Babajide Oluwase’s infectious laugh and boundless motivation come through from the moment he starts speaking. His journey with RenewDrive, now rebranding under the name Ecotutu, started with him doing advocacy work during his university days – fitting as he calls himself an environmental enthusiast. From the beginning, Babajide was passionate about bringing people together to work towards a better environment, but also quickly realized that when advocating for sustainability, you have to do more than tell people what not to do.
This is where RenewDrive began: with the realization and impulse to start offering alternative solutions and new ideas; and above all to lead with positivity. Babajide realized that you need to create something different, as you cannot force people to care simply by asking them not to do something that they have been doing all their lives. This is unhelpful, confusing, and can be read as patronizing. Understanding the other point of view is crucial to this.
The key aspect of understanding the other side is what has been guiding Babajide and his team. He is an expert in the perhaps unglamorous, but hugely important, area of waste management in Nigeria. Initially, he was interested in the idea of converting food waste into clean energy – wanting to encourage sustainability via self-sufficiency. By the community, for the community. After some research and development, Babajide took a slightly different route. His business now focuses on the prevention of food waste by extending the shelf life of perishables. He explains that the problem lies with the system that transports food from the farmers to the markets. The food is often transported in poor conditions, over long periods, and not all the food makes it in good enough condition to be sold. Coupled with how the finances work for the farmers, in that they get paid only for the food successfully sold at the market, this exacerbates the already precarious earning potential of many people working in this sector across the country. The lack of adequate storage facilities and poor infrastructure are the biggest problems, and the journey from the farm to the market or shop is the gap that needs to be narrowed most urgently.
This is where Ecotutu comes in. Babajide and his team have created prototypes of solar-powered storage facilities based on conversations had with their customers. The name fits the product, with tutu in Yorúba meaning something cool or chilling. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they planned to deploy five units in different regions of Nigeria, which they have now had to reduce to two or three. In the true entrepreneurial spirit, the pandemic did not stop the Ecotutu team from developing other ideas as they are developing two new product lines that will enable them to serve the market well enough and help the company scale. Babajide’s dreams are big – he first wants to solve the food insecurity problem that is crippling Nigeria, and eventually, he wants to be the global category king when it comes to storage. The first Nigerian dream is starting to be within his reach, with some new, significant partners hopefully soon coming on board.
Naturally, no business develops snag-free, and Ecotutu has had its setbacks. Babajide and his team have overcome them all so far, and their hard work and limitless enthusiasm drive them on a day-to-day basis. They are seeking opportunities for growth and development everywhere – both on a business and on a personal level – and Babajide for that reason is very pleased to be part of this year’s Y&Y cohort. The most valuable aspect for him so far was the support of his mentors, who allow him to run with his thoughts and ideas and guide him by coming up with strategies, giving insights, and asking prodding questions. He’s also pleased that Y&Y is a community – it’s always easier to undertake projects knowing there are other people in the same boat. The support of the network has been a huge asset to him, and there’s little doubt that his own enthusiasm hasn’t infected the rest of the cohort.