Uganda’s 23-year-old paper bag king
|December 03rd, 2015|
|tags:||Andrew Mupuya, plastic bag, Uganda, YELI|
It is a journey Andrew Mupuya has walked since he was 16 years after the government of Uganda declared intention to impose a ban on plastic papers which were taking a toll on the environment.
It was a light bulb moment for Andrew, then at high school, who saw a market gap and business opportunity. Armed with only zeal and a desire to make it in business, Andrew started the journey of raising the seed capital to start his business by collecting 70 kilos of plastic bottles and selling them to a recycling plant. He managed to raise $11 out of the $14 which he needed. He borrowed $3 from his teacher which set him on the entrepreneurial voyage.
Training himself in how to make plastic bags from Youtube videos, Andrew took the bold baby steps which have now metamorphosed into a plastic paper bag behemoth named Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments(YELI) that employs 20 workers, who make on average 22,000 bags per week with a client base of over 83 spanning across Uganda. It is the first registered paper bag and envelop making enterprise in Uganda.
Uganda is traditionally heavily reliant on plastic paper bags consuming on average 90 tonnes each week. But the plastic bags have brought catastrophic effects from blocking drainage systems to affecting the quality of soil as they take time to degrade. Plastic bags takes up to 1000 years to break down. Uganda has had to grapple with such environmental perils.
And as companies gravitate towards good environmental practices like cutting down on the use of plastic bags, demand for paper bags has been soaring which has seen more companies pitch tent at YELI. Andew’s company cannot meet the burgeoning demand. “We can only meet 5 per cent of the demand which is growing very fast in Uganda. But every day we are organizing ourselves and realigning our business with technologies and machinery that will increase production,” Andrew said.
But Andrew’s business is more than sating the appetite of businesses. He has become a consistent evangelist for a cleaner Africa devoid of plastic bags that have been chocking its soils and pristine landscape. He dreams of the day when plastic bags will be a thing of the past in Africa. Such passionate resolve has not escaped the eyes of the world, with Andrew receiving accolades for creating jobs and championing a green economy.
In 2012, he was the overall winner of the prestigious Anzisha Prize, a premier African award scheme that fetes African under 22 entrepreneurs who have used their businesses to solve problems in their societies.
In the same year he received the FERD and Junior Achievement – Young Enterprise Europe award with the judges commending him for “spreading your idea for others to use and then capitalizing on the market created, to the benefit of local communities and the environment.”
Andrew is also a recipient of 2.6 million Ugandan shilling ($1,000) courtesy of International Labour Organisation (ILO), Youth Employment Network, and the Danish government which he won through a business plan writing competition.
Andrew believes in solving the world’s biggest problems through knowledge transfer. This has seen him train over 500 students on paper making and how to run successful ventures. He has conducted some of the trainings through Skype training people from as far as Norway, Zambia and Ghana.
In order to ensure effective use of all paper in the paper bag production process, Andrew has been collaborating with the Ugandan Research Institute to devise ways through which the waste papers and materials can be recycled.