Ghana is regarded as a West African hub of invention, with growing numbers of young people looking at local solutions to local problems. In December, Ghana is hosting two conferences on innovation and technology.
Alhassan Baba Muniru, co-founder of the Recycle Up company, wants to clean up the natural environment in Ghana.
But he also wants to educate, empower and support young people to pursue conservation - and to make money while doing it.
At the December Innovation Africa summit in Accra, he plans to advocate for more support for young inventors, especially those looking to do green business.
“Even while we are in school we are already entrepreneurial so, for me, I can be able to do a formal job but the freedom of being able to bring my own ideas into action and really take charge of doing something practical and something which also makes society better - it's much more fulfilling,” said Muniru.
Part of Recycle Up's work includes collecting plastic from schools to sell to people like Nelson Boateng, whose company mixes it with sand to create bricks.
Muniru and Boateng walk through the factory in the outskirts of Accra, where plastic from across the city is shredded, melted, mixed and then molded into bricks to be used for roads, pavements and buildings.
Boateng, who also manufactures plastic bags, said the bricks are his way of helping to clean up the environment and to provide jobs.
But while Ghana is seeing a spurt in innovation, he said the country needs a lot more infrastructure to support environmentally-friendly business.
“For innovations in Ghana, it’s very, very difficult if you don’t really have the heart. You will lose hope because honestly speaking when I was doing my polybag that is polluting the environment, I was having a lot of money. I have money, there wasn’t any problem. When I started this, when you go to the bank they don’t know this, they want something that the money will be flowing, not something you people don’t know - and not something you say you are trying to save the environment, nobody will mind you on that,” he said.
Supporting local technology startups is expected to be discussed at another December conference in Accra - the second annual Ghana Tech Summit.
Ghanaian inventor Andrew Quao is working to ease the burden on hospitals with technology that allows pharmacies to diagnosis and monitor chronic and tropical diseases.
He said African healthcare sectors like Ghana’s are ripe for innovative solutions.
“I think it is growing in the right direction, I think the climate is good, you have got a good mix of local talent and experience and expats coming in and seeing Ghana as a good point to start, so that also works. We have the ‘brain gain.’ The diasporans - people like myself who schooled in the U.S. - coming back and trying to bring innovations in country,” said Quao.
While both public and private sectors are backing innovation, entrepreneurs hope to see a swell of support from the Innovation Africa and Ghana Tech summits.