AMANI KATANA: Promoting the spirit of social entreprenuership

As part of its mentorship program, Mwangaza hosts online sessions whereby a guest is invited to share the story behind their brand. Here is our session with Mr. Amani Katana.

Kindly introduce yourself to us.
I am Amani Katana, award winning social entrepreneur with over 5 years experience in social entrepreneurship, Business development and community engagement. I am the founder of GarbTech, a solid waste management company dealing with collection and recycling of waste. I am also the founder of YEPI which empowers young people through entrepreneurship, leadership and environmental conservation. I am a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur, Mandela Washington Fellow, USADF and African Entrepreneurship Award winner.

What does social entreprenuership mean? How did you get to win the numerous awards?
Social Entrepreneurship is all about solving problems in our community and making money out of that. Different from other entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs are driven by one or more causes. They are trying to solve problem for their community and improve the quality of people’s lives. They are not driven by profit but more concerned with the impact first then money will follow.

I won these several awards because am actively engaged in social entrepreneurship and service to the community.

What are some requirements to qualify for the Tony Elumelu award?
You need to be based in Africa with a business or an idea.

Most social enterprises (especially by youth) cannot sustain themselves and are heavily dependent on donors which hampers their activities. Where do they go wrong and what is the way out?
In order to become a successful social entrepreneur, we need to see a problem from different angles. Think critically about a new and innovative solution that can generate revenue without depending on donors. Your solution must have a social impact and also the potential for growth. Where people go wrong is overlying on donors which makes them comfortable and not thinking outside the box.

How did you find yourself in entrepreneurship and community involvement? What motivated you?
I worked at the Port of Mombasa for over 8 years but I was very isolated from my community. I wanted to make an impact and touch people’s lives. That’s why I resigned in 2011 to follow my passion for social entrepreneurship and service to the community and this is what drives me everyday.

What are some of the social problems that you noticed and how did you solve them?
Number one was Garbage Collection. This is one of the biggest challenge not only for Mombasa, Kenya but also Africa. But we don’t solve problem by complaining. We solve then by asking the right questions. It is important to find the root cause of the problems we are addressing. For example Does anyone collect waste in your neighborhood? can you recycle plastic? if yes do you know where the garbage disposed? If you don’t have the answers then this is time to search for them and take action. This is how I identified the problem of garbage in Mombasa and decided to take small action.

When was Garbtech founded and how do you collect the waste?
We started in September 2015 and currently our focus is in Mikindani serving over 250 households twice per week. We have created employment to 4 vulnerable youth directly and educated over 1000 people on proper waste management practices.

What do you do with the wastes collected in the process of making the environment clean?
We sort the waste and make charcoal briquettes as an alternative energy for cooking.

What challenges do you face?
One challenge is getting young people to work in the waste sector. No one wants to be associated with dirt but the people who have succeeded in life are those who do things that people are afraid to do.

How are you received in the community? Are you always welcomed and supported?
Unfortunately, when I was starting I was appreciated more from outside than in my community. With time we have managed to change people’s perception and now they have started to see the impact we are doing.

After identifyng the Garbage collection idea that you picked on, what was the initial step you took?
I started mobilizing resources both financial capital and social capital. Thereafter, I started with the little resources that I had at my disposal. You don’t have to start big. Baby steps is very important in ensuring success of your project.

How do you develop your networking across your immediate environment and beyond?
Network is the biggest currency in this century. But to build your network, I believe you must be humble. When you are humble, people will respect you and listen to you. You will also attract the right people in your circle and the most important thing is to maintain this relationship. Also you don’t have to network with everyone, just surround yourself with the right people. People who believe in you, people who can help you personally and professionally.

What are some good principles for a social entrepreneur in order to survive in the business world?
1. Be polite and kind.
2. Be a good listener and learn to ask the right questions.
3. Be patient, entrepreneurship is not an easy thing.
3. Be optimistic. Replace challenges with opportunities.
4. Be humble no matter your position.
5. Be open minded and seek out other alternatives.
6. Manage your emotions.
7. Empathize.

The Governors Startup Challenge… Tell us something about it and how one can get involved..
The Governors Startup Challenge is a flagship program of YEPI that brings together 10 best and brightest social entrepreneurs from around the coast region for a 5 days Bootcamp in Diani. At the Bootcamp, we equip this entrepreneurs with skills on design thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, social inclusion, networking and leadership. At the end of the Bootcamp, there is a pitch competition and the winner gets funding to start or scale their business or project. Currently we just completed the first edition a while ago.

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