Thursday May 23rd, 2024
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Egyptian Startups Paving the Way for a Sustainable Future in MENA

These Egyptian startups have been tackling some of the country’s most pressing environmental issues to mitigate climate change.

May El Habachi

With the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Dubai earlier in November 2023, it was an opportunity for Mindsalike - a networking platform for entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa – to shed light on Egyptians startups tackling some of the country’s most pressing environmental issues, in partnership with Vantage Communications, a public relations firm in Cairo, Egypt.

The event, titled ‘Egyptian Startups Leading Sustainable Change’, was held in Cairo in December 2023, bringing together like-minded entrepreneurs and media representatives from across the country to showcase companies addressing key sustainability issues. From waste management to energy and environmental challenges, startups are playing an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change, and building a greener economy in Egypt and across the region.

Kicking off the gathering, Mohamed El Tanaty, founder of Mindsalike Network, said, “I think as an entrepreneur, you’re looking for opportunities. And during any down time - anywhere in the world, not just in the region  - people can get a bit negative, rather than look at the opportunity that exists. It’s actually during these down times that startups can be most successful.”

To illustrate his point, El Tanaty brought up Uber, Airbnb, and Instagram, which were born during the 2007-2008 economic recession - yet today, they are some of the most successful startups across the globe. “People might get caught up trying to make ideas they had pre-down time work, but the real winners here are the startups that seize the opportunity and take advantage of said down time, startups that solve an issue being faced in moments of global distress,” El Tanaty added. “Trying and experimenting during these times is paramount, especially here in Egypt where the costs aren’t quite as high as, say, the GCC.”

GETTING STARTED

Amongst the startups in attendance was Geocycle, a waste management solution in Egypt that launched in 2011 under the name of Eco-Cement, Being amongst the first to offer alternative solutions to cement production is what allowed them to become a key player in the industry. With a zero-landfill approach, the startup collects waste and uses it as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“The alternative fuels come from the municipal wastes,” Adham ElMahdy, General Manager of Geocycle Egypt, shared during the Mindsalike Network’s event. “These wastes produced by residential areas or even companies are being dumped. We sort and collect what can be reused as alternative fuel from these sites, then they’re dispatched to our plant in Ain Sokhna, where it undergoes several technical phases. Afterwards, they’re injected into our cement production process. This reduces CO2 emissions and of course negative impacts on the environment.”

So far, in 2023, the startup has processed 350 thousand tonnes of waste, and is targeting 600 thousand tonnes in 2024.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

Sustainability is not only for green focused or climate tech startups. Sustainability can also be embedded in a startup’s products and services. Mobikya is one such startup. Specialising in designing and fabricating eco-friendly products, the company upcycles everything from tires, jewellery, furniture and art pieces.

“Sustainability is all that will be there for us by 2030, and so I needed to act now,” Ibrahim Abougendy, Founder Mobikya, said. “One of my biggest inspirations is Architect Hassan Fathy, and he would say, ‘Build what is within your hands’ reach.’ And I immediately thought of waste and thought, ‘What can I build with waste?’” 

Perhaps more popularly known for upcycling tires to create innovative furniture designs such as tables, chairs, loungers, and even cat shelters, the startup is dedicated to finding green solutions to everyday living. The key, however, is to raise awareness and encourage people to buy sustainable alternatives.

“People feel morally fulfilled when they purchase a chair and find out it’s eco-friendly, going ‘Oh I’m glad I spent my money on something eco-friendly.’ But mostly that mentality is not there before the purchase decision,” Abougendy added. “And so I play on that. I’m all for long-term awareness, awareness through subtle signals. Getting people to slowly, but surely, adopt that sustainable ethos.”

CREATING IMPACT

While the goal for any startup is to be profitable, for sustainable and climate tech startups, it has to make a social and environmental impact as well.

Karm Solar, Egypt’s leading private solar utility company, is playing a key role in leading the country’s transition to solar energy, something it worked hard on given the nascent renewable energy industry in Egypt.

“Back when I’d first graduated, there weren’t many people in the (solar energy) field, Karm Solar was one of the very first entities in the industry,” Ibrahim Metanie, COO of Karm Solar, said. “When you’d bring up solar energy to anyone, they’d brush it off as this non-economic futuristic endeavour that wasn’t really grounded in reality. But now, look at us years later. We are able to quite literally change the law in Egypt, and introduce new regulations regarding the generation of solar power.”

Meanwhile, E Tadweer - a digital recycling platform that focuses on electronic waste - is encouraging people to recycle by sending their gadgets at any of the startup’s drop off locations, from Assiut all the way to Alexandria. What started off as a university competition turned into a full-fledged startup with 84,000 active users a month.

“I can safely say we have an impact. We have people from all throughout the country calling in, people from far flung areas throughout the country who you wouldn’t quite expect to be in contact with, but we have, and it’s impressive,” Karim Dabbous, Founder of E Tadweer, said.

As sustainability gains momentum in Egypt and across the region, startups will continue making significant impact in this space, developing new technologies and solutions to pave the way for a more sustainable world.


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