March 20, 2017

African Innovation Challenge winner: Mahmud Johnson

Attending the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in South Africa last week, SPARK was thrilled to congratulate Mahmud Johnson, founder of J-Palm Liberia, on his success in the Johnson and Johnson African Innovation Challenge. Mahmud won the esteemed award for his efforts in sustainably economising Liberian palm oil, whilst empowering middle and lower income individuals and providing jobs.

SPARK is especially proud that Mahmud was one of the Liberian entrepreneurs that partook in the Branson Scholarship Programme, which was implemented by the SPARK Business Start-Up Centre in Monrovia in 2014.

When Mahmud arrived at the gates of the centre around 3 years ago, he was galvanised by the waste of Liberia’s naturally growing palm kernels that he saw all around him. He had realised that the only reason for this waste was the lack of processing facilities and sustainable infrastructure in the country, necessary for transporting produce. He saw an opportunity not only for entrepreneurial success, but also a way to contribute to much needed employment prospects for farmers throughout rural Liberia.

Today, J-Palm Liberia produces both crude palm oil and palm kernel oil. Mahmud and his team have found ways to economise on the waste products of the production system by using palm kernel cake for animal feed and, together with the University of Colorado, develop methods of using palm kernel shells for clean energy products. Value is also added locally through his line of beauty products, Kernel Fresh, where the natural benefits of palm oil are transformed into hair and skincare products.

Mahmud’s success continues to inspire many around the world. We were delighted to have him as our guest at the IGNITE Conference 2016, where his humble, yet motivating words inspired entrepreneurs, educators and private-sector representatives, that entrepreneurship should be a force for good. 

Congratulations, Mahmud!