Isaac Ndyamuhaki started out making honey on his mission to generate an income creating “affordable solutions for everyone that would drive sustainable change for them for a lifetime”.
Poor early yields meant the honey venture didn’t work out, then in 2020 problems with the domestic fuel supply chain created by the Covid-19 pandemic gave him a bigger customer challenge to tackle. Around 60% of Ugandans live without access to electricity, says Ndyamuhaki, so burning fuel is a life essential. When supply dried up, he went to university to find a way to make better, more affordable, more sustainable fuel.
The stoves created by Ndyamuhaki and his team at Asili Kwanza are powered by briquettes made from organic domestic waste collected and repurposed as efficient, cleaner fuel.
The company has also harnessed solar power to solve a key “post-harvest handling” challenge for small holder farms, preventing harvested crops being lost due to lack of efficient drying.
Ndyamuhaki is attempting to put customer and environment first. At the same time as addressing his customers real needs
Ndyamuhaki’s thinking behind his products is clear and it’s a valuable lesson for every sustainable business idea or policy area: “How can you understand the needs of the customer. How can you address those needs very effectively,” he says. And at the same time create genuine environmental gains.
Too often, sustainable choices are expensive choices. And do they really meet a customer need? Creating a more earth-centric product or service that’s as affordable or cheaper than what’s currently available is often impossible. That makes scaling up alternatives so they have real impact seriously challenging.
We will start advertising and the impact will be even bigger. Many of the problems we have cut across sub-Saharan Africa.
Even though Ndyamuhaki is out to “reduce the cost as much as possible so products keep being affordable by the people” Asili Kwanza makes a profit from its briquette sales some of which goes into providing personal protective equipment for the workers he employs to collect the waste that’s repurposed.
Having recently won top prize in the African Climate Innovation Challenge, he is looking at scaling-up and expansion. So far growth has all been word of mouth with customers in and around two Ugandan cities. “We don’t do any advertising,” he says.
That’s about to change though now the company can meet higher demand and there’s cross-border potential. “We will start advertising and the impact will be even bigger. Many of the problems we have cut across sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve already had a customer in Kenya ask us about our stoves!”
If wielding the power of words to win hearts, change behaviour and amplify impact gets your pulse racing, then this may just be the role for you.