Sometimes you need a bit of money to make money: Journey of a Malian waste start-up

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L’EMPLOI DES JEUNES CRÉE DES OPPORTUNITÉS, ICI AU MALI (Creating jobs for young people and returning migrants in Mali, EJOM) is a four-year programme run by SNV with partners, ICCO, WASTE Foundation and the agency APEJ. The objective of the project is to improve employment opportunities for young Malians in agriculture, agri-business, solid waste and handicrafts. As the project is nearing its end, project partners are visiting several individuals and small enterprises who have either received start-up funding or a subsidy to improve and expand their business.  

WASTE advisers, Verele de Vreede and Sethupathy Azhaganandam, took their first trip abroad since the COVID-19 slowdown with a stop to a scrap buyer supported under EJOM in Koulikoro—a town 70 km from the capital, Bamako. His yard was not full of metals, but he explained that he had just sold 12,000 kg of metal to his biggest client.  

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Kamoko Sidibé is not a start-up. He has had this enterprise since 2006, but never managed to realise a regular income high enough to support him and his family. Kamoko Sidibé was one of the first to get accepted into the EJOM programme and follow the 10-day training. With this, he received start-up funding (the so-called KIT) of approximately €700. With this, he purchased a tricycle, which helped him collect more metals from farther away. Later on, he submitted a business plan to EJOM to further develop his enterprise by adding a shed and a good scale to his workplace. Additionally, he would hire an assistant who could also go around buying scraps and guarding the workplace.  

Today, copper, zinc, and aluminium are sold at a high profit to anyone interested. Though Kamoko Sidibé collects and stores enough metals to persuade his main client to regularly buy his old iron stock (12 tonnes) approximately every two months. Sometimes pieces of metal or motors are sold to smaller, individual clients and some additional money is brought in by recycling car batteries. On the side, he also collects old plastic shoes. Every so often he takes his tricycle and brings the washed and colour assorted shoes to a plastic recycler in Bamako. All in all, Kamoko Sidibé explained to the EJOM team that his business is successful and is pleased that he now can provide for his family and the family of his employee. 

Tricycle with kamoko sidibe

The EJOM consortium is working with small businesses like Kamoko Sidibé to make small steps toward professionalisation by e.g., starting bookkeeping systems. Without these steps, small businesses come to understand that it is more difficult to ask for an official business loan to support and scale-up operations. Entrepreneurs like Kamoko Sidibé share stories with the EJOM team that they are pleased to hire more employees who can take care of the business if they are out collecting or buying, as work becomes increasingly a full-time occupation.  

When asked what helped him most in the EJOM, Kamoko Sidibé admitted that the training was interesting, but that the financial injection into his enterprise was just what he needed to start professionalising his company. He is confident that he can continue growing still.  

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