African Innovators: Nigerian Social Innovator Bilikiss Adebiyi of WeCyclers

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WeCyclers is an incentive based waste collection initiative. Lagos born Bilikiss Adebiyi is the founder and CEO of this social enterprise that seeks to solve the waste challenge in low income neighbourhoods. The city of Lagos is densely populated and carries a large imagenumber of unemployed and impoverished community members. With Software Engineering experience from IBM Corporation, this social innovator saw a need for this efficient waste collection system that not only educates the community about recycling but also creates jobs and opportunities for them.

An idea that started when Bilikiss was studying towards her MBA from MIT Sloan, WeCyclers has had exponential growth in a short space of time. The city of Lagos has a population of over 21 million people and waste is a common problem amongst communities. The local government only manages to collect about 40% of the city’s trash and only a small percentage is actually recycled. WeCyclers goes around the communities with low-cost cargo bicycles collecting recyclable goods from households, weighs the trash and rewards the families with a small incentive when their points have accumulated.

Waste collection is a huge problem in this city to the point where waste piles up forming heaps of trash which almost resemble small mountains, this meant that during rainy seasons people’s houses would flood with water due to blocked drainage systems. Since WeCyclers has been operating, the amount of flooding has decreased significantly. It is amazing how one idea can solve so many problems plaguing a community.

The fact that this system is incentivized motivates the community members to collect as much recyclables as possible and also creates an awareness about maintaining a clean environment. Not without its challenges, being a start-up WeCyclers has challenges that are common amongst most start-up companies, the biggest one being the lack of resources.  Despite having challenges the company has also been honoured with a number of awards, to acknowledge the work they are doing in the city of Lagos.

Currently they collect the trash and place it at a storage centre which they rapidly outgrew due to the amount of recyclable goods that they collect weekly. From cyclers, to collection site workers, to administrators, cargo bike assemblers, this can create a lot of jobs for inhabitants of this fast growing community. With the potential of creating about 500k jobs, this is an initiative that should be replicated throughout Africa.

Statistics indicate that over 50% of young people in Nigeria are unemployed, and with this number rarely declining we need more people like Bilikiss who will create jobs and help develop skills amongst young Africans. In a global society where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, it is our responsibility to make means to uplift one another as Africans to foster social and  financial inclusion for inclusive growth and sustained development.

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