Mr. Gibson Kawago, founder of WAGA Tanzania, and Mr. Edgar Edmund, founder of Green Venture Limited, have joined forces to create a sustainable solution for rural households in Tanzania. WAGA, which stands for Wanted Garage, recycles laptop batteries and turns them into long-lasting battery packs for affordable use. Meanwhile, Green Venture Limited recycles plastics into building materials, some of which originate from WAGA’s shredded batteries. The collaboration between the two companies reflects a shared vision for clean energy and a sustainable environment in Tanzania. While WAGA is committed to providing dependable and eco-friendly lithium-ion battery solutions by recycling and reusing materials, Green Venture Limited is focused on creating new products from recycled plastics. By working together, these companies are contributing to a circular economy and reducing waste in Tanzania.
Gibson recalls traveling more than 32 miles to reach charging stations as a child growing up in a village where electricity was scarce. He remembers going home for the holidays and sitting with his grandmother to show her a wedding video. Still, due to a lack of electricity, the phone’s battery died, forcing him to leave and take it to the charging station. This inspired him to think beyond charging stations and consider how he could affect change through his engineering passion. Gibson describes that back in time he was able to put together a power bank, but it did have a challenge in that it could charge the phone, but the power was insufficient, and thus it could not fulfill his desire. So, as part of his college studies, he extensively researched how to improve battery systems. Finally, he discovered that lithium-ion batteries are the key to what he has been trying to figure out for the past few years. He goes on to explain that importing lithium-ion batteries was prohibitively expensive, so he decided to recycle discarded laptop batteries and give them a second chance. Gibson explains that the company has grown since then and has plans to expand to new locations. “We believe that the universe is too vast to provide clean solutions on its own. You can be a manageable size to begin making a difference. We are dedicated to hastening the transition to renewable energy through circular technology and products.” He added.
Investing in the idea
Gibson explains that he did bootstrap the venture right from the start since it was initially just from passion, and he did it as an extra-curricular. “One of the game-changing funds I received was from OpenMap Development Tanzania, who provided me with Five (5) Million Tshs to work on the project, and things began to unfold from there.” Gibson goes on to explain.
He also mentions that he was able to secure additional funding from DOT Tanzania, Dare 2 Change program, which aided in amplifying the impact of his and his team’s efforts. WAGA finished in the top three of the ClimateLaunchpad, the global green business ideas competition, in 2022. Gibson shares that there are very few and nearly no people who can fund a project that is just an idea, and it is very challenging to get funds if you do not have business traction. “My experience has been that many funders usually ask about financial data; monthly sales produced products, regular customer, of which when you just have an idea you do not have those data.”
As with other startups, Gibson explains that the need for more financial data on available customers and sales as investors inquired compelled him to participate in funding competitions. He says that getting those data was difficult because the successfully created products were delivered to people as samples for testing. “Now that we have almost enough funding, including the Climate Launchpad funds, I believe we can purchase larger machines to process the batteries, finalize the battery packs we have been working on and be ready to commercialize the product,” added Gibson.
Gibson shares that they will primarily target people from rural areas, especially those where the electricity grid is yet to reach them. He explains that growing up in the village, he understands how expensive it is to purchase the batteries, and thus they will be utilizing a rental model. “The interaction will be like a loan-rental model, where users will be given the battery packs and will be paying for them on a weekly or monthly basis, and after the agreed time, they will have full ownership of the battery pack.” Explains Gibson. “Our secondary target will be people in urban areas where we have experienced in the past few years there has been electricity shortage. We understand people need their home fully powered homes, and some own businesses which require electricity to stay operational.” He added.
In his experience exploring renewable energies, Gibson explains that the most expensive item is the batteries. “As we recycle the batteries, we are in an excellent position to provide quality batteries at an affordable price. Not only affordability, but we can also offer batteries that will deliver higher storage capacity.”
Challenges and Achievements
According to Gibson, Tanzania is still adopting technologies, and access to appropriate technology has been challenging. As a result, they have decided to import technology from elsewhere by consulting people from various countries to share the technologies they use. The transfer takes time, and it is difficult to identify the right person with the right technology. He also mentions that the technology to recycle some of the most damaged batteries is limited, so processing the products takes time because they need to consult people from other countries to help them recycle.
However, now that we have funds for better machines, I believe we can speed up the actions and possibly produce in bulk. Gibson shares that he is proud of the moment that he was able to design a battery pack that he is currently using to power up his TV at home, which has been a dream since he started working on the project. “Also, being recognized by the different organizations, including the United Nations, I am among seventeen young sustainable development goals leaders, and I will be representing Tanzania up to 2024.”
What the future holds
Gibson aims to secure 100,000 USD in funding to expand WAGA’s operations and increase their capacity to process recycled batteries in bulk. He believes that with a well-equipped facility, they can contribute to sustainable energy provision and job creation in Tanzania. Moreover, the use of sustainable batteries will lead to a reduction in carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions, which are currently increasing due to the use of kerosene lamps and fuel-powered generators.
Gibson is excited about the potential impact that WAGA can have in Tanzania and beyond. In addition to providing affordable, sustainable energy solutions for rural households, he believes that WAGA can also contribute to reducing the negative environmental impact of traditional energy sources. The use of kerosene lamps and fuel-powered generators not only contributes to greenhouse gas emissions but also creates indoor air pollution, which can cause respiratory problems. By providing reliable, rechargeable batteries, WAGA can reduce the demand for these traditional energy sources and help create a cleaner, healthier environment for rural households.
Moreover, by using recycled materials to create their batteries, WAGA is also contributing to the circular economy and reducing electronic waste. Gibson and his team are now actively seeking funding to expand their operations and establish a well-equipped facility that can process bulk quantities of recycled batteries. With this investment, they hope to scale up their impact and create more job opportunities in Tanzania. By combining their passion for sustainable energy with their entrepreneurial spirit, Gibson and Edgar are demonstrating how innovative thinking can lead to positive social and environmental outcomes.
Gibson emphasizes the importance of perseverance and self-motivation in the entrepreneurship journey. He acknowledges that the journey can be tough, especially during the initial stages when sales are low and resources are limited. However, he believes that entrepreneurs should use their own progress as a metric to measure their success and keep pushing forward. Gibson is encouraged by the growing interest in innovation and is optimistic about the potential for collaboration to drive transformation. He believes that by working together, entrepreneurs can create more impactful and sustainable solutions that benefit society as a whole.
To read more about our reports featuring Startups in Tanzania https://bit.ly/ImpactTechTZ2021-Report and http://bit.ly/TECHTZ2022