Makafui Awuku: Turning Plastic Waste Into Wealth Generation For Young People

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Makafui Awuku

Less than three years since Makafui Awuku started his company, Mckingtorch Africa, it has taken him on an extraordinary journey with such an uplifting story that very few people can tell a much better story.

Statistically speaking, most business leaders believe that the first three years of a start-up are crucial and most fold before their third anniversary. 

Makafui’s first three years as a social enterprise entrepreneur has taken him to meet the heir of the British Throne, Prince Charles, gotten selected for President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative and become the go-to environmental sustainable development programme developer for Ghanaian-based multinationals such as Tullow Ghana and Goldfields and lockdown partnership with United Kingdom based university, Brighton University.

A Mckingtorch Africa installation for Voltic

Given all challenges, he has had an impressive early-stage run and Makafui is setting himself up for what comes next.

A major part of it started in 2017 when Makafui was chosen as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

As part of the programme, he attended a training in Nigeria where he took a 5-week Civil Engagement and Leadership course. 

Upon his return to Accra, Makafui was required by YALI to undertake an internship programme and he was recruited by Senyo Hosi, who is the CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors, to join the One Ghana Movement. The movement was taking on a sanitation project and Makafui joined them as an intern.

He ended up working for the movement for a year. Since the programme was about sanitation, he wanted to know how the management of plastic waste will be included in this. 

The One Ghana Movement was working from the conference room of the Ghana Chamber Bulk Oil Distributor’s office and whenever they came it would be after the conference room had been used for a meeting so there were empty plastic bottles in the room.

This occurred repeatedly and one day he asked the cleaners to preserve the plastic water bottles for him.

Suddenly the empty bottles were piling up and Makafui had to think fast on what to do with them.

“Christmas was approaching so I decided to make a Christmas tree out of the plastic bottles,” Makafui told Kuulpeeps.com in an exclusive interview.

“I got a welder to help with the frame then I used robes to weave 496 plastic bottles to form the Christmas tree,” he added.

The tree

When he completed it, he installed the tree in front of his house and sent invitations to everyone in his Madina neighborhood to come for a Christmas party at his house.

His Christmas party had the usual food, drinks and music but it also had poetry and photography. It was so enticing, some of his Muslim neighbors even showed up for his Christmas party with a Christmas tree made out of plastic bottles.

That was when he knew he had struck a nerve, so he started experimenting with different things to do with plastic waste and in January 2018, he formally registered his business which later became known as Mckingtorch Africa.

This is when Makafui would bring all his expertise to bear. As a Marketing student at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), he had taken a course called Environmental Management, he also studied General Science in Keta Senior High School, after he had built his entrepreneurial foundation while a pupil at Sogakope Primary school, managing his own farm and fetching water for sale before households were connected with pipe-borne water.

But to fully achieve what we now know as Mckingtorch Africa, Makafui had to dig deeper and bring out his inner creative – the spoken word artist, installation artist and author.

All the above coming together to lead him onto a path where every bit of who he is would be required to build his newly created social enterprise.

It is those skills that helped him to develop a training module to educate people on climate-smart solutions.

Makafui Awuku with one of his recycled bins.

He taught his module to 5 communities in Ghana and Nigeria including Nima, Labadi, Achimota, Haatso and Kaduna. Attendees were as young as 9 years old and as old as 54.

That also prepared him to win a contract from Goldfields Limited. The gold mining company was hunting for a Corporate Social Responsibility project so Makafui and his team developed one for them.

Makafui and his team collecting plastic waste

This saw the company recycle their own plastic waste into 300 dustbins that were distributed to communities and households where they operate. 

In 2019, his enterprise also own a $10,000 grant which he used to purchase more machines to improve their experimentation of various product lines from recycled plastic waste. 

He currently has an invitation for the Dubai Government to participate in the Dubai Expo which was scheduled to have been held this year but has now been postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a double-edged sword for Makafui and his early-stage startup.

While he has missed key international events and forced to cut back on plastic waste collection due to movement restrictions, he was also in a unique position to repurpose his resources to respond to COVID-19 demands. Hand washing has become key to the fight against the virus and as such Veronica Buckets have become essential items.

Makafui got his team to start producing the Veronica bucket handwashing kits for households, communities and institutions who all of a sudden are in need.

The lockdown also meant that Makafui had time on his hands which as someone who loves to experiment, it means plenty of time for him in his specialized playground.

It was during one of his experimental sessions that he got the idea of turning plastic into leather. He enlisted the help of shoe and bag makers to find the best solution to this problem. After many attempts they were successful and Mckingtorch Africa produced its first footwear and other wearable products from plastic waste. On July 7, 2020 he launched what he says is his most profitable portfolio to date – the Mckingtorch Footwear – which is sandals and other items made from pure water waste bags and other waste bags.

Mckingtorch Footwear

Currently, Makafui and his team of 5 and more than 100 paid volunteers have recycled 20 tones of plastic waste from the environment in less than 3 years.

He has developed a recycling training programme to educate people since there is no sustainable training programme running in Africa. 

He has also secured partnerships with research and private institutions such as the University of Brighton and the University of Michigan which is using his business model as a case study for this semester. 

Makafui hopes of all this is laying the groundwork for other young Ghanaians and Africans to follow.

“We are provoking other young people to find solutions for their sectors,” Makafui said.

In less than 3 years “we are creating jobs and wealth for young people,” he said.

It is that drive that was recognized and he was selected to join a series of meetings with the board of directors of the MasterCard Foundation that led to the approval of 200 million dollars towards the creation of 3 million jobs for the Ghanaian Youth through the MasterCard Africa Works Project.

Makafui is expecting to receive about $40,000 from three grants that have shortlisted Mckingtorch for this year’s round of disbursements.  

About Mckingtorch Africa:

Mckingtorch Africa is a social enterprise that among many other things creates wall art from plastic, shredded bottles and bags. They are engaged in environmental protection advocacy through training and content creation, exhibitions at embassies and international events. It counts Tullow Ghana, Goldfield, British High Commission, Netherlands Embassy, Alliance Insurance Ghana, Total, Voltic and others among its client list.

Source: Kuulpeeps.com

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