Africa, Interviews

Brenda Katwesigye – Social entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Wazi Recycling Industries

Meet Brenda Katwesigye – an inspiring entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Wazi Recycling Industries. Learn more about her journey with two businesses, the challenges she overcame and how she came to run her current business while transforming the field of recycling in Uganda. Enjoy reading.

Can you give us three adjectives that come to mind when you hear the word technology?

Disruptive – Enabling – Scalable

What role does technology play in your everyday life?

Technology plays a pivotal role in my life both personally and professionally – starting from things as easy as communication, to the core of what runs my business. Not only does it help me manage my tasks and communicate with literally every one that’s part of my network but it is also at the centre of how our manufacturing happens. We use technology to make everything come to life.

Tell us a bit about your journey? How did you get to where you are now?

My journey has been one of many pivots and changes – but nonetheless, a lot of growth. I have always been entrepreneurial, from the time I was in college to date

In 2016, I started my company with the vision of creating a sustainable solution to expensive eye wear. I wanted to create an alternative by recycling plastic and making good yet affordable eye glasses so that everyone that needed a pair of glasses can afford one.

At the same time, I also worked on a technology to perform eye tests with no need for an optometrist. Along the way, responding to a lot of feedback from the market and identifying opportunities, I decided to expand the vision from just eye wear to full blown plastic recycling to add value to waste.

Now, we recycle more than 3 tons of plastic waste a week and are on track to do much more. I believe that I have got where I am through being an agile founder, listening to the market and having a keen eye for opportunity. Likewise, I have heavily been supported by friends and organizations such as USADF and Vodafone Institute through its F-LANE programme.

Please finish this sentence: I have failed in …. and these were my learnings…

In 2013, I worked on a startup called “Instahealth“ which did not work out. It had to be liquidated barely 2 years after its launch. This was a big hit for me at the time, as I had garnered alot of support. I, however, did not pay attention to the bottom line. This led to the business bleeding all its cash out. Ultimately, we were unable to continue with no revenue as grants were not reliable or forthcoming.

I learnt then to pay close attention to the market and even closer attention to what they really need and what they would pay for. Furthermore, I learnt that the value is not really in how complicated your solution is. But in how simple it is for anyone to use and how valuable customers percieve it to be.

What are three tech trends you see happening in the next 5 years?

I think artificial intelligence is certainly the trend that is shaping the future. AI will soon be built into even the machines we use (thinking digital manufacturing), and data used to make even bigger financial decisions. I think AI will be spread across different sectors and aspects of life, even the ones we least expect.

I also think that technology of the cloud is currently overlooked, yet its growing tremendously. More and more people are now storing everything on the cloud – photos, music, work, name it. Its only a matter of time before cloud storage and transfers become free across all platforms.

What has been a moment of fame this week?

For me, I think my moment of fame happened 2 weeks ago with an exclusive article written about me in Forbes. It was wonderful and has got me a lot of interesting attention and created potential for collaboration.

Who’s your superhero aka ‘Shero‘?

My superhero is actually someone in the media space – Nancy Kacungira. She is very inspirational and I have watched her grow from the Ugandan space to being an international personality on TV, while at the same time cofounding a successful digital advertising company, Blu Flamingo.

If you could travel back in time and then into the future, what advice would you give your 23-year-old self and your 75-year-old self?

My 23 year old self: I would advise her to care less what people think of her, be confident in her abilities and just keep smashing her goals, one by one. I would also advise her to learn from the mistakes of others, and not wait to first make them. Lastly, I would tell her to handle money better.

My 75 year old self: I would advise her to give back to the community that built her.

Brenda Katwesigye is the founder and CEO of Wazi Recycling Industries, a company incorporated in Uganda that builds affordable eye wear and construction material from recycled plastic. She is passionate about creating sustainable and affordable solutions for critical healthcare and housing challenges. Brenda is listed as one of the Forbes 20 new wealth creators, is an Alumni of Vodafone’s F-LANE program, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and has served on the Regional Advisory Board of the Young African Leader’s Initiative (YALI) and the Board of the STARTS Prize of the Ars Electronica.

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