Success Story from Senegal: Donald Bambara, Founder of Green’Act

Donald Patrick Bambara was born in Burkina Faso less than 25 years ago. He moved to Senegal to pursue the study of Business at one of the top schools in that field in that country, the Institut Supérieur de Management (the Superior Institute of Management) or ISM. While attending the outstanding university, Mr. Bambara was disturbed by students disposing of their trash in informal landfills and general lack of waste management systems in Dakar.

In March 2013, Mr. Bambara along with Yannick Gounongbe of Cote d’Ivoire, Stéphanie Meister, a Swiss exchange student, and four other like-minded students formed Green’Act, an organization that brought recycling to the ISM campus. Mr. Bambara and his colleagues sought not only to provide places for students to separate trash from recyclable materials, but also to educate them on the importance of doing so. Mr. Bambara organized conferences and clean up sessions and was pleased to see that within a year the students were beginning to change their habits. The opportunity to sell recyclable plastics to Senegal’s small but growing recycling industry also brings in minor revenue. Green’Act works not only with ISM, but also with Proplast, a plastic collection and recycling operation in Thiès, Senegal’s third largest city.

In 2014 Mr. Bambara graduated from ISM, but completing his formal schooling has not caused him to leave Green’Act behind. Instead Mr. Bambara has focused on expanding Green’Act to make it both more sustainable and more profitable. ISM has eight campuses in Senegal and Green’Act seeks to serve all of them by 2018. Green’Act already has formed partnerships with Lycée d’Excellence Birago Diop, a high school located next to ISM and the Senegalese American Bilingual school, another high school.

In addition to establishing and managing his former campus’ recycling system, Mr. Bambara uses Green’Act as a means by which campuses can get trees planted on them and have members of their teaching staff network with others teaching about sustainable development. Mr. Bambara has focused his efforts on university campuses because he believes that they are places where people are open to new ideas and thus have an impact on society beyond their boundaries.

An example of how Green’Act will have an impact well beyond ISM is through a system of standards that the organization developed called Sustainable African Schools and Campuses. Inspired by the International Organization for Standards, Green’Act offers a kind of certification to educational and other institutions that adhere to their standards and practices for three years. The hope is for interest in meeting the standards to grow across Senegal and beyond.

Mr. Bambara’s success led him to being named one of 12 finalists for the 2013 Anzisha Prize, which recognizes young (15- to 22-year old) Africans that are using entrepreneurship to solve problems in their communities. The finalist prize has given Mr. Bambara access to a network of mentors and advisers and provided him with the opportunity to participate in an African Leadership Academy program to help him master his new project. In May 2014, Mr. Bambara’s and Green’Act’s good deeds were featured on the websites How we Made it in Africa and Konnect Africa.

Through Green’Act Mr. Bambara is not only doing what he loves, but also having a positive impact. Mr. Bambara is currently continuing his education in China, where he is earning an MBA.

Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Mr. Donald Bambara and Green’Act been so successful?

Some key characteristics come to mind:

Mr. Bambara THINKS BIG—he views Green’Act’s recycling programs on high school and university campuses within the larger framework of Senegal’s potential for ecotourism. Currently many of Senegal’s potentially beautiful beaches are littered with plastics waste, but improved recycling could benefit Senegal’s tourism industry. Green’Act has already partnered with Nébéday a non-profit organization that seeks to protect Senegal’s natural resources and to develop ecotourism. Tourism currently accounts for 14 percent of paid employment in Senegal and has the potential to become the biggest economic sector.

Fishing is currently Senegal’s largest economic sector. It too is under threat from plastics waste and other pollution. In the long term, Green’Act may be able to provide not only education, but also jobs, contributing to the growth of the Senegal’s recycling, tourism, and fishing industries.

By Heidi G. Frontani

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