Wanted urgently: Innovators!

Wanted urgently: Innovators!

__#ReImagining resources, rethinking “waste”…

We talk a lot about entrepreneurs on this platform, which is right, but there is another very important ingredient that we should never lose sight of, and that is the role of innovators! When the innovators are entrepreneurs, it is even better! Let me make a bold declaration: Africa’s wealth creation model should be built around #Innovative entrepreneurship.

When I wrote the first draft of this post a few months ago, my mind was focused on #ResourceInnovators, in particular. I was thinking (as I have written before) that we need a generation of entrepreneurs who can innovate around the natural resources of their countries to create products. You know I hate the expression “value added” or even worse, “beneficiation”! The real word is #INNOVATION!

Unlocking the true value of our national resources is all about @RealInnovations! Young entrepreneur in Nigeria, for example, should be asking themselves, “What are the coolest products we can make with oil?”

And in Zimbabwe, at least some young entrepreneurs still need to be asking: “What are the coolest products we can make with platinum?”

But today, as UN Climate Week draws to a close, this has got me thinking of Innovative Entrepreneurship in another way:

__What about the waste “resources” that are being created in our societies as we live day to day?

With 2bn people set to live in our cities within 25 years, the waste business is second only to producing food in urgency and importance.

Now mentioning waste as a “resource” might seem strange at first, but we can say with certainty, that waste of different kinds is something abundantly available in all nations. It is already a crisis. Can it be an opportunity? What is your country doing about it? And with it?

Real entrepreneurs know by now that #Waste products (as much as we must try to avoid them) do not have to be completely “wasted” in their potential to have a positive social and even environmental impact.

For example, “waste” of different kinds was key in business models of at least three of the businesses featured in the recent GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize competition pitch finale in Ghana a few weeks ago:

Banolo Monthe at @MaungoCraft from Botswana transformed #wasted Morula fruits that were being discarded in other manufacturing processes (oil for cosmetics) into indigenous gourmet food products. She got her idea from seeing the fruit lying around the streets, on cars, just rotting.

EcoDudu in Kenya (@EcoduduKe), co-founded by medical student Starlin Farah, took entrepreneurial innovation a different direction… Her production #process uses Black Soldier flies which eat (thereby recycle) urban organic #waste and turn that #waste into organic fertilizer! They also process the mature fly larvae into high protein animal feed… Yes, waste into fertilizer, and into alternative protein food!

The innovative founder of Sesi Technologies (@sesitechgh) from Ghana, Isaac Sesi, also had a business model tacking the problem of #waste… by inventing a moisture detection device for grains specifically to help smallholder farmers reduce post-harvest losses from rotting food.

These are just three examples of the Innovative Entrepreneurship I am talking about…

As I have said before:

# By the time you leave primary school, you should know every #Resource produced in your country.

# By the time you leave secondary school you should know every #Product made with the resources of your country.

# By the time you leave university you should know #How to make every product, produced by the resources of your country.

# And… By the time you finish your homework in the next few weeks… you should also know all about the #Waste produced in your country, too.

That’s not all. If you consider yourself an entrepreneur you should be ready to come up with a NEW product using the resources of your country, including the waste products!

Hey, no pressure now!

You are an entrepreneur. What an opportunity for you! Seize it before someone else does!

To be continued. . .

Image credit: Susan Winters Cook.

Author:Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.

18 Replies to “Wanted urgently: Innovators!”

  1. Afterthought 2.

    My smartphone has a cover made with plastic from Nigerian oil, hehehe! My car has a converter made with Zimbabwean platinum! My Starbucks coffee came from Ethiopia! My soap came from palm oil… Over to you, what questions should we be asking here? What is the moral of the story?

  2. Afterthought 4.

    In a community near Accra, Ghana, people “mine” electronic waste at scrapyards, looking for materials they can re-use, or recycle, or sometimes take them apart and turn into something else… Some of these self-taught techies got together with some formally trained STEAM professionals and students… Anything going on like this in your community?


  3. #Innovations!

    The most valuable people in any organization are the Innovators!

    My Sasai team this week added some amazing Innovations to Sasai Explore:
    You can now access Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube through Sasai Explore!

    Why do you think we have done this?

    I will be interested in anything else you observe on Sasai Explore.
    Remember I still have some slots for people who will join me in Ras Al Khaimah

    I’m not just going to pay for someone to travel there who just gives me a guess!

  4. @Clean City Africa!

    Now collects waste every week from almost 300,000 homes every week in Harare.

    We are now developing what we call Material Recovery Centers (MRC) throughout the City:

    #1. We collect waste which can be sold such as plastic, wood, paper etc. We are creating hundreds of jobs in the process.

    #2. We have began a project to separate vegetable and animal waste for our first Biogas powered electricity generator. Our engineers working with consultants are going to international tender for a 500 KW generator which will provide electricity to thousands of homes, using waste they were dumping!

    This is an initiative we want to implement throughout Africa.

  5. #ReimagineRural!

    When we talk about waste in Africa, we always think in terms of cities, but the truth is our rural areas are also now covered in waste such as plastics.
    We need to ReImagine Rural Waste.
    Which reminds me, the other day whilst I was thinking about it, I asked one of my researchers to look into a venture to generate electricity, cooking gas, and even fertilizer from cattle waste:

    I envisaged a venture in which an entrepreneur collects cattle dung weekly using a tractor, and deliver it to a waste processing center nearby where it is fed into a Bio digester!

    He brought me back pictures of commercial units that are already being used in China, which you can buy the way you buy a small generator.
    A farmer in Zimbabwe has actually built a unit that sells cooking gas to rural households!

    Tell me what is happening in your country?

    There is no need to sleep in the dark, or to cut down our forests guys!
    Let’s #EntrepreneurIt!

    This is what ReImagineRural is about!

  6. Austin writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa I just did a quick search in the bible version of my online dictionary and found:

    “Meekness” is a humble attitude that expresses itself in the patient endurance of offenses. “Gentleness” is a practical synonym. It implies mercy and self-restraint. Meekness is not weakness. Sometimes we confuse the two. But the difference between a meek person and a weak person is this: a weak person can’t do anything. A meek person, on the other hand, can do something but chooses not to.

    My reply,
    Fantastic response!

    “A meek person is someone who can respond, often with devastating and lasting implications, but chooses not to..”

    The most powerful people I have ever met, were also the most meek. I have never considered powerful, anyone who was not meek.

  7. #Reflection:

    The best definition of the word “meek” I have ever seen is:

    “Power under restraint”.

    Being meek has nothing to do with being weak.

    Perhaps you might want to consider those human qualities that make you want to be described by others as meek.

  8. #ShoutOut Simeon!

    Wow. So Timely and precised.

    At Odis Ranch we try our best to practice a zero waste Agriculture and this have help us to take care of our animals and vegetables even at the cheapest cost possible.

    Imagine converting cow Dung’s to Biogas for cooking.

    Imagine using the waste from pigs into maggots for chicken.

    Imagine converting Energy from the sun in to solar to power our Borehole which in turn helps us access water.

    Africa is blessed we need to be innovator’s and not just Entreprenuer.

    Presently I collect all eggs shells from the local restaurants and Tea vendors and recycle it into feed for my animals.

    Yes I love Nature and now when I see waste I ask myself “SIMEON what can you turn this into?”.


    My reply,
    When I read this kind of comment, I just burst with pride!

    I know I have started a revolution to finally get this continent moving economically!

    Go Simeon!

    Let’s #Innovate It!

  9. #Clean City Removes Harare’s dump sites!

    #The return of “Africa’s. sunshine city”!

    @Clean City Africa, we have 10 Franchisee Waste Management companies, which we link up with providers of 10 tonne trucks, who come from Vaya Logistics.
    When a bin bag is collected we deduct payment using our mobile money platform.

    # We noticed that picking waste from home to home did not leave us with clean streets, so we asked each Franchisee to recruit street cleaners:
    Hundreds of people sweep the streets Every single day, from 5am to 12pm. We call them Community Environmental Service [CES], they are paid through a commission on each bin collected.

    #. Due to the years in which waste had not been properly collected, many communities had simply created dump sites where mounds of waste were left rotting!
    Our people sat down with community leaders including local councilors and Residents Associations:
    “You provide volunteers, and we will provide you trucks, and specialist equipment.” This is done every single weekend.
    The community response has been phenomenal. Every week we decommission about 50 dump sites.
    We expect more than 500 to be decommissioned by end of October!

  10. Sam writes

    Kind Sir.
    In my “Small Big” way I try as much to persuade youths like myself to look closely to local problems rather than try to develop solutions that will require them to first convince consumers they have a problem their solutions can fix.

    I am from a place called the “Food Basket of the Nation” in Nigeria. Benue State. On my first ever visit there, I was amazed how cheap food stuff were in comparison to other locations. What I later found was that it was a case of overproduction which generally leads to waste.

    After a few years we decided to #Enterpreneurit and #Afrilife was born.

    What we do at Afrilife is to identify commercially available produce and see what we can create from it.

    Our first line of products which is NAFDAC certified and already retailing at most major Stores in Abuja, Nigeria were developed to address an even greater problem of overweight and obesity which is linked to 2 of the world’s top 10 killer diseases; Heart disease and Diabetes.

    Our food products has proved useful to those who are seeking healthy alternatives to high in carbohydrate traditional meals. Especially those like myself with a family history of diabetes and those already combating such.

    From the other end we have been working to develop a more affordable Ready to use therapeutic foods and supplements to combat severe malnutrition as the current product widely used is imported from France which we found a bit awkward.

    I have also personally persuade a few individuals who I offer free consultancy exclusively on Sasai (I charge through any other channel) to follow our model and currently a young lady has developed a Soap and toner and other 100% natural personal care products which we are currently testing it’s market potential.

    Innovation doesn’t have to be an out-of-this world idea. A simple improvement in the existing or simply fast following can be just it.

    The journey is with its many challenges but thank God we can access people like you Sir through this medium to maintain the all needed focus.

    God bless you for your guidance and positive influence.

    My reply,
    Well done, Sam!

    It is people like you that will eventually emerge as the Kellogg’s of Africa.
    And also thank you for supporting Sasai.

  11. #Innovate Africa!

    Our High Schools, colleges and Universities have got to become Innovation Hubs, if the continent is to truly prosper!

    Just imagine what would happen if every university in Africa, opened an Innovation Hub?

    There should be Innovation Hubs for every major resource that we produce, where entrepreneurs are working 24/7 on innovations around products to use our resources.

    Imagine, if we had Innovation Hubs for products using #Cocoa, #Cassava, #Platinum, #Diamonds, #Cattle, #Palm Oil….

    That is my challenge this morning to the #Policy Makers and #Impact Entrepreneurs, of Africa!

    Telling us what rich resources you have, now tell us what products you make from them!

    Chocolate making should be a cottage industry in our villages by now!

  12. #Lack of Innovation is letting down our farmers!

    Our farmers work really hard!

    They are really doing their part!

    Imagine what would happen if we had an explosion of Innovation and Entrepreneurship based on the produce that we make?

    If you look at the history of American farmers, you will find that they got rich when entrepreneurs in their communities began to Innovate and produce products like Corn Flakes, and turn them into global products. The local farmers could not meet demand and prices shot up.

    Our problem is that we leave the Innovation side to foreign based entrepreneurs, who then build giant companies.
    Often we don’t even know what our raw materials are used for once they leave our own ports.

    We do not change this situation with clumsy policies aimed at banning exports etc. We do it by supporting and celebrating entrepreneurs who are able to come up with Innovative products!
    We encourage our entrepreneurs to develop industries based on the competitive advantage presented by what our farmers produce.

    #Innovation will create demand for our Agric produce, and this will push up prices, and encourage farmers.

    #You cannot have agriculture policies that never go in tandem with promotion of #AgriPreneurship!

  13. Neema P. Maduhu writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa Sir I think Tanzania can accomodate such initiative.
    According to statists Tanzania has the third largest livestock population on the African continent comprising 25million cattle, 98% of which are indigenous breeds, complemented by 16.7 million goats, 8 million sheep, 2.4 million pigs, and 36 million chickens.

    I truly believe such initiative can provide biogas/electricity to not only thousands but millions of rural homes.

    My reply,
    Every primary level student should know this information.
    However, if a person is at least High School level, they should be proudly telling me about the industries that Tanzania has developed using livestock as a raw material.
    And if they have been to a local university they should be telling me, about the Innovations that people are working on to develop the next generation ofTanzanian businesses.

    It requires us to shift mindsets, and you can help make it happen.

    No pressure my sister!

    The time for #Innovate Africa, has come!

  14. #Reflection:

    Who do you listen to, especially when things are not going the way they were originally designed to do?

    We all sit down with friends, family and even close advisors to plan something. As an entrepreneur, I do it all the time.
    And guess what, we always think that it is all going to work out just as planned!

    Finally as leader you say, Let’s go for it!”

    But after a few weeks, months, things are not going quite to plan.
    Everyone can see it, even the man in the street.
    Your advisors keep telling you that it is going to be just fine, but and they keep coming up with all sorts of reasons why things are not working, and then they come up with people to blame!
    The list gets longer each time you meet them!

    In business we have an expression:
    “It’s time to get outside counsel”!

    This means you have to open your mind to listen to other people.
    It takes courage, real courage, because those guys might tell you something you really don’t want to hear…in fact they should!
    The times in my life when outside counsel has said things like:
    “Strive, this is a hopeless situation, sell or get out,” were the most humbling, and it took the great courage to accept, because always they were right.

    If this is you:
    Set aside the pride. Get some help from outside your comfort zone. It might include going to people you consider to be your ‘enemies’.
    But do it!

  15. #Pause:

    Probably the most important lesson I want you to learn from our Clean City initiative:

    There are a lot of things that our governments [including local governments] should do, and could do to make the lives of citizens better, and safer.

    But what happens when they don’t?

    Someone might say, “well we try to get rid of them”.

    But what if for some reason, we cannot immediately use the democratic process to effect the change we want; And the problem is here, and must be addressed TODAY?

    And that is the real challenge for us, as Entrepreneurs. We are not politicians or social activists. We are wired to try and help with what is in our hand, even if it seems small, irrelevant and perhaps pathetic…
    Try offering 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed 5000 people!
    You get my point!

    Often it may not be possible to address the whole problem by yourself.
    And yet it can be as simple as organizing young people in your community to clear a rubbish dump that could cause disease, and makes your neighborhood look unsightly!

    President Obama said “we can walk and chew gum at the same time”. Meaning [in this case], that even as you engage in civic discourse to find leaders who can act, also try and find something you can do to alleviate the immediate situation.

    We were not a waste management company. However we used our leadership skills to leverage a solution.

    Use this principle to solve problems in your society.

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