By Ebele Orakpo
Messrs. Olumide Thompson and Aniche Phil-Ebosie are two young Nigerians who left juicy positions in the corporate world to follow their passion in renewable energy and waste management because according to the duo, renewable energy is the future. They came together to establish Midori Environmental Solutions, a Lagos-based environmental company which focuses on transforming waste to value. They spoke with Financial Vanguard in Lagos recently. Excerpts:
After his secondary school education at Kings College, Lagos, Olumide Thompson went to the University of West of England in Bristol, UK, where he studied Economics and Marketing. Thereafter, he worked as an investment banker for about seven years in England and Paris and then obtained his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Durham. On his return to Nigeria, he worked for Stanbic IBTC Bank for a year before he decided to follow his passion by establishing a renewable energy company called Eco Renewables and Sanitation.
On his part, Aniche Phil-Ebosie went to Federal Government College Minna and then started his higher training in information technology/computers. He worked as a web developer/web designer for sometime before going to France to acquire more knowledge in Geographic Information System (GIS).
He worked in Paris for sometime as a GIS officer for the Institute of Research and Development. While there, he rediscovered his passion for renewable energy because one of their projects was to build solar and wind maps for the globe so he decided to jump ship and follow his dream. On getting back to Nigeria, he started a renewable energy company called Eongratis.
Although they did not know each other prior to setting up their different companies, but fate brought them together as it were. Said Aniche; “Basically, we did not know each other at all but it turned out that I went to a senior colleague, Mr. Tola Akinkugbe (who is now a partner and a director in Midori), to discuss my dreams and hopes for this renewable energy company, and Olumide also went to this same person to discuss his own dreams and hopes and everything was basically the same.
So when he heard me and heard Olumide, he said these two men have to meet each other so he got us to meet up. We sat down and discussed and saw that yes, truly we have the same vision so we decided to team up. Our two companies merged and became Midori Environmental Solutions.”
“I will say for the first two years, we basically bootstrapped. We used personal funds and funds from family because those are the first people you are able to convince to go with you. Even if they are not convinced, if you worry them enough, they will give you to get you off their back,” said Aniche.
“It is important to say that when you start off, it is very difficult to raise capital but it should not be an inhibitor. You have your idea, let people know what you want to do and how you want to go about it because if you keep waiting for the cash aspect, it might never really come.
So like Aniche said, if you set up your own company and start looking for funds, the funds they give you may never be enough for what you want to do. So you just have to cut your coat according to your size and gradually, you will build up and get to where you want to be,” noted Olumide.
On why they got into the renewable energy business, Olumide said it is the future. “Everything we have, from the fossil fuel perspective, are all finite so at one point, they are going to be exhausted and there is such huge dependence on them.
If you look at the environmental impact, from the greenhouse gas emission which happens on daily basis, to pollution, to desertification as a result of not maintaining our environment, a shift has to happen and it has started happening but may be not as much in Nigeria and Africa. There are a few like-minded people who are thinking ahead and saying yes, the future is with renewable energy. We have what is required to make that happen in Nigeria, so why don’t we start pushing it?”
Said Olumide; “We offer environmental solutions to problems we face in Nigeria, particularly in waste management and sanitation. One of our projects with the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) is provision of electricity to Ketu fruit market from waste generated from fruits. We have a 26,000-litre capacity biogas plant which can generate up to 9-10 KVA worth of electricity daily.
We generate biogas from the waste which we then use to power street lights/flood lights for the market because they get their delivery at night so the idea is to give them light. This is a small initiative, there’s so much more we can do. We use fruit waste because in that particular market, they deal on fruits like pineapple, pawpaw, water melon etc. We tend to use one or two of them not necessarily everything because the more fruits you mix, the more complicated the process becomes.”
“We have another project with an NGO called Community Conservation Development Initiative (CCDI). They bring some level of development to rural parts of Lagos so there is this project in a small community called Ebute-Lekki by the lagoon, a predominantly fishing community.
So during processing, they throw the fish guts into the sea, not realising that it facilitates the growth of water hyacinth which is a challenge to them because it gives them stress when they are fishing so why not use it to generate power? So our initiative is to mix the fish guts with water hyacinth to make biogas.
We have already installed a 26,000-litre biogas plant and we are in the second phase. We have started feeding it with the feedstock. It is a UNDP-funded project,” said Aniche. Contining, he said; “We also have other waste to value projects. For instance, we make briquettes which are compressed sawdust.
You take sawdust and compress it in a machine and it comes out like a log of wood which is an alternative to firewood or charcoal for cooking. In addition to that, we also work on biodiesel on a very small scale because you need used vegetable oil which is hard to come by.”
On whether the business is lucrative, they answered in the affirmative but noted that they have not started making profit yet. “Renewable energy/ waste management is good business. The challenge we face in Nigeria is that we haven’t quite got the knack but nonetheless, the likes of us who have identified the opportunity in the market, have the first mover advantage.
The comparative advantage is that by the time a lot of people start understanding the market, we would have gone far. So for now, we are not really worried about profit but about creating awareness, educating people and letting them know it actually works. Gradually, we can move up and at that stage, we can start thinking about profit,” said Olumide.