ADAMA JALLOH: THE SIERRA LEONEAN RENEWABLE ENERGY VISIONARY
April 7, 2021
WOMEN HOLD UP HALF THE SKY
The effects of global warming are now very glaring and cannot be ignored. We can see the increase in natural disasters, increased heat, drought and insect outbreaks, all linked to climate change, with increased wildfires, declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas are additional concerns.
Humans have been the leading cause of these negative effects, it has taken the concerted efforts of climate change activists, environmental leaders and innovators to help raise awareness and suggest solutions to all. One changemaker that is contributing to this effort is an outstanding female entrepreneur. She is a pioneer and visionary who cares enough about the earth and wants to make a change! Pleased to introduce Adama Jalloh; in a few minutes you will get to know why we are crushing on her work.
DEFINING PURPOSEFUL WORK
Adama Jalloh, is the Director, and co-founder of Rugsal trading SL. Their company is passionate about promoting environmental sustainability in Sierra Leone and Africa. Adama and her co-founder Siraj started Rugsal after the mudslide in Regent that claimed more than 1,100 lives in Sierra Leone. They noticed the landslide in Regent was as a result of the high deforestation rate and waste management crisis in that area.
Rugsal, is positioned to tackle issues around deforestation and air pollution with their smokeless, clean, affordable, and last-burning bio-briquettes that are being produced from coconut waste (our briquettes are a substitute for wood charcoal, no trees were cut down to produce them). They also work around reducing plastic pollution and improper waste management with their reusable and biodegradable paper bags.
They are produced from banana fibers, they are the first company ever in Africa to formulate papers from banana fiber (our paper bags are a substitute for plastic bags). In January 2018, Rugsal was birthed with just $20. Today they have a team of 53 people who are earning a living through this business. Adama, excitedly shared that they have won more than 9 awards around the globe; and since they are already profitable, they are expecting to scale up even faster.
Despite the COVID-19 saga, they have thankfully remained productive. This has proven that this company could thrive in any situation that it may find itself. Because of COVID-19, most restaurants do take away and they use our paper bags for packaging. Also, a lot of people prepare their meals at home during quarantine, so we have a high demand for briquettes.
Adama believes that Africa is increasingly taking its place on the global stage as a continent of growth and opportunity, yet critical challenges remain. Particularly the need to create a significant number of jobs for the continent’s booming population, and the need to build a body of home-grown business. For these reasons, African entrepreneurship is central to Africa’s future prosperity. One of the most important things we need to do to shape a sustainable future is to invest in a resilient entrepreneurial culture, especially among startups and youth, who make up a large and growing portion of Africa’s population.
But while entrepreneurship is growing rapidly in Africa, entrepreneurs continue to face significant domestic challenges that hinder their efforts, including a lack of access to funding, support services, skills training, and infrastructure, as well as administrative barriers. Thank goodness, she said I am one of the lucky few.
WHEN THE STRUGGLE HITS DEEP
When diving into her journey as a female entrepreneur. She was elated to say that out of a pool of 40,000 applicants for the Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Tone Africa in 2020, she was shortlisted to the top 50 finalists and attended an 8 weeks IFC-certified mini MBA program. ”At first, I was skeptical about the program because I did not have an access bank account, but my co-founder Siraj inspired me and I tried anyway. We put in an application, I crossed from 40,000 women to 500 and we had to send in a 1 min video about our business, I sent the video and made it to the top 50. Then I got into the mini MBA program! We had to be in class every day for four weeks from 9 am to 6 pm; Nigerian time and four weeks of coaching sessions. We were supposed to complete the program in Nigeria, but because of the COVID-19, all the sessions were online. The time difference was a huge disadvantage for me because I was not in Africa, 9:00 am Nigerian time was 3:00 am my time. So, I had to wake up at 3:00am every day for 8 weeks(because to qualify for the pitching we need to have at least 90% attendant). So, I made it a priority and attended all the classes, received my mini MBA certificate, and was qualified to pitch.”
FINDINGLIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
So finally, it was Womenprenure Pitch-A-Ton Africa 2020 Pitch day. My pitch time was 11:15 am Nigerian time. I logged into the Zoom session, 5 minutes early and pitched my business. By the end of my presentation I knew it was a success because the judges did not ask me many questions and they said “they liked my pitch and our business”. I had put in a lot of effort and time into my presentation. I had sleepless nights putting content together for the pitch day. The good thing was that it all paid off. The next day, I was announced the 1st Winner of the Womenprenure Pitch-A-Ton Africa 2020. Our company was rewarded with a financial grant of 5million Naira, and I was the first-ever Sierra Leonean to win this award. To go from 40,000 to 500 to 50 and then down to me! I was so shocked and feel blessed at the same time. I am thankful for the opportunity to have met 49 amazing women.
ENTREPRENURS KEEP PUSHING ONWARDS
“To young entrepreneurs especially women entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone and Africa: The price of success is hard work, self-motivation, take risks, dedication, ambition, passion, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. As an entrepreneur, you need to know what you offer, and how it fits the market. In other words, understand your customers to know what they want. ”