DECHETS A L’OR, currently based in Guinea, is a tech enable waste management company providing waste collection service to residents then process the waste collected to produce fertilizer, recyclable plastics, and energy for local consumption.
We had the opportunity to email interview the Founder of Dechets a L’or, Cuthbert Ayo Onikute who’s part of the Africans Building Africa Community.
- Tell us about yourself and your organization
I am was born in Nigeria, but lived in Grenada for several years, and got to the states around the age of 11. Studied international relations and history at the University of Buffalo, then taught English in France and Guinea. My experience in Guinea led to me pursue a masters in Urban Planning, which I completed in 2013 from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.
My business, Dechets a l’Or which means Waste to Gold in French is a tech enabled attempt to address the waste management challenges that are faced by cities and communities across Africa. We currently serve approximately 600 households in 8 neighborhoods in Kankan Guinea and are working on serving 800 households in the next few weeks. We aim to provide a professional waste collection service to city residents then process the collect waste to produce fertilizer, recyclable plastics, and energy for local consumption.
- How much did you need to start your organization and how were you able to raise that capital?
To effectively start, we require about $190,000, this would allow us to obtain several trucks, land, pay competitive wages, do necessary community engagement and marketing, and develop our web based app and service monitoring tool.
Over our lifetime we have raised funds through various means, our CEO/Founder Ayo has invested over $15,000 of his own money, gotten about $13,000 of friends and family, and have over $35,000 in grants, and $10,000 in prize money.
- What are some of the challenges you face in your organization and how do you overcome those challenges?
We face multiples challenges and we overcome them one at a time. A significant challenge we are coming by just our present and continual service is the communities negative impression of waste collection services due to their past bad experiences.
Maintaining collections vehicles are a challenge anywhere in the world, and in countries where its hard to source reliable mechanics and parts, making sure our collection trucks are in good working order, or that we have access to other trucks we can rent is incredibly challenging. The truck challenge is a hard one to over come, we establish a lot of relationships, as a lot of friends, and try to find qualified mechanics to ensure our trucks are in good working order.
Sourcing talent is an on-going challenge, so we are always offering paid internships a chance to give someone experience while also allowing us to test out their commitment to working and growing with our organization. It isn’t easy and we’ve had to see a lot of people grow, but we are strengthening our team little by little.
A huge challenge, is the lack of addresses and identification markers for customers, we are developing a web based tool and mobile app to support and optimize operations, it will allow is to tag customers, potential customers, find optimization in route planning, and the app will also enable us to link to mobile money payers so that customers can make direct payments to us. We are currently developing this solution and its live but not 100% functional.
- Where do you see your organization in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
In 5 years, my hope is that Dechets a l’Or will be operational in several countries and in at least three city in each country. Right now we are developing our system, learning how to be operational in challenging environments and training people on our system.
We are also developing our customers database and app, once our tool is fully functional and we have the resources to build around it, we will be easily able to expand to additional cities.
- What advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Africa?
Any entrepreneur looking to start a business or invest in Africa should know it will be harder than you think. It will take longer than you think, and it will be more expense than you think. With that said, be as prepared as you can be but make the leap.
Whats the saying,’80% of success is showing up’ so show up and put in the work. Be as prepared as possible, but don’t let yourself be so consumed with getting ready that you never actually take the step.
- How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
Africa is experiencing tremendous growth. This growth is happening in cities, and in many of these cities they is little provision for waste management. Additionally, for Africa’s growth to be sustainable, a significantly greater portion of the population will have to be involved in economic activity.
Dechets a l’Or is participating in the development of Africa by improving public health in cities by reducing open dumping or burning of waste, creating hundreds of jobs per city we operate, and reducing the cost of fertilizer for farmers so they can produce greater yields on less land. We believe in an Africa with cleaner cities all with brighter futures.
LinkedIn: Cuthbert Ayo Onikute