Meet the entrepreneurs pioneering Egypt's green economy
- 28 February 2019
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May El Habachi
Entrepreneurs often lead the way in social change, so it should come as no surprise that the creation of green startups in Egypt has been surging since 2011. According to a report by Egyptian ecopreneurs, there are now more than 200 ventures working in the field of renewable energy, waste, water management and agriculture to provide clean solutions to pressing environmental problems.
SOLVING LOCAL PROBLEMS
With natural resources depleting and the population growing rapidly, the need for entrepreneurs and businesses to transition to a green economy has never been more pressing. One of the companies raising awareness about the importance of looking after the environment is Greenish. Established only two years ago, Greenish implements sustainable environmental solutions for schools, NGOs and businesses to help them save money, create new revenue streams and attract customers.
“I created Greenish because I realized that environmental awareness was desperately needed in Egypt, and not many people were doing this at the time,” co-founder Shady Khalil told My Salaam. “We first started doing workshops, then transitioned into developing environmental solutions for companies and schools. We now also do clean ups across the country.”
Bekia is another startup that is addressing local environmental concerns. Encouraging communities to recycle, Bekia works by collecting inorganic waste from people’s homes in exchange for goods and services like vouchers, gift cards and home provisions.
“I wanted to work in recycling since I was in university,” founder Mohamed Zohdy told us. “We have an abundance of waste, and I thought, why not create an initiative to encourage people to recycle and make use of the waste at the same time?”
Bekia collects inorganic waste and sends it to local recycling factories in Egypt: 10,000 tons of it annually, with the objective of reaching 50,000 tons by 2020.
CREATING A MOVEMENT
Although environmental awareness is still in its infancy in Egypt, green entrepreneurs are paving the way for creating a more sustainable future.
“Recycling is still a niche market in Egypt,” Mohamed said. “People don’t know much about recycling or the importance of separating waste. But slowly, we are able to generate some awareness about how to properly handle waste and the benefits people can get from recycling.”
He added, “If more people recycle, we can make good use of the waste and profit from it. We have so much waste; we need to work together and develop it as an industry.”
Shady believes that people are slowly starting to become more aware of the environment. “In one of our cleanups, we had 300 volunteers! It’s become a movement. This gives me hope and motivation to continue the work I’m doing.”
MORE THAN JUST C.S.R.
While going green may make for a good undertaking for corporate social responsibility, it is also now recognised as a grave necessity. “It is only a matter of time before we have to head towards responsibility and sustainability. We will need to address it in the future, so we might as well start now,” said Shady.
For him, going green is ultimately about using waste efficiently, but it is also about finding alternatives. “For example, because electricity is expensive, we have to look for renewable sources of energy. Because plastic is costly and disposable, we have to look for cheaper and sustainable alternatives.”
To grow his company and convince more businesses to practice sustainability, Shady learned to think like an investor. Instead of only addressing the social cause of his organisation, he now also focuses on a company’s bottom line. “The future of investment is environmental sustainability,” he remarked. “By investing in environmental solutions, it is also profitable for investors.”
Over the last few years, there has been a significant trend towards businesses and entrepreneurs taking on environmental problems, and the rapid pace of entrepreneurship in the country promises more startups eager to solve social issues.
As Shady puts it, “It is not just about CSR. Going green looks good and is good for numbers.”
(Writing by May El Habachi, editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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