A Ugandan scientist will walk home with $50,000 for his pioneering homegrown technology for recycling motor vehicle engine oils to protect the environment.
Geoffrey Ssekatawa, the founder of Brent Technologies, was one of 12 recipients of the Africa Entrepreneurship Award set up three years ago to support the continent’s promising ideas.
Ssekatawa’s start-up aims at stopping the harmful dumping and burning of used motor oils and instead create recycled oil products for sale in Uganda.
In an interview with New Vision, 38-year-old Ssekatawa said he will use the funding to improve his firm’s capacity to recycle engine oils.
“It is exciting to be the winner. The vetting process for the award was tough, but my promise is to increase our capacity to recycle waste engine oils. The funding will help us a lot to achieve that,” he stated.
Uganda heavily relies on the importation of lubricating engine oils, which are expensive. Besides, the residue of the oils is often dumped or let to flow near water sources.
Ssekatawa explains that just one liter of oil can contaminate up to a million liters of water, which may account for a loss of up to 90% in agricultural yields.
His innovation will help ensure that the waste motor oil, which would otherwise end up in landfills, water sources or burnt into the atmosphere, is instead recycled and made usable.
Ssekatawa developed the technology for recycling engine oils locally, which is yet to be patented technology. In the future, he hopes his company will recycle between 50,000 and 100,000 liters of oils per day.
The jury of the award praised Ssekatawa for his innovation, stating in its citation: “This entrepreneur demonstrated a passion for the transformation of used products into new products. He invented technology that transforms used motor oil into reusable oils, thus also reducing pollution by way of used oil spillage into landfills.”
Ssekatawa holds a degree in education from Kyambogo University and a post-graduate diploma in analytical chemistry from the Mangosuthu University of Technology.
He has spent over seven years extensively researching the process of re-refining waste lube oils that can be turned into reusable products sold cheaply.
The Africa Entrepreneurship Award is an annual $1m grant and mentorship programme that recognizes inspiring entrepreneurs in the categories of education, environment and uncharted.
Prize winners in each of the three categories take home $100,000 (sh361m) each while entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas win $50,000 (sh180m).
The 2017 winners were from nine African countries: Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania.
In addition to funding, the winners and finalists receive a year of free, expert mentoring to help grow their business so they can create jobs, have an impact and improve lives throughout the continent.
About 11 million young Africans enter the job market every year, creating a need to tap into promising business ideas, with potential impact job creation and development.
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