On Saturday, June 23, three second-year students from Heritage Christian College won the Grand Prize of $15,000 for their presentation of a business plan for converting human waste into charcoal. The team, dubbed “Team Charcoal,” traveled to the Global Social Innovation Challenge finale to make their pitch at the John B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.
In competition with more than 50 teams representing a dozen countries, second-year Business Administration students Evans Kwarkye, Stephen Nketsia and Austin Carboo presented with poise and confidence. They outlined their plan which serves to bolster local sanitation efforts, reduce deforestation, and create employment opportunities for Ghana’s youth.
View the slides from Team Charcoal’s presentation below:
As noted by GhanaWeb, Team Charcoal “took the global platform by storm.” In addition to the event’s Grand Prize, their ingenuity was also bestowed with the Audience Choice Award, amounting to another $1,500 in winnings. It was an unequivocal victory for Team Charcoal, and HCC, but also a victory for the Center for Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy, and Ethics (or CEPE) launched by HCC in March of this year. This innovative institute is one of HCC’s true distinguishing characteristics, and one that HCC’s leadership are particularly proud of.
How does the CEPE factor in? Among the CEPE’s stated goals is fostering ethical entrepreneurs, from within and without HCC’s purview, who will give back to their communities and create lasting positive change. The venture behind Team Charcoal has been incubated and supported by the CEPE in its early stages. Of course, even with a forward-thinking institute as a backer, it takes a group of enterprising individuals to get the job done. Enter Team Charcoal.
In front of a crowd in a Southern California auditorium, Team Charcoal detailed how this undertaking directly contributes to three of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals:
- (#6) Clean Water and Sanitation
- (#3) Good Health and Well-Being for People
- (#8) Decent Work and Economic Growth
Over the course of their talk, Team Charcoal took advantage of the platform to highlight impediments to the developing nation of Ghana, including a sanitation infrastructure with only 75% of the needed capacity for removing and treating waste. This deficit means that waste is being dumped in forests, or other areas such as the Korle-Lagoon. The current situation and practices have had dire consequences on the general outlook of the local economy, as well as the health and well-being of the populace, and have become a hindrance to its development.
By turning human waste (or “excreta”) into charcoal, this initiative not only begins to mitigate sanitation shortfalls, but creates a scalable business and brings to market a commonly used heat source at below-market prices.
This brilliant venture is exactly the kind of project HCC envisioned when it conceived of the CEPE. It provides for the use of locally sourced materials, has been designed to grow into self-sustenance, and it will bring much-needed employment opportunities to Ghana.
This and other ventures like it will be instrumental in the further development of Ghana and Africa. If Team Charcoal can pave the way for a new wave of ethical businesses determined to provide the services needed by modern societies, then in the breakthrough success of Team Charcoal, and the CEPE alike, we are seeing true development in action.
If there was ever a time when the CEPE’s high-minded goals seemed theoretical, that time has passed. The CEPE is putting its theory into practice— in student-developed business ventures with the potential to uplift Ghana—and all of a sudden, one of the ventures the CEPE has taken under its wing has garnered international acclaim. A venture by Ghanaians and for Ghanaians. In what is becoming a trend for those associated with Heritage Christian College, the dream has become a reality.