What if camel dung – an abundant waste product in many parts of northern Africa – could be turned into a clean energy resource? This was the question that the founder of an Algerian tech start-up answered as part of her PhD research. Her work led not only to a more efficient method of biogas extraction but also to a start-up working to change the lives of millions of farmers in rural Africa.
Six years ago, Dr. Nawal Benaissa developed a new formulation of bacteria as part of a process that proved more efficient and faster at producing biogas. She started working with camel dung, but the process worked with any type of organic waste.
She went on to found and be the CEO of Greenal, a company that has applied the technology in a ready-to-assemble biodigester kit that they introduced in Algeria a year ago.
“The purpose is ‘tech for good’,” says Dr. Sofiane Boudjema, who joined the company as business developer to help take the technology from the lab to the market. He spoke to FoodForAfrika.com on the sidelines of the AfricArena North African Founders Bootcamp in Tunis, Tunisia earlier this week.
“Our vision is clear, we want to bring green energy to the people of Africa. Africa is a big continent and most of the people here don’t have access to energy. We want to give them access starting from the organic waste.”
Boudjema attended the bootcamp in preparation for pitching the company to investors at the AfricArena North Africa summit. The company is looking to raise US$150 000 to fund its international expansion in Africa and to find partnerships for introducing the product further in Algeria.
Bringing energy to millions
“We started in the Algerian desert, but it is a very big country. Deploying there is almost as challenging as expanding to the rest of Africa,” Boudjema says.
The team is planning to venture into the closest countries to their base in southern Algeria – Mali and Niger. From there they plan to use road infrastructure starting from Mauritania and going as far as Côte d’Ivoir and Nigeria.
The kits are marketed to farmers in rural areas where access to energy is limited. Apart from their access to organic wastes from animals and other farming activities, smallholders can also benefit from the biofertiliser that is a side-effect of the conversion process.
Boudjane says he was motivated to join the young business because of Benaissa’s passion for the project and the difference it can make to the lives of millions of people on the continent.
“What motivates me in this challenge is that I can see the real impact of the project and the product. When we started deploying the solution in the African desert, I saw the real impact with families that didn’t have access to energy and how critically we could help them,” he says.
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