How two Nigerian companies reuse waste

When I first spoke to Damilola Kadiri, the founder of Wura, earlier this year, my first thought was “unusual”.

Wura is a mobile item sharing application that allows you to donate and receive used items from people near or far from you in Nigeria. These items can be clothes, books, shoes, jewelry, headphones, etc. Anything that is still useful and valuable can be donated on the app.

Early last week, very late Tuesday evening, I spoke to Victor Boyle-Komolafe, founder of GIVO, after several scheduling issues.

Using a community model, GIVO uses technology to collect recyclable materials from individuals, families and businesses, which it transforms into valuable goods. In 2020, the company produced personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, although this is only one aspect of what the company does.

So why did I talk to these two founders?

The global problem

For many people traveling by road in Lagos State, Nigeria, the first sight that greets them is the sprawling Ojota landfill. The site has become quite iconic, and not in a good way; it stinks to heaven and is probably some kind of biohazard.

It serves as one of the dumping grounds for all of the state’s garbage trucks. However, despite all the government’s best efforts, Lagos still has a waste problem, as evidenced by the informal landfills – also known as gutters and canals – which are the waste disposal mechanism for many residents.

But this is not just a Lagos or Nigerian problem. It’s not even an African problem. It’s much bigger; it is a global problem.

Each year, the inhabitants of the planet produce 2.1 billion tons of waste, of which only 16% is recycled. On a positive note, 700 million metric tons of CO2 emissions are prevented from entering the atmosphere.

But, a small – rather gigantic – challenge exists: the world population continues to grow at an alarming rate. Africa is expected to reach close to 2.5 billion people by 2050. Currently, the continent is believed to be home to 1.3 billion people.

Here’s the kicker: as the population grows, the waste grows, and global waste is expected to grow by 70% by 2050.

Essentially, a recycling rate of 16% does not begin to reduce it; there is still a lot of work to do.

Wura’s value proposition

Kadiri launched Wura – which means gold in the Yoruba language – in November 2021. Available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store, it allows users to give and receive used items for free. Wura is the product of Kadiri’s growing interest in sustainability and saving the environment, but also her need to help people by changing their behavior towards the planet.

Since its launch, the application has seen 354 users register and 47 articles distributed.

The give and take cycle involves registering as a user on the platform. So, while a person can see all the different items available on the app, they won’t be able to give or receive anything without signing up and creating an account.

An interesting thing about the app is that a person looking to receive does not pay money for the item. There is a set of golden rules to prevent something untoward from happening. Users are urged to only receive posts from people with a profile picture and to report a donor who insists on collecting money from them.

The idea is to prevent people from throwing away perfectly good items with good reusable value, thereby reducing the waste generated. There are also plans to introduce the ability to donate food, but cultural issues with receiving food from strangers are an obstacle to this.

The app also shows you how your actions affect the environment each time you give or receive.

As Kadiri told me, there are no plans to release the app in the next three to four years. A surprising decision if you ask me, but he has his reasons.

“Right now we’re looking to increase in-app transactions and sign-ups, and then over time what we intend to do is promote sustainable businesses. So I think that it would be an avenue for us to generate profits.As I said, the idea is to change the behavior of people so that they are respectful of the environment.

“Anyone viewing the app probably already has this attitude. With this now, we know that any advertisements or promotions on our platform are strictly eco-friendly products.

Essentially, as people use Wura and start to see how their actions help protect the planet by reducing CO2 emissions when they’re not just throwing things away, their attitudes should change.

Changing attitudes are leading to an increased interest in environmental protection and, consequently, an increased interest in businesses that promote sustainability.

Ambitious? Absoutely. Feasible? May be. It would be interesting to see how it ultimately works out.

GIVO’s circular economy

GIVO or Garbage In, Value Out was born from the participation of Victor Boyle-Komolafe and the Capture Solution team in the Entrepreneurs Plastics Innovation Challenge (EPIC) sponsored by Coca-Cola and the HYBR group in 2018.

EPIC is an innovation challenge aimed at identifying solutions to eliminate plastic waste in Nigeria by seeking sustainable solutions to identify, develop and scale potential circular innovations from entrepreneurs, wherever they are.

Boyle-Komolafe describes GIVO as a technology company and not particularly as a recycling company.

“We entered this space as technicians. We want to save the environment, but we also want to evolve. »

Nothing characterizes the company’s decision more than its partnership with the University of Warwick, UK, De Montfort University and Chatham House as they research the best way to scale sustainable businesses.

What does GIVO do?

As a company, GIVO has two main value propositions: manufacturer and collector. As a manufacturer, the company makes plastic sheeting from recyclable material which it can then sell to people working in the construction and furniture industry. But, Boyle-Komolafe thinks it’s not as scalable as other aspects of the business.

As a collector, GIVO establishes community centers run by women/youth who collect waste within a radius of 2 to 3 kilometers; a deliberate decision, he explains.

“Within a radius of 2 kilometres, there will always be recyclable materials. So you know you have a consistent market share.

From collection to sorting to shredding, the entire process is digitized using the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile apps and 2D scanners. Currently, there are two GIVO centers in Nigeria, and there are plans to launch three more before the end of the first quarter of 2022. According to Boyle-Komolafe, each center collects 90 tons per year. There are also plans to franchise the centers next year, with GIVO receiving a percentage of the revenue.

But he also mentions that collection is driven by incentives.

From the GIVO centers, the company also gathers a lot of data which it can then sell as aggregated data to the government or companies for several uses.

“For example, the government has limited resources and you are trying to plan the next cancer center or a liver care center. All you have to do is browse our database and see the GIVO center collecting the most alcoholic drink or receiving the most alcoholic drinks without a bar or restaurant as a major customer.

Such data would provide information on where there might be an outbreak of liver-related disease and inform government decisions. He also says companies can use it to determine the success of ad campaigns in specific areas.

Tribute to recycling heroes

Kadiri and Boyle-Komolafe see the recycling game as a long-term business. This requires careful planning and execution to ensure that the original goal of sustainability is not lost.

The process starts with educating people and, in GIVO’s case, getting them to understand the circular economy of buy-reuse/recycle-buy.

The work ahead of us is still very tedious and long but also rewarding.

Bolu Abiodun

He is a geek, a Blockchain fan and a tech enthusiast.



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