Two weeks ago, I met 33-year-old Allen Kimambo, a Tanzanian entrepreneur and environmental activist in Lagos, Nigeria at the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Forum.
The engineering graduate from university of Dar es Salaam could be easily spotted from the crowd because of the huge Tanzanian flag he was carrying.
He was there to attend the third annual Entrepreneurship Forum, which was held at the Law School of Nigeria.
The TEF forum is an inclusive gathering of African entrepreneurs, where over 54 countries represented meet with business leaders, established entrepreneurs and policy markers to forge partnerships, share insights and fashion Africa-made solutions to accelerate the transformation of Africa.
The gathering is a culmination of the TEF entrepreneurship forum’s initiator who is also a renowned philanthropist Tony Elumelu’s $100 million commitment to identifying, training, mentoring and empowering 10,000 entrepreneurs in 10 years.
Mr Kimambo walks Success through his social entrepreneurship and his story as the founder of Zaidi Enterprises Company based in Dar es Salaam which I visited last week.
At the warehouses in Ubungo off Mandela Road Express Highway, two men are busy piling up mountains of old cartons as they prepare to relocate to a new site.
From the look of things, Mr Kimambo can be rightfully called a garbage entrepreneur who has curved out a niche collecting cardboard paper waste from the streets, markets, factories, warehouses, ports, municipal disposal sites and offices.
“The papers are baled and later transported to Paper Mill for recycling,” he says.
Two years ago, Mr Kimambo saw paper waste being cleared at the Port of Dar es Salaam.
This prompted him into swift action giving birth to the idea of supplying cardboard paper waste to the largest paper factory in Tanzania – Paper Mill.
“I asked the clearing and forwarding agent where those papers were coming from and going to and he told me that they were imported from Dubai by Paper Mill for recycling. It was then that I asked myself why someone should import paper waste while we have a lot of it in Tanzania,” he narrates.
He then embarked on a small research on the availability of cardboard paper waste in Tanzania. He later contacted Paper Mill to notify them that he could be their supplier.
“I thank God that they gave me an opportunity to prove that I could supply the cardboard paper waste and I did not let them down,” he proudly states.
Currently, Zaidi Enterprises is the only local supplier to Paper Mill and has helped grow and deliver their targeted volume of good quality at an affordable price.
“So far, we have supplied 1.7 million kilos of baled cardboard paper waste and created more than 100 jobs across the country. This way, we have saved so many trees, saved energy, stopped paper landfill, generated revenue to the government by paying taxes and cleaning our environment,” he points out.
The project to collect cardboard paper waste started in Dar es Salaam and later expanded to Moshi, Arusha, Morogoro, Dodoma, Tanga, Mwanza and Kahama.
The company has established collection points in Arusha, Moshi and Dodoma.
So far his annual turnover is over Sh200 million and has employed two people on permanent basis and 100 more on casual basis across the country.
He has got 20 business partners in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Dodoma and Morogoro, and his company is touching lives of more than 100 families who are engaging in the collection, sorting, balling, loading and off loading paper waste.
“We have created more young entrepreneurs along this business through partnering. We work with people who are passionate about the environment and give them the idea, money to buy the papers, collection strategies and in return they get their margin as we buy back the materials from them,’” he states.
On his future plans, Mr Kimambo says his firm intends to use the same business model approach to expand its operations to other African countries starting with Zambia and Malawi. They are also planning to start exportation of other type of paper waste to India.
He is married to Esther Kimambo and is a father of two children Ethan and Myra. He has worked for Unilever in different positions in Tanzania and Kenya and is currently working for Bollore Logistics as a quality officer.
He says he has people he has employed and entrusted to help him run the company while he works at Bollore Logistics since his company is still at infancy stage. “I want to ensure that it is sustainable before I think of other things,” he states.
His desire to make a positive impact on the community did start at Zaidi Enterprises but way back in 2005 after completing his A-Level studies at Tosamaganga Secondary School in Iringa when he started teaching science subjects at Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) Moshi.
In 2006 he co-founded Masomoni Education Center at Majengo Moshi when he was in his first year in the university.
He used part of his student loan from the government to pay for the rent and collect unused home appliances including chairs, tables, blackboards, old computers to set up an office and classroom. The centre was very successful as it ended up producing some of the best candidates.
“One of the best candidates was my sister who is now a public figure Godlisten Malisa. Many Students in our first cohort of 2007 passed very well and we offered employment to youth as well,” he states.
When he completed his engineering degree in 2009 he went back to Moshi to focus on improving Masomoni Center.
“ Things were not easy by then as the rent was close to Sh450,000 making it difficult to manage,” he recalls adding that his paternal uncle gave him Sh1,000,000 as a congratulatory token after completing his engineering degree in 2009. He used the money to make desks to improve learning environment.
“The reward I can boast from Masomoni Center is the lives that we have changed especially those students who needed to acquire and improve their grades,” he states.
Things, however, got tough at Masomoni as the cost of operations were skyrocketing forcing him to seek formal employment in 2010 at Unilever and use his salary to finance the center.
“After being employed, I joined Chai Saccos in the first month of employment and in the fourth moth I applied for a loan of Sh1.7m to boost the operations but this strategy failed,” he said.
Between 2011 to 2014 he ventured in several entrepreneurship activities including farming were he lost all his 20 acres of rice, didn’t succeed in trading business in Kariakoo’s famous Congo Street and Tandika, farming in Ruvu, quail poultry in Kongowe and so many other ventures which failed.
In 2015 he successfully ventured in motorcycle repairs services, which paved way for more opportunities.
In the same year he spotted the waste paper recycling opportunity which reminded him of his passion for the environment supported by two successful project at Unilever Tanzania - the envelope project which involved using waste paper and second project - smart packaging at Unilever Kenya aiming at reducing waste and uses of more packages.
And this background has come in handy in running his business at Zaidi Enterprises, which he started in Dar es Salaam but has expanded.
“We started in Dar es Salaam, but now have operations in six regions, with centres in Dodoma, Moshi and Arusha,” he says adding that his client base has also grown from Paper Mill to Tanpack Tissue paper and prospective clients are China Paper Moshi and India Paper Mills (Export).
He has also bagged some achievements; in 2009, he emerged the Best Student in the Environmental Engineering subject at the University of Dar es Salaam.
In 2017, he became Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur who received $5,000 grant channelled through the United Bank of Africa (UBA) with the project of recycling. African Entrepreneurship Award has also listed him among the top 60 out of 5300 business ideas in Africa this year.
He concludes by encouraging young people to go out and see the beauty of nature and take responsible action to preserve it guided by the value of integrity, belief in God, love for environment and entrepreneurship.