Nigerian Start up innovates Recycling; Q&A with Bilikiss Abiola, Founder WeCyclers

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Bilikiss Adebiyi Abiola , Founder and CEO of Wecyclers

The Nigerian tech startup space is developing at speed, and stands a good chance of being the Africa’s leader.  ITBusinessDirect spoke with  Bilikiss Adebiyi Abiola , Founder and CEO of Wecyclers, a company that offers  household recycling service using a fleet of low-cost cargo bikes. They are powering social change using the environment by allowing people in low-income communities in Nigeria to capture value from their waste.

Question: How can you define the technology sector in Nigeria?

Bilikiss: I believe it’s a sector that has not been fully harnessed to its greatest potential, as lots of start-ups are yet to be tech-enabled. I see a great future for technology in Nigeria.

In times past we had to go out on the streets and hail a cab before getting to our destinations, but now we can sit in the comfort of our homes and order a taxi without any stress. We can order groceries, cars, clothes and shoes even without going to the shop floor, all from the comfort of our homes. I believe it’s a progressing sector and has a high potential.

Question:  Waste management is a globally $75 billion industry with 20,000 players. One tool they’re using is technology. Why did you choose to venture into recycling service?

Bilikiss: Venturing into the recycling service was birthed while I was studying for MBA at MIT Sloan – the best business school in the world – and started learning about people that live at the bottom of the income pyramid (people living on less than $2 a day). While working on a project to help these households in developing countries, I decided to work on waste – focusing on its uses, collection and processing.

After the project was completed, I conducted additional research focusing on Nigeria and saw the huge potential in the waste recycling sector, especially among the manufacturing plants who are hungry for a cheaper and easily available source of raw materials due to local and foreign demand for end products. I then decided to move the idea forward and Wecyclers was born.

I realized I was on the right career path because my work, which promotes a healthy environment and helps households create value from their waste aligns with my passion for building sustainable models for waste collection and reuse. I’m using my background in computer science and technology to solve a critical societal challenge.

Question: Can you walk us through how Wecyclers works?

Bilikiss:  Wecyclers is an award-winning company that is committed to improving recycling in Nigeria. We address the challenge of waste management and unemployment by offering sustainable and convenient recycling services to low/middle income households and businesses while creating grassroots jobs and economic partnerships.

We use our innovative low-cost bicycle-powered collection vehicles called “wecycles” to provide convenient household recycling service in densely populated neighborhoods.

We weigh the recyclable materials and as we do so, our service subscribers accumulate rewards points that they can exchange for household goods, food items, or cash, during our redemption which holds quarterly in April. August and December.

Question: Tell us about the team behind We cyclers. Is it just you and your co-founder at the helm of affairs?

Bilikiss: I work with a group of people who, like me, are passionate about making a difference in the lives of our customers. From customer engagement to business development to logistics to sales, all passionate about a cleaner environment and great social impact.

Question: What is the most rewarding and challenging part of recycling in Nigeria?

Bilikiss: A major challenge is funding. We are a social enterprise, so we are more focused on having a positive impact on communities than generating profit.

We are always looking for companies and foundations that are willing to support our efforts. Another constant challenge has been ensuring the supply of electricity to our hubs, which is essential for processing the recycled material we collect.

One of the most rewarding part of recycling is the cleaner environment we have been able to achieve in some of the locations that we service. Wecyclers has been able to demonstrate that proper waste

Question: A few words for young tech startup founders who are trying to establish themselves in the industry?

Bilikiss: If you want to become an entrepreneur, uncover your purpose, match it to a need that exists, and be selfless. Don’t just focus on short-term results.

You have to be ready to sell your dream for others to buy into it, and if you don’t really believe it, nobody else will. So, share your passion and share your story. You never know who could be inspired to support you.

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