Millions of people throughout the African continent rely on heat energy for cooking their food and warming their homes. However, the price of crude oil continues to fluctuate and the cost often becomes unaffordable for the ordinary man. Africans use more than 23 million tonnes of charcoal each year. This enormous coal-producing industry is also dangerous though and this is why companies such as Zaacoal are so incredibly important.
Zaacoal is a Ghanaian company who manufactures coal from organic waste that’s collected from all the major cities. It produces a variety of coal products which include cooking briquettes, shisha coals, quick light coals and activated charcoal. The burning of charcoal dramatically affects the environment and by using raw material Zaacoal helps to protect the environment and manage the waste situation across Africa.
The Cradle has a chat with Sulley Amin Abubakar the founder of this remarkable green waste company.
Please tell us a little about your core business
Our core business is to produce clean affordable charcoal (energy) for Ghanaians and for the export market. We produce these coals from organic waste in the city. Predominantly we gather waste from coconut vendors (of which there are over a thousand) in the city, who generate over two thousand tons of waste daily.
How do you view the startup scene in Ghana?
The startup scene is really buzzing now. Ghana has always been a country of entrepreneurs and that has changed in the last few years for the better. We have people now looking beyond the status quo, looking beyond tech to other sectors like ours. However, there’s always room for improvement, considering the high rate of unemployment in the country.
How do you feel entrepreneurs could be better assisted by Ghanaian government?
i personally believe the government can assist entrepreneurs by having desks at the various ministries to consider the new ideas by the young entrepreneurs,. for example, the ministry of communication should focus on the new ideas from the technology and information space with budgetary allocations to support them take off and the ministry of energy could also have support for startups in the energy space. i believe this will go a long way to help.
What do you believe are the characteristics that make a strong entrepreneur?
I believe it’s the ability to see opportunities where others see problems and being able to execute these ideas. It’s always challenging to develop and grow business in Africa but with perseverance, hard work and dedication it will surely happen.
Who have been the greatest influences on you as an entrepreneur?
My greatest influencers have been my grandparents, they were engaged in various economic activities in order to take care of us.
How important do you think ecommerce and mcommerce is in Africa’s progression?
Africa may have lost out in the last decade but we are competing so well in the ecommerce space. Africa leapfrogged the mobile revolution and we have more mobile phones than people on the continent. This has influenced our rapid development in commerce. Mobile payment platforms are gradually taking out the traditional banking system and that’s a good sign. African commerce giants are buying out the smaller ones and encouraging innovation. We’ve seen the likes of JUMIA and KAYMU taking the lead.
How do you see your business growing in the next 12 to 18 months?
I see my business growing beyond Ghana, crossing over to there African countries and eventually taking on Europe and America. I see my products selling in Walmart, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the rest.
How do you view African entrepreneurship as a whole?
I think Africa has that potential to be the next frontier. I am seeing a lot of great businesses springing up with very creative ideas. Africa just need more investments from within Africa and the world world would hear of us. We have the youth making up the chunk of our population and that’s a great resource.
What challenges do you feel you personally still need to overcome?
Aside financial challenges, I feel I need some more technical expertise to assist us going forward.