UNIDO and Orange Partner to Pioneer Circular Economy for Mobile Devices and Networks in Egypt

UNIDO and Orange collaborate on SWITCH2CE, revolutionizing Egypt’s ICT sector with circular practices, local infrastructure, and capacity development.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Orange have joined forces to support over the next two years the establishment of a viable business model for high-quality standard secondary market of mobile devices and networks/IT equipment in Egypt. This pilot is part of the global Switch to Circular Economy Value Chains project (SWITCH2CE), co-funded by the European Union and the Government of Finland; The ambition is to foster a just transition of the Egyptian Electronics-ICT value chain to an inclusive, climate neutral and circular economy; Egypt’s e-waste generation represents 20% of the total e-waste in Africa with 585.8 kt and The Egyptian government has set the target of increasing the recycling rate to 25% by 2030 and ensuring the safe disposal of all hazardous waste; The first refurbishment center will be set in 2024 in Egypt and will support capacity building of locally recruited technicians.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Orange have joined forces to pioneer an initiative aimed at revolutionizing Egypt’s mobile device and network equipment markets. An extensive network of local and international partners, including Nokia, Cordon Group which is in the process of establishing in Egypt, Sofrecom Group, eTadweer, and many others, will join this transformation. This pilot is part of the global Switch to Circular Economy Value Chains project (SWITCH2CE), co-funded by the European Union and the Government of Finland.

This pilot project will focus on several key objectives to realize the circular potential of Egypt’s ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and electronics value chain:

  • Supporting the adoption of circular economy practices and policies: The initiative aims to accelerate the development of circular economy practices and policies in Egypt by engaging citizens and advocating for behavioral change towards recycling and circularity. This pilot project is expected to have a positive impact on the environment and reduce carbon footprints by formalizing the recycling of e-waste and extending product lifetimes.
  • Developing a local infrastructure: network equipment and mobile devices refurbishment centers will be established to serve the local market, with ambitions to become an Africa & Middle East hub.
  • Capacity Development: Local technicians will be recruited and trained, vocational certifying training programs will be introduced, and new practices that promote circular transitions in the electronics sector will be implemented, including with the informal sector.

This pilot aims to open new potential for reuse of products, extend their longevity and reduce the generated e-waste. Refurbished and recertified network equipment and devices will re-enter the local market, the residual e-waste will be collected and recycled by pilot’s partners. A vision based on repair, second life, sustainability and refurbishment of devices and equipment is a relevant approach to address the challenge of a more sustainable ICT and electronics sector in Egypt and in the region.

Egypt’s telecommunications market is one of the largest in Africa and the Middle East, both in terms of GDP contribution and number of internet and mobile phone users (85.8 million and 105.01 million respectively in 2023). With an average annual growth rate of 16.7% in FY 2021/2022 [2], the ICT sector is the highest-growing state sector over the past five years.

Egypt is also among the highest generators of e-waste in Africa. Yet, recycling companies are struggling to find economically viable methods to collect and convert these materials into secondary resources, resulting in15 to 20% of Egypt’s e-waste being recycled according to the United Nations Environment Program. Egypt has set ambitious targets to improve its waste management systems, including for e-waste, as outlined in Egypt Vision 2030. Plans also include increasing the recycling rate to 25% by 2030 and ensuring 100% safe disposal of hazardous waste.

We are pleased to collaborate with the United Nations and our partners, Nokia and Cordon Group, to help implementing circular economy in Egypt and Africa. The evolution of uses and the strong expansion of electronic equipment require a responsible reconditioning system that integrates local markets and includes local population. Orange is proud to be able to use its long-standing expertise to develop this virtuous economy and contribute to the social and economic development of the territories in which it operates.

Jérôme Hénique, Executive Vice President, CEO, Orange Middle East and Africa (OMEA)

By creating coalitions and synergies with its entire ecosystem, Orange aims to reduce the environmental footprint. Circular economy is a concrete lever for decarbonization, rational management of natural resources and economic development in the regions. These projects are fully in line with our ambition to reduce our CO2 emissions by 45% in 2030 compared with 2020 for all scopes 1, 2 and 3, as set out in our “Lead the future” strategic plan.

Elizabeth Tchoungui, Executive Vice President, Group Corporate Social Responsibility, Orange

With the support of the European Union and the Government of Finland, UNIDO leads the global Switch to Circular Economy Value Chains (SWITCH2CE) project. In Egypt, we support the circular transition for the ICT and electronics sector, by piloting innovative circular solutions in close cooperation with the private sector. This pilot will address acute challenges on new technology, business models and traceability, and will demonstrate the economic opportunity for circular approaches. The project also collaborates with government partners, academia, and NGOs to create an enabling environment for circularity through policy and tailored capacity building.

Mark Draeck, SWITCH2CE Chief Technical Advisor, UNIDO

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