VENTURES AFRICA – A 32-year-old Swedish-Kenyan has won the European-African Entrepreneurship Award for a proposal to convert used cooking oils, widely used in the restaurant industry, into biodiesel.
The awards were held in The Hague in the Netherlands, with nine African-European entrepreneurs pitching their ideas for a business that could be adapted in the country of their origin.
Evans Kamau eventually emerged as the winner. A computer engineer who runs a lucrative taxi business in Stockholm, his sustainable concept would provide an alternative fuel source for the non-petroleum-producing Kenya, which currently relies heavily on imports. Cooking oils and other oil sources can be found in Kenya in large quantities , while research conducted by Kamau last year found that the transport industry yearns for cheaper and more efficient fuels. With diesel costs becoming uneconomical, the costs of running vehicles in most companies was quoted as between 30 percent and 50 percent of total company costs.
Kamau plans to invest the $3,800 prize money into his company, which he is calling Nairo-Bio Limited. “This is so overwhelming”, he said in the immediate aftermath of his win. “I’m sweating and trembling, because I didn’t expect anything like this. Biodiesel would provide a great alternative fuel source that would be both environmentally and economically friendly.”
Migrant organisations from countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland and Luxemburg all invited their members to come up with business ideas, with over 80 responding to the call. 9 were asked to attend the award ceremony, with Kamau eventually coming out on top. Already an established entrepreneur, he has been running his taxi business for the last five years. Last year it had a turnover of $1.2 million. He has also branched out into other sectors, and is now keen to launch an operation in the Kenyan market.
“I have also been importing fruits, vegetables and flowers from Kenya to Sweden, currently facing challenges in freight logistics, which have made it difficult to guarantee timely delivery to my clients,” he says. “With a family background of business in coffee growing, animal production, hotel and restaurant industry, I have a diverse experience in the functionality of the Kenyan market.”
“It has come to the point in my current company where I can run it remotely with the help of a manager to oversee the operations. This is why I have decided to start a new business.”