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Weka: A Tanzanian Opportunity

Around Africa, the success story of Wecyclers has inspired a waste management movement, one of which is WEKA of Tanzania. Noella Moshi shares with us what is special about WEKA and how the organisation is changing the way people think of waste in Tanzania.

Tanzania is a beautiful place. Over 1.1 million tourists visited the country in 2015. Mount Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, National parks; these places are worth preserving.

However as the population grows, we are in danger of having irreversible damage done to the country. Approximately 4,200 tons per day of solid waste was generated in Dar es Salaam in 2011. It’s estimated that this amount will have tripled by 2025. Less than 40% of waste is collected – and collected waste is dumped without recycling. The remaining 60% is discarded on roadsides and in drainage canals.  At the same time, a population, the size of which we have never seen before, is emerging. The number of Tanzanians will more than double in the next 22 years, going from 40 million to almost 100 million by 2038. Tanzania’s current waste management infrastructure can’t keep up with the pace of waste generation.

Usually, having more people means there’s less to go around. But the opposite can be true.  By realizing the potential of waste as a resource, we have the opportunity to turn our demographic liability into a demographic dividend. We can use our increasing population to our advantage by capitalizing on the one reliable by-product of population growth: waste.

The value in waste is best harnessed in countries where labor is cheap, transportation costs are low, policy is flexible, and the booming population provides increasing quantities of the resource. These conditions are present in Tanzania. Also, Tanzania is young in many ways, and has the ability to adopt good recycling habits.

Cue Weka. Weka means “to keep” in Swahili. It is an organization that, by recovering waste for profit at a countrywide scale, will improve both the economy and the environment.

Weka aims to become the one-stop waste-to-resource infrastructure for Tanzania. Initially, Weka will act as a platform to connect small business waste-generators with large-scale buyers, through waste aggregation and resell. In phase 2, Weka will graduate to processing waste in-house to create products that are worth 4X the value of the raw material. Weka will also partner with Government to co-create policy around recycling – policy that will make it faster and cheaper to clean up the country.

By building a waste supply chain across the country, Weka will also employ and up-skill thousands of youth. Employees (“Wekas”) will go through a 2-year up or out model where they learn soft skills and selling techniques while they earn. By the time Wekas graduate from the program, they will be able to land any other customer-facing entry-level job they desire. This employability training is inspired by the impactful work done at WAVE (www.waveacademies.org) to place hundreds of youth into entry-level jobs in Nigeria.

To achieve these goals, it is critical to build a sustainable organization that works at a systems level, leverages the growing youth population, and decides based on data.

The conditions are ripe for profitable waste-to-resource mobilization in Tanzania. Inspired by Wecyclers and other social enterprises in Nigeria, Weka hopes to change the way we think about waste in Tanzania.

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Contributor:

Noella Moshi is from Tanzania. She has helped create three social enterprises in the health and education space in South Africa and Nigeria. Noella holds a Masters in Clinical Science from the University of Cape Town, and is a Mandela-Rhodes Scholar. You can reach her at noellaDmoshi@gmail.com

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