The environmental issues confronting Africa today are well documented. The issues are pressing, but where will the solutions come from? In Africa, many of the innovations to solve Africa's most pressing environmental problems are emerging from women. Specifically, from young women entrepreneurs who are successfully linking sustainable business to environmental consciousness and concern for societal well-being. This is the basis for a new wave of women-led ecopreneurship taking root in Africa, resulting in a new generation of women-led startups with environmental consciousness at their core.
The world is facing more environmental challenges today than ever before, and Africa is feeling the harsh impact of many of these problems, from environmental degradation and deforestation, to shrinking water supplies, threats to biodiversity, lack of affordable green housing, and waste management issues.
African countries today need a legion of bright, innovative young entrepreneurs to take up the challenge of finding solutions to big environmental problems. After all, turning problems into opportunity is at the heart of the entrepreneurial mindset. What better way to solve environmental problems than by creating sustainable business, creating jobs and generating revenue and economic opportunity.
And, the opportunity is enormous because of the sheer scale of environmental concerns facing us, be it a shortage of clean water, polluted air, climate change, the extraordinary levels of waste being generated by our cities. It is obvious that if these problems are not solved they will lead to real economic crisis and major health issues. So the question is: how to solve the problem? And we have just one answer – to start thinking in an ecopreneurial way. And, it is here we are already witnessing a growing trend for Africa’s women to rise as ecopreneurs, to lead many of the continent’s most innovative eco-startups. At Lionesses of Africa we've been privileged to feature many of these incredibly creative and committed women ecopreneurs. Women who are fearlessly building businesses that solve some of the continent's most pressing environmental problems. For these women the issue is straight forward: Is there a better thing in the world than to create a business and help save the earth in the process?
Let's introduce you to some of these amazing women....
Startup stories from Africa's women ecopreneurs
Listen to interviews with award-winning African women ecopreneurs
Listen to Bilikiss Adebiyi talk about ecopreneurship in Africa and whether it is possible for a new generation of women entrepreneurs to operate financially viable businesses whilst remaining true to their core social and environmental values. Bilikiss is an inspiring Nigerian social entrepreneur and founder of WeCyclers. Her company offers waste collection and recycling services to the Lagos informal settlements, where an estimated 66% of Lagosians live. As a part of the process, residents are offered an incentive for collecting their household waste which is picked up for free by Wecyclers using specially adapted bicycles. To create incentives among low-income households to participate, rewards are given to them for every kilogram recycled, via points sent by SMS. These points are then redeemable against goods they value, such as cell phone minutes or basic food items. The rewards have been funded in partnership with big brands such as Coca Cola and GlaxoSmithKline.
Listen to Chinwe Ohajuruka, founder of Comprehensive Design Services in Nigeria talk about her inspirational, sustainable and innovative approach to addressing the chronic shortage of housing in that country. Chinwe's green building solutions led to her recent recognition by the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards. She is the founder and CEO of Comprehensive Design Services in Nigeria. Chinwe is a US-based architect who splits her time between the US & Nigeria working on sustainable housing development projects. She is a passionate champion of green building solutions for Africa and she engineers and builds affordable green houses that are both energy and resource-efficient.
Listen to Achenyo Idachaba the founder of MitiMeth talk about her wonderful ecopreneur venture in Nigeria. MitiMeth produces home and personal accessories made from invasive aquatic weeds that flourish in Nigeria’s waterways. ‘We are all about transforming an environmental problem into a beneficial solution,’ says Achenyo. ‘As a social enterprise that exclusively engages people at the bottom of the economic pyramid, we asked how we can clean up the waterways for river-lying communities, while also empowering them economically.’ Born in the US to Nigerian parents, Achenyo spent her formative years between Nigeria and America, where she forged a successful career as a computer scientist and business analyst. Yet she always nursed the idea of going back to Nigeria. ‘I felt it would be good to come back here and do something that would impact lives sustainably.’ In 2009, she finally decided to take what she calls a ‘leap of faith,’ moving to Ibadan to set up an environmental consulting business. Through a process of trial and error, Achenyo decided to alter her original business idea, eventually founding her current company, MitiMeth, in 2011.
Listen to Thato Kgatlhanye talk about her award-winning social enterprise, Rethaka Trading in South Africa. This inspiring social enterprise is the creator of Repurpose School Bags, a practical and sustainable solution to a major problem for many school children living in rural and non-electrified parts of South Africa. Through the company's green innovations such as the Repurpose Schoolbags, it is redefining societal problems and turning them into solutions. Thato is making it her business to uncover sustainable opportunities that create a far-reaching impact for low-income communities, with a particular focus on children and women.
Meet more of Africa's inspiring women ecopreneurs
RecyclePoints is a waste recycling and social benefit venture that operates an incentive-based scheme which collects recyclable materials from post consumers and in turn rewards them with "Points" which they can accumulate and use to redeem/shop for household items offered through our iRecycle store.
It cooks, it Lights your home, It charges phones, Plays inbuilt Fm Radio/MP3, It Irons- provides immediate environmental, economic, health and social benefits. A Cook stove with ZERO running cost and ZERO Smoke!
The Ghana Bamboo Bikes is a socio-ecological green initiative that addresses the quadruple problems of climate change, poverty, rural-urban migration and high unemployment amongst the youth in rural Ghana by creating employment opportunities and sustainable livelihood job skills for the youth through the building of high quality handcrafted second generation bamboo bikes for the international export markets.
Eco-Shoes is a Ghana based social enterprise that reinvests in the environment by upcycling waste into something of greater use and value.We empower and transfer the skills of shoe making to people with disabilities to hand-make shoes from truck tires, fabric scraps and other sustainably sourced raw materials thus providing employment to people who otherwise would be out of a job or below the poverty threshold.
Why LoA loves Africa's Women Ecopreneurs….
Many of the innovations to solve Africa's most pressing environmental problems are emerging from women. Specifically, from young women entrepreneurs, who are using a range of different skill sets, linking environmental solutions to their business models to positively impact their communities and nations. This new wave of women-led eco startups is good news for Africa. Not only are they solving a major problem, they are also creating jobs and economic opportunity for their communities. We salute each of these Women EcoWarriors! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and CEO of Lionesses of Africa