Welcome to a great week!
RISE Youth of the Week is Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola from Nigeria.
Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola is a Nigerian social entrepreneur. She is an MIT Alumni and founder of WeCyclers a vibrant, wave making and innovative business enterprise. Wecyclers is a social enterprise working to help people get value from their waste through the convenient collection of recyclable materials from households, using a fleet of low-cost cargo bicycles. She discovered the idea, while undertaking an project. And since then, she has revolutionised recycling in Nigeria.Her company offers waste collection and recycling services to the Lagos informal settlements, where an estimated 66% of Lagosians live. The process involves offering residents an incentive for collecting their household waste which is picked up for free by Wecyclers using specially adapted bicycles. To get low-income households to participate, rewards are given to them for every kilogram recycled, via points sent by SMS. These points are then redeemable against goods they value, such as cell phone minutes or basic food items. The rewards have been funded in partnership with big brands such as Coca Cola and GlaxoSmithKline.
Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola and her cofounders started WeCyclers in 2012, using low-cost cargo bicycles called WeCycles to provide convenient recycling services to households across Nigeria. Although born and raised in Lagos, Bilikiss initially developed the idea for her business in the United States whilst she was a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. This followed a five-year career as a corporate software engineer at IBM where she gained invaluable business and technology experience.
Whilst at MIT, she was assigned to a study project aimed at finding solutions to tangibly help people at the bottom of the social pyramid. In Nigeria, about 70 per cent of Nigerians are at the base of the pyramid and are very poor; they don’t have basic sanitation; they don’t have basic healthcare, and she wanted to do something that would positively impact that segment. She was also very interested in waste management because as a Nigerian, waste is something she saw everywhere and she wanted to solve that problem. Going back to her country roots in Nigeria, Bilikiss was inspired to work on finding a much-needed and effective new solution to the problem of waste management.
With hard work, innovation and professionalism, Bilikiss and her team can be referred to as the new face of waste management in Nigeria. This means doing waste management differently and with lots of dexterity, which was hitherto not there, at least, not to that magnitude.
This, she admits, is a challenge, but they are getting there. She strongly believes in having a good training programme, and the rest would fall into place. Hence, in the next five to 10 years, her goal is to be the best recycling company in Nigeria.
Wecyclers is the recipient of multiple awards, including, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, Tech Award, Echoing Green Fellowship, MIT D-lab Scale-ups fellowship, MIT IDEAS Venture Grant, Yunus Challenge Prize at the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Competition, Carroll Wilson Fellowship and is a Sustainia100 company. Her recycling services has highlighted in major print and digital media platforms.
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