Spreading e-waste-management across continents13. June 2022
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Centre (WEEE) started because of a problem in handling waste from electronical equipment. Eight years later, it serves 8000 customers across several countries, and eyes an expansion to a different continent.
— Norec made us stronger through connecting us with important actors, and this has given us credibility in our work, says General Manager Bonnie Mbithi.
— I was working on providing affordable technology and computers to schools in my home country Kenya. That was when I realised that there were no proper management of electronic waste. When speaking with different corporate companies, I understood that they were looking for somewhere to dispose of electronic waste, so I realised that I had found a huge and untapped potential.
Staff-exchange and strong teams.
Bonnie Mbithi is a young professional with a broad set of skills: he knows law, business, and circular economy well, and he has been awarded as one of the most influential 35 people under the age of 35 in Kenya. For the last two years, his company has been involved in a Norec-supported exchange together with Vohitra S.a.r.l, a waste-management-company in Madagascar. They swap staff members and co-operate through discussing ideas and joint research new ways of collecting, recycling, and safe disposal of e-waste.
— It was Norec who contacted us first some four years ago. They were looking for partners and had come across our website. We had also researched other possible markets in African countries and saw that there was potential in Madagascar. Then we found Vohitra and their website, and that is how it started, says Mr. Mbithi.
He and the company see many advantages from the Norec model; the way they both send and receive staff-members creates a strong team because the people who travel on exchange get to know their partner-organisation very well. When they return from the exchange, they play an important role in receiving the next batch of participants, because they know what it is like to come to work and live in a new country.
The co-operation is focused on strengthening the two businesses. The WEEE-Centre has made Vohitra stronger in managing electronic waste, and helped them to have more skills in ICT, so that they can handle issues themselves without having to have help from outside. In return, Vohitra has improved routines for WEEE regarding time management and reporting.
Partner-meetings, an important arena
Outside of the exchange of staff, there are yearly meetings and trainings for the partners themselves, where they also meet organisations and businesses from other Norec-exchanges:
— This is an important meeting-place for us, where we can discuss problems and solutions directly with our partners, and with Norec. It makes us feel less alone, and that we are part of something bigger. I have also meet potential partners for other projects through Norec, Mr. Mbithi explains.
8000 customers across 15 countries
He sees a clear difference on where WEEE is now compared to before they started the exchange through Norec:
— The program has made us stronger through connecting us with important actors, and this has given us credibility in our work. And this again has put us at the top of the class when it comes to managing electronic waste in Africa; we have some big corporates among our customers, and we handle e-waste for the US Embassy in Nairobi, as well as IBM, Lenovo and Total. We also have business-partners in 15 African countries; we have trained them and are now co-operating with them, getting customers through our network, and sharing revenue with them. We are serving a total of 8000 customers through our centres, says Bonnie Mbithi.
Synergies and expansion-plans
The WEEE centre is also looking at a new continent and country and will try to set up an Electronic Waste Management Center in Colombia. This is also the result of synergy through Norec; Mr. Mbithi is involved in another exchange- co-operation called Computers for schools between Kenya and Colombia aimed at promoting the use of ICT in classrooms. This has given him a chance to get research done on how e-waste is handled in Colombia, and he sees a big potential on how to improve practices. The WEEE-centre is now looking for a partner in Colombia they can train and set up shop with.
— At the end of the day, the work we do relates to all the Sustainable Development Goals. Our achievements could change lives, empower countries and improve economies, Bonnie Mbithi concludes.