Operating its head offices and plantations in Kenya and Uganda, Better Globe Forestry Ltd. is intent on developing business and eradicating poverty in Africa. Run by Rino Solberg, he gives us an insight into how his innovative company has achieved success on the continent.
Working in Africa since 1986 made Rino Solberg realise how much help the continent needed to extinguish poverty and the desire for people to live in a peaceful, corruption free environment. In this interview, Rino explains how his company, Better Globe Forestry, is helping the poor to become self-sustained through various projects and organisations.
“In 2004, when I was 60 years old, I started to think about what to do with the last 40 years of my life. I had been an international entrepreneur for over 40 years, so after being in Africa and doing business there for over 30 years and seen all the help which was needed there, I decided to take on the biggest goal I could think of – ‘To eradicate poverty and corruption in Africa’.”
This ambitious goal was not something that Rino believed would be done overnight. Like in any successful project, hard work and dedication was key. The first part of the company’s strategy was to make business based on ‘social entrepreneurship’ with the goal to eradicate poverty.
“We do not believe in charity by handouts, since it is not sustainable. Approximately 70-80% of the poor people in Africa are small hold farmers, therefore we ensured our business included them. This is why massive tree planting became the engine for business because it could make good money for the farmers. Our vision is to plant as many trees as there are people on this planet.
“The second part to our strategy, is microfinance, in order to ‘kick-start’ the farmers’ entrepreneurship and make their business sustainable. We give them small loans and teach them how to save money too. The third part, is educating the children, as no country has ever eradicated poverty without educating children. Child Africa, an NGO my wife and I started in 1991 takes care of that part.”
In order to help grow the business effectively, Rino took the decision to not sell any shares in the company or take bank loans in order to finance the operation. Instead, Better Globe Forestry have used crowdfunding and sell trees to people all over the world. Clients own the trees for 15-20 years, after which the company buys the trees back from the client at an agreed price, which is twelve times more than they paid 15-20 years previously.
Rino talks more about Better Globe Forestry’s tree investment project saying, “We have done this for ten years now and we are proud to say it works very well. Anyone can buy one tree or as many as they want, pay for them online, and over 20 years later they will get 12 times the price they paid back. A customer can log in to our website and follow their trees, see how many trees they own and when they are paid.
“Over 50% of the original forest in the world is gone and will never come back. Even today, trees are being cut by millions of hectares every year. This means that the market has a much bigger demand than supply and that makes it profitable in the future. Since we are also planting mahogany trees in the dryland, we thereby take the pressure away from cutting in the rain forest and can supply a market based on planted trees.”
Rino has ensured he has used innovative technology in order to achieve the company’s goals telling us, “We have spent eight years in a forestry laboratory in Belgium in order to get the protocol for cloning our unique tree and we are building our own laboratory in 2017. When that is operational, we will be able to produce quality seedlings in the millions very quickly. We will also use modern planting and harvesting techniques when the time come. Better Globe Forestry publish a magazine called MITI (Trees) where we teach others the latest techniques and methods for making money from trees.”
Rino’s charity Child Africa recently reached its 25th anniversary. Run by himself and his wife, Child Africa has been an integral part of achieving their mission to eradicate poverty through the education of children. Rino tells us what the charity has achieved so far.
“My wife, Julie Solberg, has done a fantastic job as Managing Director for the past 25 years. For the first 15 years, my wife and I paid all the expenses ourselves because we had no income for administrations - just support from family, friends and sponsors of children that we managed to get. (In Child Africa, I have been a non paid Chairman all these years). However, today we have helped over 10,000 children to education, we have built and run two schools in Uganda and we have taken on the challenge of eradicating corruption in Africa through teaching children about honesty and integrity in our schools. We also publish a magazine called; BINGWA (Champion) which we distribute free to schools in east Africa. This magazine is about building champions who are strong enough to stand up against corruption when they grow up.”
Rino has been a motivational speaker for over 35 years and has written ten books on personal development and leadership. He believes that every CEO becomes stronger because of the challenges they overcome. He has written a book called ‘Put Integrity First’ and therefore Rino believes that integrity is one of his leadership strengths. “Another attribute that has come in handy, when working in Africa, is that I am an optimist and I will never give up,” says Rino.
To eradicate poverty and corruption in Africa is the goal that Rino continues to aim for. Better Globe Forestry has created several projects for the future including www.Trees4Family.com, www.Trees4Expenses.com, www.Trees4RealEstate.com, and www.Trees4Cars.com. However, the most innovative of them is being launched in 2017 as Rino describes.
“The most innovative of our projects is called “Trees4Shopping.com”. This will involve us, as a company, making an agreement with shops of all kinds i.e. supermarkets, clothing, furniture, hotels, airlines, electric appliances, petrol stations and different services etc. Whatever the customer buys from these shops/companies over the whole year, they will get back cash 25% of the total amount as a saving 15 years later. This will lead to people in Africa, who have never had a savings account, receiving this deal automatically when they do their shopping and it is totally free for them, hence eradicating their poverty. This way, our “partner shops/companies” will beat the competition and their customers will be their salespeople.”
Eradicating poverty in Africa and freeing the continent from corruption is evidently no easy task. However, Rino has showed that if there is one person who can achieve this, it is someone like him, who has shown immense dedication to achieving his goals throughout his career and is determined to never give up.
Company: Better Globe Forestry Ltd.
Name: Rino Solberg
Web Address: www.betterglobegroup.com
Address: Tabere Crescent, 4, Kileleshwa,
P.O Box 823 – 00606 Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone: ( 254) (0) 20 434 3435