Intissar Bashir Kurfi, founder /CEO Ifrique Eco Solutions, is a green architect and sustainable development goals advocate and a graduate of architecture from the famous Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria. Her experience in the non-profit and private sectors equipped her with transferable skills that help her leading teams to achieve organizational strategic goals.
In this interview with Lateef Rasheed in Abuja, she links her job to sunnah of the Prophet.
Madam, can we know more about your business and its potentials for Ummah?
Professionally, my business is under the spectrum of Architectural practice, but it falls under sustainable architecture. Coincidentally, sustainable architecture as taught in the university is related to what Islam has already taught me. For instance, in sustainable architecture, a water-tight building structure would invariably conserve water for the community uses, thus saves man from untold disasters. In Islam, long before human thoughts about water conservation, the Prophet (SAW) said if one is at the river bank, he should not misuse water. So, after graduation we established Ifrique Eco Solutions; a sustainability solutions start-up that provides eco-friendly products and services that address environmental degradation. Having said this, what we do is to recycle plastic wastes into eco-friendly structures. In local saying, it is a Waste to Wealth business. The potential is massive. It is part of the Sunah of the Prophet to encourage Muslims to engage in vocational jobs with their hands and free the environment from injurious items. And while we do these, we earn Allah’s Barakah. Islam teaches that, by protecting the ocean from nylons and disposable plastics, so they would not enter into the ocean to choke the animals and kill them in the process, attracts great rewards. Also, each stage in the value chain of the production gives economic benefits to workers and takes them out of unemployment. So for any Muslim to be in this kind of business, it is ibadah.
How tasking is the job?
Al-hamdulillah, because the job is related to what I knew in Islam, I do not see the job as much of a task. It is as an act of worship and that overrides all the tasks we need to undergo to deliver the products. I have even written a book about it for young Muslims to encourage them to be part of the industry. The book is titled: ‘Islam and the SDG’s for little hearts’. However, in practical terms, it is the coordination of all the production units that is tasking. There are many units with many individuals and, these individuals come with different mindset to work. It is my job to harness these mindsets to fall in line with the company’s set goals. For example, gathering the wastes and getting them sorted is not a one man’s job, the search can be extensive. Also, the job is driven by innovative ideas. So, the thought to be creative and turn waste into wealth is another and must be in line with global best practices.
What stands your company out?
Well, I think what stand us out are the products. Most recycling companies in Nigeria only do conventional recycling. For instance, if they recycle used nylons into trash bags, what it simply means is, they are recycling for another quick recycling process. Such nylon trash bags durability is time-bound. But, we thought differently and came out with more durable and eco-friendly products that can withstand the test of time. We focused on materials that are related to buildings. Thus, we are the first to start commercial production of plastic interlocks, roof and floor tiles. We ventured into it to give customers value for their money.
What are the industry’s specifics challenges?
Specifically, it is the transportation challenges. The reason is that the wastes materials are scattered kilometres away from us and, by the time, they are in our company in Karu Abuja, extra costs have gone as freights. It is made more challenging with the highly competitive nature of the buying and selling of waste products. Many other recycling companies are desperate to buy the materials at all costs. Thus rather than selling at affordable rates, many vendors prefer to sell to the highest bidders in Kaduna, kano and Niger states for more gains. It is also challenging because many states in the northern part of the country do not gather their Low Density Polythene wastes which consist of pure water sachet bags, nylon shopping bags and similar ones that we need as part of our business. These states rather gather High Density Polythene HDP plastics, useful for storage tanks and jerry cans. It is choking getting the required wastes for use.
What is your advice to Muslims who may want to venture into this business?
The waste to wealth business falls into the category the Prophet advice that says: we should do business, which our hands are part of it. Therefore, I will advise people should study the challenges in the industry and proffer solutions to guide their operations before venturing into it. Similarly, they should do the business analysis very well and not rush to starting it. They should also commit the business to the hands of Allah with fervent prayers. May Allah bless their intentions. Amin.