By Daniel Mpala
Would you still pursue an innovative business idea if those in your community thought you were crazy to try?
This is exactly what a young Tanzanian entrepreneur Edgar Edmund did at the age of 15 when he founded Green Venture — a company which reuses plastic waste to develop cheap and affordable building materials such as paving blocks and bricks.
In April, Edmund, who is now 19 years old, was honoured with the Investment Readiness Award at the Anzisha Prize’s Challenge Prize Awards in Johannesburg for having significantly improved his business operations.
It’s the latest in a string of accolades that the young entrepreneur and Africa Leadership Academy alumnus has won.
Speaking on the side-lines of the awards, Edmund explained that the idea for his company came to him after his home city of Dar Es Salaam experienced flooding and he witnessed fellow community members being forced to turn to building mud houses as they couldn’t afford cement.
This, he said, inspired him to start research into plastic waste management and construction. He turned to his own savings to start the business and develop a prototype in 2017.
While he started the business with $20 in pocket money that he got from his parents, his parents never intended for him to use the money to start a business.
“I remember it was December so my mum gave me to buy Christmas clothes. Then I had to lie to her and tell her I’d lost the money,” he said.
At the time, Edmund said he had to roam the city’s streets collecting plastic waste for his first trials. It’s something his father was not particularly excited about.
“Actually my dad didn’t want me to do it… because people would say: ‘Are you crazy, why are you just picking up trash all over the place)?’ So, he wasn’t in support of that,” explained Edmund.
But since he started collecting various accolades, his father has had a “big mind shift” about the way he thinks of his business.
Green Venture is now funded largely through the prize money he’s received and a $50 000 investment that the firm landed from a Swedish firm.
Some of Edmund’s entrepreneurial highlights to date include; first runner up in the 2017 Anzisha Prize; 2017 Children’s Climate Prize grand prize winner where he won $6000, 2017 International Eco Hero Outstanding Innovator, as well as making Forbes Africa’s list of Disruptors last year.
In addition, Edmund has also been featured on a BBC documentary (see this link).
Says Edmund: “I think the progress that we have made as Green Venture and all the awards and recognition that we have obtained, has changed my dad’s perspective on waste management and my recycling business.
“He can now see the potential around working on sustainability, and I think this view has also been on the general public as now people around me are being more aware of sustainability.”
Featured image: Mastercard Foundation program manager Koffi Assouan, Green Venture founder Edgar Edmund and ALA vice president growth and entrepreneurship Josh Adler