Four young Rwandan entrepreneurs, grouped together in their start-up Umuti Paper, which specialises in making packaging paper bags from tree trunks, are receiving training in green entrepreneurship as part of the 2020 edition of the "Greepreneurs" competition. The group is one of the 15 teams selected by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) following a call for applications launched in April 2020.
Nadine Ndahiro, Arsene Gatera, Irankunda Shema Thierry Henry and Kevin Shema are the founders of the start-up Umuti Paper, specialising in the manufacture of packaging paper bags from banana tree trunks. For the past few weeks, they have been taking part in a training course on green entrepreneurship in order to implement their project. The start-up will provide a solution that will have a positive impact on the future of energy and sustainable landscapes or sustainable cities.
The young team is one of the 15 entrepreneurs selected following the call for applications launched in April 2020 for the “Greenpreneurs 2020”, a 12-week global green entrepreneurship competition open to young people between 17 and 35 years old. “Greenpreneurs” takes into account projects in the sectors of renewable energy, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes (forestry and agriculture) and sustainable cities. The competition is an initiative of Student Energy, Youth Climate Lab and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an international and intergovernmental organization founded to support and promote strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries. Training for sustainable development project leaders will be completed by September 2020.
Umuti Paper, an innovative idea
“We have realized that human activities are the main cause of climate change. More than 400 million tonnes of the paper we use to write is produced each year, and 93% of that comes from wood. If we continue at this rate, it will take less than a century to raze all the tropical forests that account for a third of the world’s oxygen production and provide habitat for most of our wildlife,” says Umuti Paper.
As an alternative, the start-up offers environmentally friendly paper packaging bags. Umuti Paper uses fibers from banana tree trunks to produce packaging. The conversion process generates significantly lower costs than comparable packaging bags.
Another advantage is that Umuti Paper’s sustainable development project will solve the problems related to the disposal of banana trunks, which are often “considered problematic waste with no other economically viable use”, says Umuti Paper.
Waste recycling and solar energy projects
In Uganda, two teams were also selected by the GGGI in its call for projects. Daniel Obua Ocari and Gabriel Angura, who leads the “Zonku Technology” project. The initiative developed by these young entrepreneurs is a web, mobile and SMS platform that connects subscribers (households) and plastic waste collectors called “Zonku Riders”. The collected plastic waste is then sent to the Zonku recycling plant, where it is processed into granules. The finished product is sold to local companies.
The second Ugandan team consists of Philip Kyeswa, Damalie Namatovu, Ronnie Ssejjuko and Gordon Wavamuno. They founded the start-up Peec Energy, a company that presents a new approach to providing affordable solar energy in the country. The project is based on a field-proven model of remote monitoring and measurement of solar mini-grids and solar home systems (SHS). “We offer PAYG (Pay-as-you-go) meters to developers of local mini-grids to enable them to sell energy in off-grid locations, to remotely monitor their utility assets and collect bill payments via central software,” says Peec Energy.
In Ethiopia, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) was also won over by the initiative of Abel Hailegiorgis, Raffi Dermen, Haimanot Eshetu and Yosef Assefa. These entrepreneurs founded the start-up Bamboo Labs, specialising in the manufacture of wheelchairs and bicycles from sustainable bamboo.