In 1992, Joel Tembo Vwira’s country experienced a wave of political unrest. The Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, was still named Zaire at the time, and organized looting left many businesses bankrupt. His father’s business was one of them.
“So I grew up with a business mindset,” Vwira said. “Being very young, I didn’t want to go through this passively.”
Through high school and university, Vwira sustained several small businesses. With over a decade of experience under his belt, it was time for big business, he said. He looked to his community to determine what services were most needed. A simple walk through his hometown of Goma overwhelmingly led to one answer – waste management.
I always want to be part of the solution whenever there’s a problem.
Impoverished governments don’t place professional waste management high on the priority list, and Goma’s environment suffered.
But what does it take to beautify a city? First, education. Creating a culture of environmental responsibility was Vwira’s initial objective. His team printed posters. They organized meetings in churches and schools. The local media highlighted their efforts. With a population of 1 million people, littering can escalate quickly.
“How does it start? Just one person dumps. Then the rest follow,” Vwira said. “It requires high interaction with the community to get them on board.”
With a team of about 30 people, Vwira provides trashcans for households and routine garbage collection. They take care of pest control, cleaning, gardening, compost, and consultation services. But to run a professional waste management company, one of the first of its kind in Goma, requires major investment. Vehicles, supplies, training, data management systems, and continued community outreach can only be improved with more finances.
“It took us years to help Goma people realize that they need waste management,” Vwira said. “So we need to invest in technology that will help spread the word. Tech is a key resource for us to go to another scale.”
Entrepreneurs are fueled by high vision, Vwira said. With plans to tackle more cities like Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Bukavu within the next three years, he remains excited and passionate.
Stay active, not passive.