Cecil Chikeze, the founder of Eco Makaa, an e-commerce company in the are of eco-friendly fuel briquettes as an alternative to charcoal. www.businesstoday.co.ke
Cecil Chikeze, the founder of Eco Makaa, an e-commerce company in the are of eco-friendly fuel briquettes as an alternative to charcoal. [Photo/Anzisha Prize]

For University of Nairobi student Cecil Chekize, a venture that has seen him provide an eco-friendly alternative to charcoal has seen him land among the top 20 young entrepreneurs in Africa. This means he is now in the running for a Ksh2.5 million grand prize.

Cecil, the 21-year-old founder of Eco Makaa, is the only Kenyan in the top 20 list for the Anzisha Prize. He emerged in the final shortlist following an application process where the continental prize attracted over 500 young entrepreneurs from across Africa.

The Anzisha Prize is an African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation partnership that is dedicated to identifying, supporting and celebrating young African entrepreneurs between the ages of 15-22. The prize seeks startup founders on the continent whose ideas, ventures and businesses harness the power to redefine and reimagine Africa’s growth trajectory.

Cecil is among the finalists from 16 African countries who will be hoping to emerge victorious at the ninth Anzisha Prize Forum on October 22 at Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Africa’s greatest asset is its young people and the Anzisha Prize Forum, now in its ninth year, is a testament to their passion and creativity,” said Koffi Assouan, Program Manager, Mastercard Foundation.

Eco Makaa; How Necessity Mothered Invention

Eco Makaa was formed in 2018, following a need for Cecil Chikeze to find a solution to a problem that was affecting his family.

His family, reliant on using charcoal for daily use, now found themselves in the crosshairs of the charcoal ban imposed by the Kenyan government. With spiking prices of charcoal, its costs proved strenuous.

This however inspired Chikeze to search for more sustainable and cheaper fuel alternatives. ” He discovered that fuel briquettes made from carbonized agricultural refuse were a feasible fuel alternative, but they were not easily accessible in the market. This was how his company Eco Makaa came about,” writes Anzisha Prize on its website.

Branding itself as the Alibaba of green energy in Kenya, Eco Makaa is an e-commerce company that connects local fuel briquette producers to a client base. The eco-friendly briquettes are aggregated at one point and supplied by the company to clients who mainly order through the e-commerce website.

Eco Makaa fuel briquettes. www.businesstoday.co.ke
Eco Makaa fuel briquettes. [Photo/Eco Makaa]

As a company, Eco Makaa does not own any machines but instead it aggregates community members who already own these assets.

Anzisha Prize goes on to say, “The eco-friendly Eco Makaa briquettes are made out of carbonized agricultural waste, such as sugarcane bagasse, as well as discarded charcoal dust.”

Approximately 9 tonnes of eco-friendly briquettes have been sold by Eco Makaa through e-commerce.

Anzisha Prize Nominees: The Full List

Asia Saeed, 20, Somalia: Founder of 2doon, a social enterprise established to reduce unemployment for the Somalian youth.

Godiragetse Fareed Mogajane, 21, South Africa: Founder of Goodie tutors, a tutoring agency which provides extra tutorial classes by offering one-on-one tutoring; university pre-exam workshops, and exam-focused math workshops for high school students.

Marvellous Nyongoro, 22, Zimbabwe: Founder of The Housing Hub, a service provision platform founded by Marvellous that uses smart technology.

Velache Coker, 19, Sierra Leone: Founder of Canaan Farms. Canaan Farms is an agribusiness and distribution company with two branches that grow various produce (watermelon, okra, cassava, etc.).

Emmanuel Owusu Agyei, 22, Ghana: Founder of Campus Trends Ghana, a marketing firm providing advice, as well as qualitative and communications services to bridge the gap between the firm and the student market.

Jaritou Jallow, 21, Gambia: Founder of Yonima Errands Runner, an enterprise founded by Jariatou which provides business errands such as business registration, bank account openings, administrative duties, etc.

Caleb Annobil, 21, Ghana: Founder of High School Water Product, an enterprise which customises sachet water to sell to students at affordable prices.

Christian Kassahun, 21, Ethiopia: Co-founder of GebeyaNet, an agricultural E-Commerce platform that connects smallholder farmers with the market and also facilitates logistics and payment systems for them.

Mamadjang Jallow, 20, Gambia: Founder of Jallow Trading, a small-scale horticultural gardening venture founded by Mamadjang. It produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, which he then sells to vendors and households around his region.

Saudah Birungi, 22, Uganda: Saudah co-founded Tusafishe, which is an enterprise that constructs water filters using locally available materials for students in rural schools and in their homes to provide them with safe drinking water.

Olipah Chomba, 22, Zambia: Founder of Poultry, an enterprise which orders broiler chicken, nurtures them for a period of six weeks by providing them with the necessary vaccines and medicine.

 Osvaldo Mokouma, 19, Republic of Congo: Founder of AquagriTech, an enterprise that enhances urban bio-waste to produce natural food from fish that are put in a closed circuit with plants that assimilate the droppings of fish for their growth.

Segbe Accrombessi, 22, Benin: Founder of Kawan Africa, an enterprise which produces and sells tomato puree. They set up workshops to train young girls to produce the puree and then become wholesalers who buy their products to sell them afterwards.

Balbina Gulam, 21, Tanzania: Founder of Huduma Smart, an enterprise that trains domestic workers and provides a job market for them.

Catherine Nalukwago, 22, Uganda: Catherine is the co-founder of Vertical and Micro Gardening, an enterprise that has developed a product called The Vertical Farm, which makes urban farming a viable micro-enterprise for low-income households.

Cecil Chikezie, 21, Kenya: Founder of Eco Makaa, a company that connects local fuel briquette producers to a client base by recruiting the community’s small-scale briquette producers who collectively produce standardised briquettes.

Abdulwaheed Alayande, 21, Nigeria: Founder of TREP LABS, an enterprise offering a product called REALDRIP, which is an infusion meter that makes blood transfusion and drip treatment simpler and safer.

Emmanuel Okon, 22, Nigeria: Okon founded Vmedkit – a health company that focuses on alleviating mental illnesses using virtual reality technology.

Raghda Medhat, 22, Egypt: Founder of Internsvalley, a system that connects fresh software engineers who seek work experience with international early stage start-ups through practical remote internships and job opportunities.

Yannick Kimanuka, 21, DRC: The KIM’s School Complex, founded by Yannick in 2018, is a nursery and primary school which aims to reduce the trend of intellectual disability found in children from her community.


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