Have you ever been to an African city? Have you ever walked through the streets of a quickly urbanizing African hub? If yes, you probably observed a few things. Aside the omnipresent effervescence, life and energy, you probably also noticed the people. Yes the people! African cities are growing and they are growing fast. It is estimated that African cities grow at an average rate of 3.5% per year. For those of us who are not mathematically inclined, this means that by 2025, African cities alone will host over 518 million people. This, in itself, might not mean much to you, but if you observe African cities closely, you will realize that the population is not the only thing growing. The cities themselves are expanding, infrastructures are improving, entrepreneurs are finding better and more innovative ways to provide solutions to people’s needs. And with this rapid urbanization of the continent comes waste. Lots and lots of waste. The average modern human being is generating more waste than ecologically sustainable. African cities are no exception and in many of them, waste is disposed of in less than ideal ways, posing various problems to the environment and the population.
Dechets a l’Or (DalO) aims to address the problem of waste in West Africa, one mid-sized city at a time. In Kankan, Guinea, we are serving over 350 clients and making frequent trips to various neighborhoods six days a week. With one truck, a handful of determined men and an average of three trips a day, Dechet a l’Or is quickly growing in popularity among the people of Kankan. Indeed, it is with great relief, appreciation and enthusiasm that many drag their Dechets a l’Or branded waste bins to the front of their homes for pick-up. During these trips, the interactions are nothing short of delightful: clients exchanging pleasantries with the pick-up driver or other DalO workers; a woman asking for a new waste bin, or an undecided shopkeeper finally deciding to sign-up for DalO’s services.
However, things have not always been this easy. DalO has experienced somewhat rocky beginnings in Kankan. Indeed, a number of unsuccessful waste management projects in this region had rendered the population skeptical about ventures like Dechets a l’Or. Will DalO start collecting the population’s waste for a few months only to disappear like all the others? Will they be collecting waste once a week or not at all, only to come back with some excuses as to why they did not show up the day before? Will this be worth their time and money? If it did not work before, why should they believe that this time would be any different? How is Dechets a l’Or different from all the other waste management projects ever implemented? These are all questions we had to answer the first time we started advertising our services. However, thanks to thorough outreach campaigns, effective communication and the implementation of a reliable waste collection service, DalO has been able to reassure the people of Kankan.
Behind this adjustment are Ayo, the founder and CEO of Dechets a l’Or, as well as Dougo and Aguibou. For Dougo, Collection Operations Manager, the hardest part of this journey was to win people’s trust. Aguibou, Customer Relations Manager, was instrumental in getting people to change their perception of waste management companies. With intensive outreach campaigns and interactions with clients, we were able to make people understand our services as well as the benefits of joining our venture. With an average of 10 new adherents a day without active neighborhood push, we can definitely say that the people of Kankan are gradually starting to appreciate Dechets a l’Or as a reliable and trustworthy waste management company. As clients become more comfortable and involved with sorting their waste and as operations expand, our next short term goal is to start building a waste processing facility where plastic waste can be treated, fertilizers produced, and waste valued as it should!