Kenyan entrepreneur turns e-waste to jewellery

By Omondi Julius Odera, Kampala, Uganda

In a bid to reduce environmental impacts caused by the overwhelming number of non-bio-degradable electronic wastes that are threatening Kenya’s environment, two innovative young entrepreneurs have formed an electronic waste lab dubbed, ‘E-Lab’

With research indicating 10-20 percent of all computers sent to Kenya from abroad are unusable, the amount of electronic waste being disposed on a daily basis in the country is growing steadily fuelled by the technological advancement with mobile service providers in Kenya also responsible for over 3000 tons of e-waste generated annually.

According to Alex Mativo, E-Lab’s CEO, “E-waste is a new environmental challenge due to Africa’s fast growth in the number of mobile phone users and electronics.” The problem demands for a more innovative way of curbing it hence the establishment of E-Lab to promote a culture of safe and responsible e-waste disposal among Kenyans.

Featured on CNN International’s ‘African Start-Up’ this week, entrepreneurs Mativo and Simon Mumo indicated their passion for being more innovative and providing solutions in the fast evolving technology sector.

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.

“I came across a huge problem, nuisance, in society where people were dumping electronic waste, which is not biodegradable. So I was able to use art as a platform to initiate the campaign, I was able to transform what was once hazardous into something really amazing, to showcase to the world that we have the solutions to all our problems,” Mativo explained to ‘African Start-Up.’ 

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

“My 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,”  explained Mativo.

In addition to shoes and jewellery, E-lab makes furniture exclusively of metal and electronic waste, and then sells it to local businesses.

E-Lab has been featured among the 50 most brilliant startups for the Global Entrepreneurship Week by Istart and Kauffman Foundation and on Startup Open.

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