“They Saw A Filthy Job, I Saw A Fortune” – Waste Management Millionaire, Joseph Agyepong Siaw

0 August 28, 2017 By Dang

“In the village, life was very challenging and difficult. I was schooling barefooted, going to the farm to work before going to school. I had no money. I could not afford body lotion after bathing so I would chew palm nut and use the extracts to cream myself. I slept in mud houses without electricity.

I started an electrical engineering course and in 1990 I completed the course and my father said he no longer had the money to contribute to my education so I had to go into business. He suggested I should go and assist my mother who had a little shop where she was squatting in front of somebody’s business. I started helping her like a petty trader selling exercise books on the streets

When I had to sell exercise books, I was crying because I felt my destiny had been destroyed. After a while I put myself back together. What really helped me to overcome that situation was one day I was praying and God’s message came to me. The word said ‘obey thy father and mother and you shall be successful’. So I took that message and I started to move. I stopped schooling and started assisting my mother.”

I tried every business. When it was the Christmas season, I would put the books aside and go to the local market and buy jewelry and shirts and take them round to people and try and sell them. I was doing each business on a seasonal basis and when the demand changed, I switched my products 

Because I didn’t have money and equipment, I would go to schools and talk to them as a marketer and then when I got an order I would go to a printing press with the orders and process the orders and take my commission on that order. I started building up my clientele like this until I could afford to buy a small machine and I started printing the books myself.

…In 2006, whenever you asked someone to come into the waste management space, they would not do it because they thought that it was a filthy job and it was a low-grade job. So I thought of bringing in a dignified way of doing it.” 

I first visited China and saw people using tricycles, so I bought one in a container and brought it back to Ghana and I asked people to try it. I then built an assembly plant in Ghana and started assembling the tricycles myself. I started with the tricycles because I said I needed more people to help collect the waste and if we relied on a truck and the truck breaks down then we would be in trouble”.

I went to each district and spoke to the mayors or district executives and gave them 25 tricycles and told them to try it. They didn’t want to pay for it so I gave it to them as a pilot.”

I went to the bank and asked them for money to expand my printing business. I lobbied them with my printing business for money to buy a printing press and when I got the money I went to buy tricycles and I used the tricycles to develop the business all over the districts and then Zoomlion emerged.

 …One thing I did was I invested in my business. Every amount was put back into the business. I stayed with my wife and three children in a single room, built 10 companies before I built my house. I don’t limit myself to one business…Wherever there is a problem, I like finding out how to solve it. At that time, everybody was talking about how much of a problem we had with waste management so I moved to solve the problem,” – Joseph Siaw Agyepong

With a bank loan of GHC30,000 ($6,800), Zoomlion began its expansion. From starting with 1,000 tricycles, the company currently has 15,000 and 30,000 motorized and manual tricycles respectively, with a fleet of waste management trucks as well. The company also has a combined core staff of 3,000 and manages over 85,000 workers under various forms of Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Zoomlion currently has operations in Togo, Angola, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea and Liberia. 

Source: Forbes Africa

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