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Building a Green Generation in Africa

Posted on March 9, 2019

We offer electricity vouchers in exchange for unwanted and recyclable material as an incentive to get the community to recycle with us.”

Phangi Maluleke is the founder of Generation Green, a youth owned recycling business based in Soshanguve. The business was inspired by the urgent need to find a solution to land pollution in the township while introducing a culture of recycling and reusing among township youth. “The model works well because we can generate low income for unemployed households. We offer electricity vouchers in exchange for unwanted and recyclable material as an incentive to get the community to recycle with us.” The business is both a pertinent and timely solution for environmental sustainability at a time when President Cyril Ramaphosa is launching the ‘Good Green Deeds’ campaign to give effect to environmental stewardship concerns and direct the country into a greener path of doing business.

Our biggest achievement to date has been the opening of our buy back centre in Soshanguve.

A buy back centre is a depot where individual waste collectors, reclaimers and street waste pickers can sell their recyclable waste. To make this possible, the entity partnered with MT Recycling. The achievement is commendable as without capital and access to land in a country where the concerns are ongoing, Maluleka and his team had to employ creative solutions to overcome this challenge by fostering partnerships with existing enterprises that held symbiotic values.

The continued success of this operation illustrates that competition is only such, if it is perceived to be. This however, was only one of the challenges that the entity had to overcome in its journey to success, as they still had to ensure that they had a permit to operate the business. Without a second hand goods permit, recyclers cannot operate a buy back centre. Generation Green was forced to halt operations for a few months in 2018 while trying to acquire a permit before being granted one with help of the South African Police Service. “I’ve had to tackle challenges with partnership disputes, poor financial management and a shortage of capital, and through it all have realized that there are better ways to advance youth entrepreneurship.” These include private and public partnership to make capital accessible and to invest in the roll out entrepreneurship road shows in the township where most youth are unemployed. This will bring about access to information which will empower our youth. Maluleke, like any founder with a vision and hope for the future has big dreams, he ultimately wants be the biggest exporter and recycler of plastic in Pretoria, whilst ensuring active participation from his community.

Recycling is still an unsaturated market, which we all have the opportunity to take advantage of it

One of the key challenges faced by the entity is its ability to attract youth for employment opportunities, even though the industry has great employment potential. The industry lacks the “finesse and glamour” to garrison attention. “I think young people are discouraged because it’s not a typical ‘suit and tie’ job. You literally come back home in dirty clothes everyday especially when you’re starting out.” In addition to this, at a business level, a discouraging factor for additional market entrants is that the industry is still untransformed, with significant barriers to entry as a result of oligopolies. Besides making recycling fashionable for people in the township, Generation Green wants to collaborate with schools and local government to develop recycling projects that will create income opportunity for all.