Kabir Olaosebikan, 23, is the founder of Craft Planet, a waste recycling company, located in Kaduna. In this interview with MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI, he shares his story as a student and entrepreneur.
What inspired you to invest in waste management?
I started my initiative sometime in 2014 making craft work using recycled materials such as papers, cardboards and pet bottles. In 2016, I noticed that the cost of kerosene and firewood, which are major sources of domestic fuel for the masses, became so expensive that they cost more than the food you planned to cook. Then I thought to myself that if creativity was my watchword and I’ve been recycling waste into valuable commodities, I could solve this energy problem in Nigeria using the massive waste being generated annually. For instance, we have a lot of saw dusts around; and as a matter of fact, we have tons of farm waste such as shrubs, straw, leaves, rice husks, corn cobs and husks and groundnut shells that end up being burnt in the fields. I decided to use all that and convert them to wood pellets and briquettes as a source of fuel instead of relying on firewood, which, in the long run, would lead to deforestation.
What kind of waste do you invest in?
At first, I was collecting domestic waste such as papers, pet bottles and plastic waste but eventually, I pivoted the business of recycling farm waste such as rice husks, rice straw, corn cobs, corn husks, dried leaves and all sort of residues left after harvest, which I believe can be used to solve issues of domestic and industrial energy demands in Africa as a whole.
How do you combine your study of architecture with business?
Combining business and study is not an easy venture because both require attention. In my own case, I work with a team that comprises my co-founder and interns who are as passionate as me in the business.
How do you engage in forest conservation and still make money to grow your business?
I see my initiative as a profit-social enterprise. Despite the fact that we are profit-oriented, we have that willingness to solve climate and environmental challenges while making profit to keep the dream alive. We are conserving forest by reducing deforestation, which is cutting down of trees for fuel (firewood and charcoal) which poses a serious threat to the environment. And by providing wood briquettes and pellets as an alternative to firewood and charcoal, the forest can become sustained. Besides, I designed a biomass stove, though it’s yet to be introduced to the market. We fabricated it and have done some market survey, which shows the stove will sell a lot. It is smokeless and designed to use farm waste directly such as scrubs, corncobs, coconut shells, saw dusts, and rice husks, even without converting them to wood pellets or briquettes.
What challenges have you faced as a young entrepreneur?
There are various challenges faced by entrepreneurs ranging from mentoring, training, marketing and perhaps funding. But there are also challenges that are often not talked about such as sourcing of working equipment and credit facility; electricity and lack of inclusive policies that put entrepreneurs in consideration. In my own case, the equipment I require has to be imported from China. The facilities are worth millions of naira, and they use electricity in tens of kilowatts, making them not suitable for my small business. Our local fabricators that claim they can produce them have no experience in such area and they end up fabricating ineffective devices.
The cartons and nylon packaging companies have no slot for businesses with small budget.
The government has not been able to effectively manage waste across the country and has engaged the services of private sector operators who also seem overwhelmed. What, in your opinion, is the way forward?
Waste management is very challenging. In my own humble opinion, it is high time the government was relieved of waste management burden and small businesses and more entrepreneurs encouraged to see the opportunities that lie in waste management.
Households or businesses also need to be enlightened to sort waste so that it can be picked up by various recycling enterprises for free. Incentives can be introduced to encourage individuals.
What is the future plan for Craft Planet?
The business is quite challenging and I quit at some point but I can’t afford to let people down especially those that see, believe in and have supported my vision such as the Tony Elumelu Foundation, NEF (Nigeria Energy Forum) and our esteem customers that are encouraging us. I will be rounding off my school programme this year and will devote quality time to the business. We will not only focus on waste conversion to alternative fuel but also electricity generation for domestic, agricultural and industrial applications.