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Kenya: Electronic Waste Gives Investors Chance to Make Cash From Trash

Rawlings Otini

The growing volume of e-waste in the region is creating new opportunities for local entrepreneurs and multinationals, who hope to tap into the $14 billion global market.

As the government ups pressure on technology firms and other large-scale importers to manage their electronic waste more efficiently, industrialists are hoping the environmental threat can translate to increased job opportunities and income generating activities.

e-waste“Given the volume of IT electronic waste entering the country today, there is a critical need to grow formal recycling capacity to cater for the whole region,” said Ken Mbwaya, managing director Hewlett Packard (HP) East and Southern Africa.

E-waste refers to the remains of used electronic goods, while IT e-waste is specifically used to refer to the remains of used information technology electronics equipment.

Earlier in the year, Camara Education started an e-waste facility in Mombasa, becoming the latest entrant in a growing field of e-waste handlers in the region.

Camara is a non-governmental organisation that uses technology to make learning easier by providing schools with computers.

Recycling plants

“The plant is poised to create over 1,000 jobs since the industry is labour intensive while addressing current health and environmental threats,” said the technical director of Camara Education Eoghan Cosby.

The move is the latest in a string of initiatives that aim to tap into the over 17,350 tonnes of electronic waste generated annually.

A United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) study released early this year shows that the annual generation of e-waste in Kenya stands at 11,400 tonnes from refrigerators, 2,800 tonnes from TVs, 2,500 tonnes from personal computers, 500 tonnes from printers and 150 tonnes from mobile phones.

With over 20 million mobile phone subscribers, three million computer owners and a growing dependence on electronic products, analysts say Kenya is ripe for major investments in recycling plants presenting consumers with where to safely dispose off the devices.

Mobile phone connections in the country rose by 34 per cent from 12.9 million in 2008 to 17.4 million last year boosted both by declining prices, rising income and a growing population.

This means that the volume of e-waste produced from mobile phones and other related appliances is set to increase by the same percentage.

Cyber cafe owners and training colleges are among other sources of raw material since their second-hand computers, quickly grow old and trigger demand for new ones.

The drive for the setting up of digital villages across the country coupled with the government initiative to provide an e-governance platform is setting the stage for an even higher output of e-waste.

Source:                                   Image: cfsk

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