In season six of Happy Porch Radio, we are focusing on the circular economy across the continent of Africa.
Today, we are joined by Keiran Smith, Cofounder and CEO of Mr. Green Africa, which is the first recycling company to be a Certified B Corporation on the African continent.
Mr. Green Africa leverages business as a force for good to realise sustainable and long-term social, environmental, and economic impact through the collection, conversion, and selling of post consumer plastic waste.
Keiran comes from a business and banking background and is now applying his entrepreneurial experience to the waste management sector in Kenya, trading with recyclable materials while achieving tangible impact.
We had the pleasure of inviting Keiran to tell us more about how this idea has been solid from day one in terms of its triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.
We also hear about his huge ambitions for where this company can go in the future, how impactful technology can be when used correctly and in in the right context, and why Keiran believes that the human impact is just as important as the environmental one.
Tune in today to learn more from this thoughtful and actionable discussion with Mr. Green Africa CEO, Keiran Smith!
CEO & Co-founder of Mr.Green Africa
Keiran is a serial entrepreneur with 10+ years experience in business building.
He has a background in banking (BoA Merrill Lynch) and Bachelor of Business Administration (HWZ, Zurich).
“There are so many great things we can and want to but it’s important to get the foundations and the fundamentals right, especially the stuff that technology cannot solve, like the human interaction.” — Keiran Smith
Tune in to find out:
Positioning social and environmental impact at the core of a financially sustainable and scalable business.
The origin story of Mr. Green Africa; how they kept the end goal in mind from the beginning.
Learn more about the informal waste collection process in the global south and how Mr. Green Africa seeks to formalise it.
Find out how Mr. Green Africa empowers waste reclaimers to improve their livelihoods.
Creating value for consumers and including them in the process of transformational change.
Keiran stresses the value of network thinking in creating circular systems in the global south.
The importance of approaching circularity from both resources and a social perspective.
How being a Certified B Corporation helps Mr. Green Africa measure their impact.
The circular framework they use as a benchmark: social inclusion, environmental footprint, and circular applications.
Keiran explains how they use smart technology to track a vast network of transactions.
Learn a bit more about the interface of this software from a waste reclaimer’s perspective.
Keiran tries to provide a summary of his vision for the future: why local value addition is key.
And much more!
“From day one, we had the end approach in our DNA; that we can be profitable and we can do good for the environment and for people. That end approach was the main point why we started.” — Keiran Smith
Links mentioned in this episode:
[0:00:06.0] ES: Hello and welcome back to Happy Porch Radio. This season, season six, we are focusing on circular economy across the continent of Africa. Today, we are joined by Keiran Smith, Cofounder and CEO of Mr. Green Africa. Keiran comes from a business and banking background and is now applying his entrepreneurial experience to the waste management sector in Kenya, trading with recyclable materials while achieving tangible social and environmental impact.
We have the pleasure of this conversation with Keiran and to hear more about how this idea has really been solid from day one in terms of that triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Also hearing about his huge ambitions for where this company can go in the future. This was a really interesting conversation, Barry, there was so much. We say this every single episode and then we also say every episode, “we say this every episode.”
[0:00:57.4] BOK: Yes.
[0:00:59.0] ES: It’s true, not enough time in these short conversations to get into the really interesting juicy bits of everything that Keiran is doing and thinking about and aiming for.
[0:01:10.0] BOK: Yeah, I’m getting more and more excited about this season and every conversation is just mind-blowing, really. Keiran was incredibly clear and able to articulate what is a series of complex issues and questions, right? Where he’s working on low income people who are picking up waste in Nairobi and clearly tying it back to the whole value chain and the conversations around all this, how to make the whole thing circular and as he said, taking baby steps toward this huge mission.
I really enjoy that conversation and then again, we had another great chat about the way technology in the right context and used in the right way can be impactful as well.
[0:01:50.1] ES: Yeah. I especially thought it was really impressive how Keiran seems to have an eye on, as he say, every point in that value chain and also, every human connection there, the social impacts is just as important as the environmental and the profit when Keiran is talking about it. He seems to have that overview of just kind of every point in the chain. Who is this affecting, how can we maybe make more value for those people involved there? It was very impressive.
[0:02:19.1] BOK: It totally was. They recently became B Corp certified and he talks about that in a really great way as well and how they were looking to measure their impact on three very clear pillars and there’s just so much there, it’s really – it comes across as really thoughtful and applying that in a very actionable way within Mr. Green Africa.
Without any further ado, let’s meet Keiran.
[0:02:45.6] KS: Hi, everybody. I’m Keiran Smith, cofounder and CEO of Mr. Green Africa. What we do at Mr. Green Africa, since plastic waste is one of the biggest challenges of our time and we all need to do something, you make the choice to basically make the informal waste sector part of our solution. Especially in the global south and partnered with FMZG companies to position social but also environmental impact at the core of a financially sustainable and scalable business.
[0:03:15.3] BOK: Wonderful and welcome to Happy Porch Radio. Let’s bring that to life a little bit, let’s talk a little bit about how you do what you just described, you’re doing this multifaceted thing of working on plastic and doing that within this – I guess, a social mission. Can you talk a little bit about what that actually looks like on the ground?
[0:03:31.8] KS: When we first started out and there was no formal valley chain in collection and infrastructure here in Nairobi and Kenya when we started out. We really looked at the value chain and the supply chain of that was very informal or still is very informal today. When we entered and sort of started participating in this market, we took a lot of principles and methodologies that you would see typically in these fair-trade value chains with tea, banana, coffee industries, where they try to integrate small farmers and exact similar, more urban farmers and waste pickers have been there for decades before Mr. Green Started, you know?
What we did is basically setup a trading point and also to be looked at like a buy back center in the community where such pickers can come and sell their material by KG, based on the measurement of their KGs they get a better price point. A more transparent price point but also much more reliable price point from Mr. Green Africa and then, from there on, we really bring it back through the entire value chain into a processing step that allows us to now convert this plastic waste into something very high – of high value that can be used again in the plastic manufacturing as supply chain to produce any types of products again.
This full end to end supply chain engagement and making sure that the people who add the most value and picking each plastic bottle get the best deal out of it from Mr. Green Africa.
[0:05:01.9] BOK: What’s the origin story? You’ve got this very clear, very clearly articulated journey and mission that you do. Did you start out in mind with, okay, that’s what we’re going to do or did it kind of grow out of different roots?
[0:05:14.0] KS: Yeah, no, I mean, it was from day one, we had the end approach in our DNA that we can be profitable and we can do good for the environment and for people. That end approach was the main point why we started. We also started at a time when nobody talked about circular economy the way we talk about circular economy today or nobody was talking about the plastic pollution as much as we talk about it today, as people and consumers are more aware about it, you know?
Really, the origin out of that is, I saw so many similarities in these informal trades chain as they were sort of in the farming trade chains if you will and so hence, I came to the conclusion that why is nobody doing something similar? Because it’s obviously nothing is – it’s still a commodity. Waste is commodity, plastic is a commodity, especially once it’s aggregated. Why do the same principles of fair trade not apply in this value chain? Hence, why it’s sort of the ethos of Mr. Green really started of combining these elements, you know? Ultimately, we had, what we didn’t know when we started is that we had to build all these three businesses in once.
The collection business inclusive, the fair elements but then also, the processing business where you’re much more local infrastructure, resilience supply chains that you had to build from ground up, and then also integrating that with the potential customers like we have today, Unilever, Pepsi Co. and those folks. Super critical partners to really close that loop and bring the plastic into the highest possible, and high value application.
[0:06:51.6] ES: Nice, I really appreciate the focus throughout on that triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit that that was there with you from the beginning and it’s still the core of what you do. Just so I can understand a bit more Keiran, because I really don’t know much about this. Can you describe what the informal collection process looks like? Maybe what the status quo was before Mr. Green Africa came along and how that whole system maybe still works in some places and how your process differs from that?
[0:07:29.5] KS: Let’s focus more first on the problems that we have. In the global south where you don’t have sort of informal waste collection form the doorsteps and households that get sort of serviced by these infrastructures or very limited service by the infrastructure. The effect out of that is that you know, we have households burning their wastes still and with it plastics, we have households discarding it and sort of illegally or sort of informally and create kind of mini dumpsites and that spills over into the water and rivers and hence, into the oceans.
Obviously, we also have to deal with a lot of poverty. These marginalized people, so called, sort of waste pickers communities and maybe we want to actually use a better term. Today, we call them reclaimers, right? Or waste reclaimers. For those communities, we’re looking at why are they engaged in sort of collecting all these discarded materials and resources, right?
Because they know that there’s somebody who would buy, a sort of main aggregator, also an informal person that has kind of like a yard or a shop like similar to our trading points, just a little bit less formal, would buy back from the communities, yeah? To create a livelihood for them and then they would sell it on to a middle man who would then sell it on to another middle man until it ends up in sort of a manufacturing supply chain that processes these materials no matter what it is but if we focus on plastics now, they apply to low quality applications, you know?
Pulls or dentures or things like that. That are still better than ending up in the environment but they have very little margins and value, right? The whole point of trying to create more value is to sort of, more people can benefit from that. If you look at t hat value chain, so many middle men who don’t really add value to that product, they end up exploiting the people who have the most value which are the people who go and pick from the streets, from the mini dump sites, all these valuables and individual containers and packaging’s to feed them back into the supply chain.
The problem that the waste picker, the waste reclaimer communities face is then, volatile prices, intransparency. If the prices come down, the price will – the decline or sort of the reduction will definitely passed on to those guys. If the price goes up, it’s not going as quick as that as sort of increase of price will be passed on. These intransparencies and sometimes people don’t get really paid because everybody’s bootstrapped and cash strapped and so on.
They’re in that trade chain besides sort of the macro elements that drive that, as much as they create livelihoods within that, you have sort of a community that obviously is exposed and highly vulnerable, yeah? Mr. Green is really trying to address that element, on one end, trying to increase the cake, make the plastics ultimately more valuable in a local value chain.
Being more resilient allows us to redistribute the value, that we get more value, that we create upstream to the people who collect and then, really, on that transactional level between us and the waste reclaimers to really try to sort of formalize them in a way that allows them to ultimately improve their quality of life besides a better price and transparency price and consistent off take.
How can we expand that transaction into a relationship and a partnership that allows them to really transition out of the condition that they’re living in into a better condition, right? Obviously, those are not leapfrogging conditions that with our presence but they’re baby steps leading towards more perspective, more dignity, etcetera.
Really, that’s the essence, right? As you can see, it’s so important in order for us to do that in a sustainable way, in a long term way, we have to ultimately create more value within the entire value chain and ultimately sell the plastic at a better price and a better margin and the only way to do that is to do more high value addition that allows to go into higher sort of quality applications that needs certain requirements in order to do so.
Lucky enough, driven by fast moving consumer goods companies like Unilever committing to the world using recycled material in their packaging, that created a demand for high quality post-consumer recycle it that you can ultimately bring back into packaging that closes the loop again, you know?
As the packaging is being created, bought in the supermarket, consumed, and then dropped again within the environment, it ends up again in the cycle of Mr. Green Africa, right? That’s how we really were able sort of to change and formalize this situation and, you know, I will still say, we’re a drop in the ocean. Ultimately over time, we’ve been able to really make a difference in the market and ultimately increase prices for always fixers in Nairobi.
With our presence, even the other aggregators and the other middle mans had to up their game to pay them better and fairer and more transparently, right? We didn’t take away from the middle man in that sense but we increased the power of the waste pickers because they know they can always come to Mr. Green Africa and sell it at a good price.
[0:12:25.5] BOK: Yeah, I really liked where you said at the start there about changing the terminology for waste reclaimers or any else before you talked about urban farming and introducing the idea of taking what’s the fair trade which a lot of people were familiar with in, for example, tea or coffee, like you say.
That to me really clearly sort of are symptoms of what you're talking about there, sort of rethinking this whole journey and where the dignity and where the real value should be.
[0:12:51.9] KS: Correct. Obviously, you know, we’ve been around now for six, seven years sort of building these various, different building blocks to make one business model. Now, we’re really thinking of the next step. Obviously, we don’t want to create more pickers who have to roam through the streets and dump sites and find plastics. We want to make it more predictable and the only way to do that is, really, to start including the consumer and create value for the consumers, there are all types of consumers.
High end consumers, they get more value out of the environmental narrative, right? Perhaps even the social narratives but the low-income consumers, they don’t have much time to think about the environment. They need to use their energy and time, unfortunately, to basically focus on surviving and eating and getting food on the table for them and their families.
How can we also enable such consumer to actually gain value out of bringing plastics back to certain centers that Mr. Green Africa provides, for them to not only engage have a monetary incentive but also be part of that societal and transformational change towards a better environment. At least a cleaner environment.
[0:13:58.6] ES: Yeah, I’m glad you said that because I was going to ask about zooming out a bit further, I suppose, when it comes to looking at this cycle of use and collection and claiming and then recycling and reusing. That point of the kind of initial consumer is really interesting. As you say different in so many contexts of kind of our relationship as a consumer with what we’re purchasing, but then also, the waste that we produce.
When we’re valuing waste because it can come back into this cycle to be recycled and reclaimed, there’s always a question in my mind of how do we see that going kind of in the long term? Is there a point where we can say, okay, actually, we’re reducing the waste without reducing the value of the recycling process. Does that make sense?
[0:14:52.1] KS: It’s all about transforming into and transitioning into a closed loop, right? If you, as a consumer understand that that packaging, that product, the content with that packaging and buying is not just after I’ve used the content, it’s not just ways that can turn it into – back into that packaging again and you know, all I need to do is X and get the incentive Y for it.
That element, that network thinking, that’s I think the beauty in the global south because we can literally leapfrog into a circular economy, where we can drive behavioral change thought these incentive systems. In Europe or in the US, it needs much bigger effort and there are much bigger industries already affected by so called circular economy. There are certain lobbies that don’t want it and sort of hesitant and sort of resisting it that change because they lose value.
Those markets have been built on a linear system and now they have to transition into a circular system, you know? It’s inevitable that everybody will do that but where it’s already an established sectors, it’s harder to do transitionally, it takes more time. I think here, in the global south and especially in African markets, we have the beautiful greenfield space where we can directly do it right. We can directly leapfrog into a circular system and include the people.
Circularity is a lot about from a resource perspective but it can also be very much from a social perspective, including the people who are engaged in the system, although maybe informally, how can we make them part of a formal solution, right? If you do that, you can actually accelerate that leapfrogging in a very transformational way. That’s really what’s exciting for Mr. Green Africa, that opportunity to build that from scratch and build a unique model, you know? It’s not a model that we copied from anywhere. It’s kind of a blend between a deposit system that is highly regulated by some government bodies in certain European countries and kind of like this informal system that is there and it’s kind of – what we’re talking about is kind of like a blend between those two worlds that could work.
It sounds very promising for us to actually include consumers, make waste pickers part of that logistic system, reverse logistic system, where they create much more predictable income and really have sort of visible and dignity on what their role is. Their role as reclaimer has been real fine if we do that at scale successfully.
[0:17:19.1] BOK: That’s amazing, I think that’s the vision. One of the purposes of this season over our podcast is, to approach stories like what you’ve – what you're saying here and that the difference between the reality on the ground and somewhere like Nairobi in Kenya versus here in Scotland and not for us, I think there’s opportunities for me and for us to be learning form that and to be sharing that story and celebrating it.
I think what you articulated in the leapfrog there, it is an exciting, an unbelievably exciting opportunity for what you're doing in Nairobi and I guess, across a lot of Africa.
[0:17:54.2] KS: Yeah, even in southeast Asia, other parts of Asia, and Latin America, you know? You have – I’m not sure if that number is correct so don’t hold me accountable but I think last time I heard is there’s like there’s 20 million waste reclaimers out there across the entire world, you know? Even in the US.
Looking at that scale of including individuals or collectives of individuals, you know? Really thinking about in the design of putting solutions down on including them, I mean, this can be really transformational from an environmental and from a social perspective.
[0:18:30.3] ES: Yeah, there’s such potential there that can be harnessed as you say around the world and in many different contexts. I imagine with this kind of a model that you’ve described to us so clearly, it’s quite tricky to then – or maybe, I don’t know, is it tricky to measure your impact? That question is two-sided, both the social impact and the environmental impact.
[0:18:56.2] KS: Yeah, definitely, it’s not as obvious as one might want to wish for, yeah? I think with the team here and since we’re spending a lot of time here. As we’ve also claiming that, you know, social and environmental impact is at the core of our business, right? It’s as important as it is to run a profitable business.
How do we measure that, right? What we actually, in the team internally just recently started like 12 months ago, we went on a journey to think about this in a more structured way, right? How can we measure the impact and we obviously, we tried to engage with the fair-trade organizations, we tried to do various different organization and have already done certain thought processes around value chain, supply chains, and vulnerable groups and engaging vulnerable groups, although, for a different commodity.
What we found was that none of those standards that are already out there, they’re directly applicable to sort of our waste value chain if you will. We went on a path down to structure this and sort of get overarching guidance from reputable and existing sort of frameworks like the B Corp community has created of fundamentally creating businesses as force for good. You know, that is so in sync with our ethos as Mr. Green Africa, you know?
Then there, within that, we have various different areas and criteria’s and categories of how you can measure the business on that. Then if you trickle it down to be more specific, we started creating something that we call the circular framework and that circular framework really tries to tackle the three pillars that are very unique to Mr. Green Africa now in that sense or unique to our value chain if you will. We have the part of it that social inclusion as one pillar that tried to measure on how we integrate and transact and build relationships with the waste picking or waste reclaiming communities and how do we ultimately improve their quality of life, yeah?
How do we improve the quality about B on how many people as well? Then there is the middle pillar that talks about now on – when we recycle and obviously there is a processing and a production and a factory element to it, right? How do we recycle this plastic? What energy do we use? Do we recycle the water, et cetera? The element of the resources that we use to turn and convert this plastic waste is something valuable.
Again, how can we measure ourselves against that and how do we bring it from now just being on the grid to maybe solar power, etcetera? Those are again, the pillar around our own environmental footprint in doing our business and then the final pillar is the circular pillar. How much of our plastic goes back into an application that can come back into our strain and value chain versus creating a roof tile or a building block for a building that extends the lifetime drastically off the plastic but once at the end of life of that brick, what happens?
Can we recycle it again or what happens to it, right? Our contribution of the plastic that we bring back through our network and feeding it into applications so it can stay in a closed loop system, how much do we contribute to that? We want to measure that as well. Those measurements ultimately will lead to kind of KPIs and point systems that allow us to say, at year one, we had so many points on these KPIs and then, year two, we increased our points by X and then, year three, we increase our points by Y, et cetera.
We can grow the numbers of points we gain against that framework, that ideal benchmark that we are setting, yeah? That’s how we can, A, measure the impact or make it a little bit more tangible, and B, we can also start measuring our growth and impact, right? Which is actually the bigger goal of that framework to actually grow and measure your grow for impact the same way how we want to measure our revenue and it grew by X percent from one year to another or profits, it grew from one year to another.
We want to be able to articulate that our impact in the various different fields have grown as well over time. That’s how we’re thinking about our impact and measuring it and then sharing it, obviously, in form of numbers but also in form of case studies and, you know, going down to the very emotional piece of an individual, you know? We’ve changed that one individual’s life but that way that this individual was changed, we have changed a thousand of them.
It makes it also much more tangible and emotional, emotionally connected. We, as human beings, we realize when we say, “The environment is under threat,” we don’t feel it today. But funny enough, with social things, poor people, seeing people struggling and suffering, it affects us immediately. It creates behavior change to at least for in that moment, bring someone over the finish line to contribute in some way or the other to try to address this problem.
The affect out of if somebody donated something or did something for that and try to change the problem, the effect in the emotion of the human being changes. It’s there immediately, right? I feel better and, for the environment, it is not as evident, unfortunately.
[0:24:06.6] BOK: Yeah, which is a tough problem, I think, generally. I really like your three pillars there and also I noticed I think you’ve recently reached or achieved the B Corp certification, so congratulations on that and obviously what you are saying there I think is a real evidence of not just doing it for its own sake but it is part of this thought process. It is part as you are saying working out how to take that mission and grow and take it to the next level.
I’d like to change tack a little bit and talk about one of the themes of the podcast is technology and digital and one of – in that sense, one of the things that is interesting for this season, whereas last season, most of our guests were in Europe or in developed countries basically. I am really interested in how you use on your site and on your marketing it talks about the technology and the smart technology you use and how that works in the context of everything you’ve just described.
[0:24:55.9] KS: Yeah, so obviously we are pretty much a brick-and-mortar business and we knew that from day one. That such a complex – trying to grow and manage and control such a complex brick-and-mortar business with so many different stakeholders and so many different infrastructural elements like these trading points that I mentioned, right? The transaction, how do we facilitate our transaction? How do we transport this material? How do we process it?
Can we follow that monetary flow and inventory flow? From day one, it was very clear that we need to have a system that allows us to track all of these various mini-transactions, you know? We are buying one KG, two KGs, 10 KGs of plastic at a time and they have value of what? Between 20 dollar cents on the dollar at a time with many, many different people. How do we track that and how do we find logic in that and control that so it’s super complex.
It was very clear that from a software technology point of view with the technologies that we have today, with apps on the ground, we can kind of create points of sales system or points of purchase systems in a very variable way and a scalable way, and so hence, how we then started developing our own software that enabled us to transact, register with the communities in a very decentral way, and obviously also, from a logistical point of view, inform when do we need to collect and fetch plastics to bring into our main aggregation point where we do the processing?
Then how do we follow the processing of how much should we receive, how much should we process, how much should we sell to our customer? A full end-to-end solution and that just from a business sort of enterprise resource system point of view, it’s inevitable that we need to be able to do that if we want to run sustainable business. Again, because we couldn’t find something that would suit our needs and sector at that time and the people who would have offered it to us to do it was just so outrageously expensive that we had to go again on a path to build it on our own.
Hence, we from day one very early on started adapting initial existing software systems that were for example used in the industry with some mobile performance there and we just applied it to our own commodity and then we were able to grow out of it and really build our own system that is fully integrated, automated in a way that you have real time data in each store where you buy back how much from who, etcetera, yeah?
That’s the software element and we realized that, as we did that and as we started selling our product to more sophisticated off takers and buyers like Unilever, they obviously also needed the certainty of when we claim social impact, when we claim fair trade, how do we do that? And our system enabled us to do that very quickly and really show the transparency that our partners were looking for, yeah? That’s sort of the technology enabled part from software and we realized that it doesn’t stop there.
You know, there is endless potential on both ends, upstreams and downstream, upstream meaning engaging with consumers, engaging with pickers and making that more efficient and finding different ways on transactions, but also upstream towards our customers like the guys of Unilever on giving them reporting and what I eluded to before with our circular framework. How can we share and measure and say every KG that you buy from Mr. Green Africa is linked to a certain amount of impact monetarily, socially, and environmentally?
Because of this end-to-end solution from a software perspective, there is endless potential to integrate with existing tools, build our own if we need to, and combine them and then adapt it to the model that Mr. Green Africa has created, you know? That’s from a software. Before I move into hardware now, I am happy to take some additional questions on this.
[0:28:49.7] BOK: Well, I mean there is an infinite number of questions I have but we can’t go on for all day but I think there’s just two interesting questions there that come to mind. One is, you mean you lit – when you say build it yourselves you literally employed developers and do it in house, is that what you mean?
[0:29:03.3] KS: Yeah, well both, external, the sort of the strategy point is internal. The point of contact and the design thinking was internal and then we obviously also outsourced and got consultants helping us thinking this through of course, yeah.
[0:29:17.3] BOK: When you say the – and then you’ve got the automated system, in a way I mean, is it reclaimed or somebody is coming along with a couple of kilos of plastic? What’s my experience to that? Is it just a case of somebody else’s – what is the interface there?
[0:29:29.9] KS: Basically as a waste reclaimer, you walk up to one of these trading points or buy back centers and then there is sort of a teller, we call them clerks sort of engaging with you, selecting the material. If you are a new reclaimer then first you would go to a registering process, registration process and sort of briefing around what Mr. Green Africa is and what is our vision and et cetera, so the engagement element, and then you basically just what we have there is sort of a Bluetooth scale that directly sort of feeds when something is being weighed.
It feeds directly into the system how much KGs is being weighed and then that’s directly linked to that person’s ID, supplier ID if you will and then once the transaction is completed and the supplier is paid that will feed, that transaction will feed into sort of this backend system database that allows us to aggregate all the various different suppliers and see who has supplied the most and who has supplied the least and which day, who is coming when, and et cetera, et cetera.
That kind of stuff is what we’ve built on the ground. We tried to bring this to the next level and try to now communicate with the people who do have for example mobile phones and a mobile wallet, they even get paid cashless, you know? It then it automatically transfers the monetary value of whatever they brought into their e-wallet, their Mr. Green e-wallet that they can withdraw from and things like that, yeah? Unfortunately many informal reclaimers still don’t have phones.
We don’t have a majority of people that are already on the e-wallet because once you have the e-wallet, you create a track record of income and it allows to open up many more doors in terms of financial inclusion, et cetera.
[0:31:09.4] BOK: Yeah and that opens up doors for interesting things around financial education as well as inclusion and as you said, the potential of both directions it must be slightly overwhelming.
[0:31:19.2] KS: Yeah, I know. It is hard to focus because there are so many great things we can and want to but it’s important to get the foundations and the fundamentals right, especially the stuff that technology cannot solve, the human interaction. The interaction with the brand and all of these things technology cannot solve. It only makes it more efficient, right? As much as we are technology enabled that brick-and-mortar, that physical presence, the people working there is so critical.
You know, even there, on that point, we have a long, long way to go to make this such a top and state of the art experience where people will ultimately say, “This is the best brand that I’ve ever met in my experience,” you know? I think we are still have some way to go there.
[0:32:04.1] ES: It’s great to hear about all of these different aspects of your ambition Keiran, you know, whether it’s on the technology side or the social impact or environmental impact. To kind of round it all off, do you think, this might be asking a lot, do you think you can kind of give me just a summary of your vision for what it is you’re aiming for? In these communities where you work with Mr. Green Africa or maybe on a broader scale like on a continental even global scale, what’s the dream?
[0:32:40.0] KS: Let’s dissect that a bit and obviously if we start on two big things, it’s the vision and then the purpose, right? If the purpose is really sort of, “Why are we here?” The vision is, “What do we want to achieve?” right? When we look at “why are we here?” it is really about redefining the plastics from wastes to something valuable and make this localized circular economy, especially in the global south or in emerging markets, commonplace, right?
That’s why we’re here, you know? We will not stop until it’s like that. From a vision perspective, it’s really sort of how can we be and being that leader in the global south or in emerging markets where we can supply these global brand owners and industrial plastic manufacturers with this sort of inclusive, local, sustainable, and traceable high-quality recycled plastic as a commodity while not losing the positioning of this social environmental impact.
Again, the end approach, right? Which is at the core for us as a business and that is really the vision of being that leader in that area of the globe. The vision and the purpose is really driven by these two key pillars, the technology driven element that we have talked about from a software enabled to really leverage the newest technologies to connect these dots across the entire value chain in the most efficient and scalable way, right?
Also hardware, converting that material into the highest possible value at all times because the more value we create, the more value we can redistribute along the entire chain and the more we can improve the livelihoods, right? Finally, you know, we want to do all of that in a fair, inclusive, and in a local way and what do we mean by local is that what we’ve built here in Nairobi and in Kenya. This is a closed loop system within Kenya, yeah?
We have created a raw material for the Kenyan market again, yeah? That’s where we become competitive versus imported version material that comes from the Middle East, China, or US, right? Local value addition is so key. If you look at other commodity value chains, even coffee, even tea, they are still so backwards because the smaller the farmers, they get the lowest value of the entire coffee value chain, you know?
The people who get the most are the roasters and the people who sell to the consumers directly but very little actually gets passed on still even in a fair trade system to that small little farmer, right? The more local value we create, the more we can redistribute and share upstream and that’s sort of what we talked about inclusiveness, fairness and local recycling companies, which we believe that will be resilient, will be future fit and will be able to collaborate effectively with the entire ecosystem if you will, right? Also on a global scale or at least at the scale within the global self.
[0:35:32.9] ES: That’s really inspiring to hear and quite a mission. I kind of see you as having this really broad overview of things that are going on in this field and kind of using your skills and resources to kind of join up some of the gaps and make sure that everything runs smoothly. Thank you for sharing.
[0:35:54.9] KS: Yeah, no, thanks for listening, giving us the opportunity to share that with more people. I mean you know, Rome was not build in one day, right? It takes some time and then take baby steps and the more we take these steps, the more we realize how interconnected all of it is.
[0:36:11.1] BOK: Very final thought to leave our listeners with. For those who want to or interested in finding out more or who are looking for opportunities to work with or connect with Mr. Green, where should they go?
[0:36:22.4] KS: Well, I think best is on our website where we consistently work hard to sort of update and then especially on the news section, new partnerships that we engage in things like that is definitely stuff that people can follow. Just feel free to reach out, there is also contact details on our website, to just reach out and ask where somebody with a certain skillset or somebody within a certain organization can collaborate with Mr. Green and accelerate the process.
[0:36:48.5] BOK: Brilliant, thank you so much and the website for those listening is mrgreenafrica.com, yeah. As usual, all the links and the notes will be on happyporchradio.com. Thank you Keiran, really, really appreciate you coming and sharing that and there is so much there. It is really inspirational. I think it is a real pleasure to have spoken to you.
[0:37:06.8] KS: Likewise. No, it was all my pleasure as well. Thank you so much for the opportunity for sharing our vision and our purpose.
[0:37:17.1] ES: Thanks for listening to this episode of Happy Porch Radio. I hope you enjoyed it. You can hear more of our episodes at happyporchradio.com. You can also get in touch with us there, let us know what you think, let us know if you have any ideas or if you want to talk to us about something. We’d also love it if you can share this podcasts, review, rate, tell your pals, tell your neighbors, tell everyone.
[0:37:38.7] BOK: Tell your dog.
[0:37:39.4] ES: Tell your dog, listen along with the whole family.
[0:37:42.9] BOK: My name is Barry, and I founded happyporch.com and Happy Porch Fund and Support Podcast. At Happy Porch, we do technology and software development for purpose-led businesses and we are particularly excited about the role of digital as an enabler for the circular economy. If you’re working on solutions to the big problems we face today, problems like climate change and biodiversity loss and global inequality, then let’s connect. Visit happyporch.com and get in touch.
[0:38:09.4] ES: My name is Emily, and I am a coach, a facilitator, and a podcaster. My projects focus on personal development, innovation for a better world and connecting with nature. My latest podcasting adventure alongside Happy Porch Radio is exploring the world of carbon removal. Find out more about this and everything that I do at emilyswaddle.com or you can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.