048: WeCyclers – The Nigerian Entrepreneurs Transforming Trash Into Cash

048: WeCyclers – The Nigerian Entrepreneurs Transforming Trash Into Cash

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048: WeCyclers - The Nigerian Entrepreneurs Transforming Trash Into Cash

Guest Overview 

Born and raised in Nigeria to a family of five high achieving siblings, educated in the US, recipients of the prestigious King Baudouin African Development Prize for social entrepreneurship are this week’s guests, sister Bilikiss Adebiyi Abiola and brother Wale Adebiyi of Wecyclers.

We discuss how their parent’s commitment to excellence in education and the sacrifices they made to send them to University in the US, provided the platform for their subsequent success, and we explore how their parent’s guidance instilled in them the work ethic, self-belief, and determination to succeed.

In this engaging episode, Bilikiss and Wale discuss the serendipitous journey to launching and scaling Wecyclers – the innovative waste management start-up based in Lagos, Nigeria as well as their ambitions for its future development.

Bilikiss discusses how the idea formed whilst studying at MIT, and how her fledgling idea has scaled to become a fully operational social enterprise, that is not only tackling Nigeria’s waste crisis but is providing the residents of Africa’s largest city a convenient and incentive-based opportunity for recycling and provides low-income households a chance to generate income from their waste.

Since its inception as a student project in 2012, Wecyclers has since recycled 4,000 tons of waste, served 15,000 households and now employs 125 workers.

Wale explains why in 2016, he gave up his successful career in the US to return to Nigeria to help his sister scale Wecyclers, which now collaborates with

public agencies like the Lagos State Government, and partners with corporations including Coca-Cola, DHL, and Unilever

In this expansive discussion go on to discuss the challenges facing the African continent, philanthropy, the role of social enterprise, addressing poverty, the environment and the need to fundamentally rethink capitalism.

We recorded this while Bilikiss and Wale were visiting the US as a result of winning the coveted – which rewards outstanding contributions to development in Africa, initiated and led by Africans.

I hope you enjoy the inspirational story of inventiveness and commitment to social impact with Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola and Wale Adebiyi of WeCyclers.

What we discuss 

  • Their parents commitment to education
  • The sacrifices and compromises their parents made
  • The dual roles they player
  • Their father’s belief that anything is possible
  • Their mother’s discipline
  • The serendipity of getting into a US university
  • How Bilikiss made it to Fisk University
  • Awakening to the challenges and competition in the world
  • Mentors beyond the parents
  • Their mother’s self-belief and commitment
  • Surviving MIT Sloan
  • Joining social enterprise-class that led to the idea for WeClyclers
  • How Bilikiss created a Wecyclers as a pilot in 2012
  • The support she had from MIT Staff
  • How Wale returned to Lagos to help his native Nigeria
  • His path to joining Wecyclers
  • We discuss the scale and growth of Lagos and Nigeria
  • The operational model for Wecyclers
  • How they have gamified the business model
  • The lack of infrastructure in Lagos
  • The supply chain they are building
  • The Impact investment challenges
  • The economic impact for the community
  • Value creation
  • Winning the King Baudouin Award
  • Building Markets and Values
  • Scaling the model
  • Bilikiss’s optimism
  • Wale’s skepticism
  • The environmental imperative
  • Rethinking capitalism and what winning means
  • New forms of consumption
  • Reimagining Education
  • The impact of curiosity

Social Links 


Links in the Show 

Florida State University
Fisk University
Nigeria FactFile
Muhammad Yunis
King Baudouin Award
Anand Giridhardis
The Prosperity Paradox
Carbon Countdown clock 
Paul Mason
Post Capitalism

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