Sifiso Ngobese, with the help of Red Bull, has launched the Abomakgereza Project. The project, which is named after the township slang used to describe informal recyclers, is an initiative that merges social responsibility and business.
Born in Soweto and raised by a single mother, Ngobese vowed that one day he would create a change in the living conditions of struggling members of his community.
He would regularly see waste collectors in his community travelling on foot, dragging behind them bags of refuse on wobbly carts. Often these trolleys would topple over – creating more waste and mess. They also were a safety hazard on the roads.
Ngobese was inspired to create more functional and durable recycling collection trolleys. He started to design trolleys that would be lightweight yet sturdy, spacious and more visible.
Soon after this, Ngobese was hit with another ‘light bulb moment’. “The way the trolleys are designed, they will not only last longer, but they will double up as mobile billboards for companies to advertise their services,” he explains.
Ngobese turned his back on his high-paying job at one of the country’s biggest investment banks, gave up his uptown apartment and moved back home to Soweto to work on the project.
“I had been working for four years as consultant at an investment bank, but I felt that I needed to make more of a direct impact on my community.”
For the longest time he had some difficulty getting big corporates to back the idea. He only got his major break-through after attending a 10-day social entrepreneurship conference hosted by Red Bull.
Ngobese was able to further refine his idea – and he made such a good impression on Red Bull that they decided to partner with him.
Currently, Ngobese and the energy drink company have piloted three recycling trolleys. They are fitted with a tracking device to monitor the fleet. Not only will the trolley drivers draw in revenue from refuse collection, they will also receive a portion of the profits made from advertising.
The drivers that join the project will have to go on a full-day training course, will be expected to keep the trolleys clean and will be monitored to ensure that they are doing their rounds.
Ngobese and Red Bull have also managed to get Nedbank to back the project along with the City of Johannesburg. “At this point all we need is more sponsors and advertisers to have the project run at its full potential.”