

27 November 2018

Seoul — An organic pesticide safe for farmers and the environment, and carbonised fuel briquettes made from agricultural waste materials and organic waste are all business ideas that promote a green economy.

The entrepreneurs who started these businesses are among the winners of this year's 'Greenprenuers' Programme, which is designed by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) to supercharge green growth start-ups. It was run with GGGI, Youth Climate Labs and Student Energy (SE).

The programme helps young entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas "take their idea from concept to business plan, for a solution that positively impacts the future of sustainable energy; water and sanitation; sustainable landscapes (forestry and agriculture); or green city development."

"It was very amazing to be selected among the 10 finalists out of over 345 applicants from around the world," said Brian Kakembo Galabuzi who founded Waste to Energy Youth Enterprise (WEYE) Clean Energy Company Ltd in Uganda. It makes carbonised fuel briquettes from agricultural waste materials and organic waste.

In Uganda, 80 percent of solid waste is organic and can be used to produce cheaper and cleaner cooking charcoal briquettes that can substitute firewood.

The prize winner told IPS how he addressed the grassroots challenges he experienced with GGGI's help.

He said like many young start-ups his biggest challenge was the lack of adequate finance, and limited experience that resulted in a process of trial and error.

"In the beginning, our targets were not that high so it was easy to achieve them, but through the 'Greenprenuers' programme we have learned to set bold targets and stand by them until we can achieve them," said Galabuzi.

Galabuzi added that 'Greenprenuers' helps with the two-most crucial requirements for the green growth start-ups: "It offers the right skills and knowledge through its 10-week web-based programme, and which is accompanied by an opportunity to win seed funding at the end of the programme."

Galabuzi also explained that the programme helped him develop a well-structured business plan. "GGGI has also provided the seed funding through the 'Greenprenuers' programme, which has availed us finances to test out our business plan in a field seen as high risk by financing institutions in Uganda."

Students of the programme were also given an opportunity to receive free consultations and be mentored by experts around the world who have built and run their won successful companies and organisations.

"This is something we would have paid a lot of money to get access to in conferences and training workshops, but we got for free," said Galabuzi.

Meanwhile, the award came as a surprise to Jonathan Kent Sorensen, who is from Bumdest in Indonesia. His company produces CountrySide, an organic pesticide that is safe for both the environment and farmers.

Sorensen said through the module training his company was able to specify their target market and reach out to prospective customers. "Through this process, we could determine our package size to fit the local need, then to reasonably determine our prices," he told IPS.

Thanks to the programme, Sorensen's team secured an agreement for the field test with a local agriculture company. "If it was not because of 'Greenprenuers', we might never [have taken] the practical step to turn our research idea to a business idea," said Sorensen.

Sirey Sum and Aaron Sexton from Cambodian Green Infrastructure (CGI) Social Enterprise also agreed that the 10-week course was helpful in turning their idea into a business.

CGI planned to work with the capital city of Phnom Penh to address stormwater and urban green space issues.

After decades of economic growth, Phnom Penh faces stormwater flooding and has very few urban green spaces.

"[The] lean startup model helped us to develop, and quickly adjust our business plan," Sum told IPS.

Finally, the prize winners shared their future vision to take the next step.

Galabuzi said that for his company this would be to collaborate with the GGGI-Uganda office to take his idea to public institutions first, and hopefully later to private intuitions.

"Through these collaboration, we can replicate this model to save the forest in Uganda. Also, it is essential to have access to affordable financing options," he said.

"Youth unemployment in Uganda is so high yet the youth have great business ideas that if supported can create more jobs and boost the country's economy. We need programmes like 'Greenpreneurs' to give us a platform to grow these ideas better into bankable projects or businesses," he added.

Sorensen said that the next step for his company was to conduct a field test and to build a pilot plant with the seed capital. "It is essential for our start-up to have the right marketing method to the local farmers. In doing so, we think that we should work with local government agencies to convince that our product is worth to try."

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