How Nyamagabe youngster made a fortune from waste
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At only 22, Jean Bosco Nzeyimana is already a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and an employer of 30 permanent staff and 50 casual workers.
Nzeyimana started Habona Ltd; a Nyamagabe based waste treatment company that makes manure, briquettes and biogas from garbage.
The company also manages Nyabivumu Integrated Waste Management Plant in Gasaka Sector, which was set up in 2010/2011.
Nzeyimana, graduated with a Bachelors’ Degree in Business and Administration from the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics (CBE), in June this year. He founded the company in 2013 while he was a student. So far, it produces 20 tonnes of briquettes per month.
Conceiving the waste management idea
Nzeyimana said he conceived the waste management idea while he was a student at CBE.
“I studied business and administration because I had a passion to contribute to the development of my village basing mainly on issues regarding hygiene and lack of fuel,” Nzeyimana recounted.
He researched on how the waste could be turned into biogas, compost (manure) or briquettes which can replace firewood or could help people get fuel during seasons when they cannot access firewood.
Armed with research results from the internet about waste management and data, Nzeyimana started formulating a plan on how the issue of littering and the lack of enough toilets could be a problem that can be turned into a solution.
The knowledge he acquired from university helped him come up with a comprehensive business plan for his project.
To kick off the project, Nzeyimana mobilised a small team and they set up waste collection points in Nyamagabe town where they would gather waste from people’s homes and hire a vehicle to carry them to the plant.
Habona Ltd also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nyamagabe District for the company to manage the district’s waste management plant.
He said they separate waste whereby the degradable materials are processed into manure, briquettes and biogas while the non-degradable ones could be made into decorations or sold elsewhere for recycling.
Nzeyimana says other components like the production of manure and briquettes worked but, the idea to generate power from gas so as to complement the national power grid was hindered by lack of funds because the project required at least $50,000 for the whole project to be operational.
A winning business idea
Lack of funds did not discourage Nzeyimana. When African Innovation Prize called for entries in a Business Plan competition for innovative students, he pitched his idea and he was lucky to emerge winner and he walked away with Rwf2 million.
His company spends about Rwf1.7 million in monthly remunerations of its employees.
Nzeyimana also scooped the 2014 Young Innovator Award in Rwanda and was also among 10 Africans who participated in training in New Delhi, India where he said he gained skills on how they run their project.
Last August, he was selected to participate in the concluded 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship. He said he signed an agreement with USA for $25,000 (about Rwf18 million), to support his project.
“This support will help us take on 10 more workers and increase the quantity of briquettes we have been making from 20 tonnes to 50 tonnes per month. This is the framework of the country’s green economy,” he noted. He said a kilogramme of briquettes goes for Rwf200 and lasts three times longer than charcoal of the same cost.
He said the US has a commitment to provide support to participants in the fellowship and is linking them to professional companies pertinent to their projects to gain more professional skills, which he considers important.
Odette Niyonizeye, a mother of one from Gasaka Sector, is one of the company’s employees. She attributes the change in her family fortunes to her job.
“My monthly salary helps me to fulfil family needs, make some savings and pay for health insurance on time,” she says.
Nzeyimana’s wish is to see Habona operating across the country and employing more people within the next three years. He said they are also eyeing a presence in East Africa.
Among the challenges, he cited lack of enough equipment like cars to carry waste to the treatment plant and insufficient waste treatment plants. However, he said they were moving slowly but surely towards their vision.
Nyamagabe Vice Mayor for Finance and Economic Development, Immaculée Mukarwego, said the project had a good future and will help the town to deal with the issue of waste and in the process improve hygiene in the district.
She said that as part of their long term plans, the district had built a plant and the dump post estimated at Rwf400 million that will ensure hygiene, protect the environment and help create jobs for the youth and women.
The official added that the district had partnered with Habona Ltd after realizing the company’s expertise in waste management matters.