"My dream is to create Africa's most efficient and largest supply chain platform and improve the lives of producers, businesses and consumers significantly".
For some, challenges and obstacles that may appear to be insurmountable can be seen as a barrier; for others, instead, they represent a drive, a source of motivation to create a better future for themselves and others.
This is the case of Divin Kouebatouka, a 32-year-old entrepreneur from Congo: he is one of the three winners of the MGA Young Talent of the Year Award 2022, presented in the framework of the COP27 at the event Youth Empowerment for Driving African Energy Transition.
Let us be inspired by his uplifting story.
A breach in the hull
"I remind my aunt Pauline, who has been producing and selling fruits and vegetables in the Congo for more than 30 years […] seeing her lose almost half of her production each season was heartbreaking".
This widespread hazard finds further confirmation in the harsh reality of Divin's pilot community: more than 5,000 farmers lose nearly US$2 million every year due to post-harvest losses, with incalculable social, environmental and economic consequences.
Faced with such an alarming situation, Divin couldn't help but ask himself whether there is a way out of the maze: "Is it possible to lift thousands of people out of poverty through responsible agricultural production?".
Let's rejoice, as the answer is yes. The solution dwells in reliable and sustainable food supply chains…to which, it goes without saying, renewable energy can provide a crucial contribution.
A much-needed quantum leap
Sometimes, a ray of sunshine is all it takes to make things better. In our story, this beacon is called GreenBoxtm: it consists of a revolutionary solar-powered cool storage technology, capable of extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables up to 21 days.
Interestingly, the positive outcomes of Divin's creation are not just limited to agricultural practices, but they impact other dimensions such as the dynamics of local market (reducing the farmers' tendency to sell the products at any price on harvest days), the overall cold supply chain (encouraging like-minded, young Congolese entrepreneurs to invest in it), and the environment. Similar solutions do exist, but they are often used in large manufacturing companies, which require a connection to a vehicle, thus generating additional greenhouse gas emissions.
With GreenBox, Divin managed to create something so small, and yet so mighty. Materialising his vision, however, took (and is taking) Divin a great deal of unyielding determination: let's see why.
The strength of togetherness
"Young entrepreneurs face a barrier in some parts of the country, especially in farming communities, due to a lack of reliable electricity… the establishment of cold storage systems in rural communities is difficult because most of these agglomerations are still not connected to the network".
Divin is shrewd and aware while depicting the status quo every green entrepreneur has to face. A widespread insufficiency in access to reliable energy is not only a human emergency, but it's also a major stumbling block for young changemakers willing to serve their communities. This hindrance also causes a major increase in the installation and maintenance costs, which are deemed to be "very high" by Divin and his team. And that's where RES4Africa steps in: acknowledging the terrific potential of GreenBox, the Foundation picked it as one of the winners of the MGA Young Talent of the Year Award 2022, an achievement celebrated in occasion of RES4Africa's youth-dedicated event at COP27. It consists of a monetary prize, networking and visibility opportunities, pumps new lifeblood into Divin's project, while demonstrating how far passionate ideas can reach.
GreenBox's victory represents, with no excess of poetry, a perfect match between RES4Africa's quest for disruptive ideas, and the needs Divin identifies for his creature: " Funding is definitely a requirement for us […] as we don't have the financial capacity to engage in the kind of publicity we want to give the company […]".
Trucks, bicycles, logistic utilities, advertisement, capacity building and awareness campaigns: all these ingredients are necessary for the continuation and growth of Divin's vision. They come, however, at a (high) price, that RES4Africa is proud to contribute to pay.
Igniting the Future
"The biggest and riskiest risk for our type of business is innovation, and the second is change […]. The rules and the game keep changing every nanosecond. To continue to win and evolve, we must continue to innovate and develop a strong and motivated team. Competition can be fought, government policy and regulation can be adhered to, but embracing change is dogma itself".
Becoming a vehicle of resilience, adaptation to climate change, and an accelerator of sustainability. This is, probably, the bottom line of Divin's entrepreneurial endeavours, with an attentive eye to the welfare of his and other African communities.
An eye that looks ahead with hope and enthusiasm, without forgetting that the path towards a green future must be planned well in advance: reducing food loss and waste by 90%, eliminating the use of diesel-powered generators, reducing deforestation and waste and, in the end, contributing to create prosperous, environmentally-friendly and socially-balanced communities.
An unwavering mission to tackle post-harvest losses, but also a testament to the power of sustainability. Way to go, Divin.