July 19, 2019

E-lab: A new way to deal with E-waste

By:Rading Biko

Africa is the biggest recipient of electronic waste from European nations and America. Most of these gadgets (in form of computer, laptops, household goods such as fridges); find their way into Africa in the name of Aid just because the continent lacks better policies to handle E-waste.

Research from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report of 2012 and the UN report on E-Waste in Africa of 2013 state that between 15-30 percent of Electronic gadgets that land at the Port of Mombasa are not usable at all.

Despite the risk associated with E-waste two Kenyans; Alex Mativo and Simon Mumo have come up with a better way to boost the war against electronic waste-‘E-Lab’.

Mativo and Mumo collect electronic waste like old computers, mobile phones and fridges, and turn them into pieces of art – like earrings, necklaces, and shoes.

This is the inspiring entrepreneurial journey shared with Etaarifa.co.ke Business Correspondent by Alex Mativo; co-founder of E-Lab Company.

Tell us about your company?

E-Lab is aimed at managing electronic waste in Africa; a rather new environmental problem and also promote a global culture of safe and responsible e-waste disposal. This comes at a time when Africa has seen an exponential growth in the number of mobile phone users and electronics over the last couple of years.

Statistics indicate that over 17,350 tonnes of e-waste is generated in Kenya annually with mobile phones, personal computers and printers contributing to over 3150 tonnes.

The E-lab offers an innovation platform for young entrepreneurs in the art, fashion and ‘jua kali'(local industrial artisans) sector to come up with innovative products and solutions using electronic waste instead of the old system of only collecting and dumping waste.

We have a three step action plan over the next six months so as to realize our long term goals.

First we will set up an art challenge for the youth age 15-22 through media outreach where they will be required to identify electronic waste in their environment and transform it into creative art pieces. The art challenge would fundamentally serve as our source of initial source of capital required to set up the E-lab.

The E-lab would then put in place an e-waste collection venture; a door to door collection system and also through strategically placed e-bins where institutions and industries would be able to sort out and dump their e-waste.

At the e-lab, we would then channel our electronic waste into the respective entrepreneurs (some of whom are employees of E-lab) for the manufacture of our innovative products.

How did you raise your capital?

We actually raised capital from our savings and then decided to borrow some. Our initial was actually half a million Kenya Shillings.

What inspired you to venture into this kind of business?

We came across a huge problem, nuisance, in society where people were dumping electronic waste, which is not biodegradable. So we were able to use art as a platform to initiate the campaign and also to transform what was once hazardous into something really amazing, to show the world that we have the solutions to all our problems.

It is the potential of creating art from discarded hardware that inspired Mativo and his friend to create E-lab, and in so doing they not only contribute in helping Kenya manage its electronic waste but also earn their living.

Since establishment in 2013, how has the business been?

We started off just the two of us but today we have 5 employees. In 2015 we made headlines as we were nominated in the Young Queens award for social entrepreneurship in Africa.

We also featured in Art competitions at the same time held E-waste museum galleries to showcase electronic waste art with the aim of picking out and nurturing exemplary talent for young artists in the art industry.

What’s your profit margin?

First of all, we believe in social entrepreneurship and that’s why on a monthly basis E-lab channels 20% of its profit into youth generated projects such as Entrepreneurial forums that will act as an incubation platform for mentoring upcoming entrepreneurs who would want to establish their own ventures.

Our profit stands between Ksh 500,000 to a million depending on business.

Describe your market nature?

The market is basically the art fashion and the jua kali industry from the fashion industry we’ve been able to generate good income which is brought back to the business and has enabled us to acquire premises and to buy the resources that we need to be able to grow the company.  In addition to shoes and jewelry, E-lab makes furniture exclusively of metal and electronic waste, then sells it to local businesses.

Do you feel the Kenyan government has given the local entrepreneurs full support?

The current government is doing well in terms of sponsoring the SME sector in the country since they have realized that in order to create more jobs for the youth  funding the SME sector is the only way to create those jobs.

Additionally  Kenya like the rest of Africa have been on the forefront of receiving seed capital from international donors and it’s a good thing since most of these seed donors also offers mentorship on entrepreneurial skills .

Do you have potential investors?

There are few who have shown interest but I will   not disclose more details until  we have reach an agreement.

What’s the future for you as an entrepreneur?

Our future plan is to have branches in all Africa countries and be a global brand since we are passionate about entrepreneurship and believes in the power that African entrepreneurs have to change the continent.

Comprehensive feature article on:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkqYxwflPck



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