Five Egyptian start-ups fighting climate change

Ventures are making a difference by inspiring behavioural changes and reducing carbon emissions in the Cop27 host country

Rabbit Mobility chief operating officer Mohamed Mansoury, chief technology officer Bassem Magued and chief executive Kamal El Soueni. Photo: Rabbit Mobility
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As Egypt prepares to host the UN climate summit Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh in November, there have been calls from the government for everyone to get involved, including young people and start-ups.

A new generation has been bringing innovative ideas to the table to combat climate change, whether in the field of mobility, waste management, renewable energy or sustainable agriculture.

While Egypt produces only 0.6 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, there is still much to be done on the road to net zero.

Here are five Egyptian start-ups making a difference in the Arab world’s most populous country by encouraging people to make small changes in their daily lives.

Rabbit Mobility

Rabbit Mobility, not to be confused with 20-minute delivery platform Rabbit, is a micro-mobility sharing app for short-distance transport using electric bikes and electric scooters.

About 500 vehicles are available across Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Mansoura, Tanta and Port Said. The next target market is Sharm El Sheikh, where about 150 of Rabbit’s fleet will be available for Cop27.

Rabbit Mobility, founded by chief executive Kamal El Soueni, chief operating officer Mohamed Mansoury, and chief technology officer Bassem Magued in 2019, was inspired by similar start-ups such as Byrd and Lime.

It was also meant to tackle the problem of being stuck in gridlocked traffic, despite 50 per cent of trips in Egypt being less than three kilometres and 80 per cent less than eight.

“When we started out the company, we wanted to solve traffic in an enjoyable and environmentally friendly way,” Mr Mansoury tells The National.

Rabbit offers an Unlock & Go model, as well as a Day Rentals model whereby users can request a rental vehicle for a minimum of two days to be delivered to them.

The service was introduced in gated communities last year then it expanded into central city districts.

The start-up has raised around $900,000 in funding from investors, including 500 Global and Falak Startups backed by the Egyptian Ministry of International Co-operation.

Rabbit became cash-flow positive over the summer, but the founders are most proud of the impact their start-up has had on carbon emission reductions.

The average person in Egypt emits about 2 tonnes, or 2,000 kilograms, of CO2 emissions, according to Our World in Data.

“Our estimate so far is that we’ve saved 50,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions by replacing car trips,” Mr Mansoury says. “Our vision is to maybe reach 500,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions saved … so we’re at 10 per cent of the goal and still going.”

Tagaddod

Tagaddod, which is Arabic for “renew”, converts used cooking oil collected from Egyptian households and restaurants into biofuel.

Rather than discarding the oil as waste, biofuel can be used as a low-carbon alternative source of energy. For example, biodiesel can be a substitute for traditional petroleum diesel.

Tagaddod’s services include tech-enabled collection of waste oils and fats, used cooking oil refining and feedstock trading.

Founded in 2013, Tagaddod connects waste collectors with consumers through an app. Collectors get a reliable source of income and consumers receive incentives such as new bottles of vegetable oil.

Chief executive Nour El Assal told CNN in November that the company processes thousands of orders daily.

“I think biofuels can be used here in Egypt in the very near future, mainly to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and to be able to be part of the climate change movement,” he said.

The start-up raised around $1m in a seed round last year from Kepple Africa Ventures and LoftyInc Capital Management, according to crunchbase.

Shamsina’s goal is to bring affordable solar-powered water heaters to households across Egypt. Photo: Shamsina
Shamsina

Egyptian sisters Sarah and Deena Mousa founded Shamsina in 2014 to bring affordable rooftop solar-powered water heaters to low-income households around the country.

About half of Egyptian households lack access to modern water heaters due to the high electricity expense, Shamsina said.

Chief executive Sarah had discovered while volunteering in Cairo as a high school and college student that many families use hazardous and polluting methods to heat water, such as kerosene burners, gas tanks or makeshift fires.

“By replacing these with a solar water heater, a household uses at least one less gas tank per month. That is the equivalent of 10 fewer pounds (4.5 kilograms) of CO2 emissions,” she tells The National.

“Multiply that number by millions of households, month after month, and we hope that this relatively simple intervention can play a tangible role in the fight against climate change.”

Shamsina started out by recruiting an engineer to help build a low-tech water heater and established a workshop in Al Darb Al Ahmar district. The 100-litre capacity prototype heaters were sold for about $210 to families.

The company has since developed the fourth version of its water heater and is on the cusp of a larger pilot programme before going to market.

Shamsina is supported by pre-seed grants totalling around $25,000 and was selected in April to be part of Harvard Innovation Labs' Climate Entrepreneur's Circle, an incubation programme for high-potential ventures working to address climate change.

Hazem El Tawab, chief executive and founder at ReNile, at a start-up exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany. Photo: Hazem El Tawab
ReNile

ReNile is an AgriTech start-up that works in the field of the Internet of Things (IoT), providing farmers with products such as fish farming smart devices and monitoring systems. The company helps make sure environmental solutions that save water and resources, such as hydroponics and aquaponics, are successful.

For example, last year ReNile was recruited by the government to provide its technical solutions for the Fayrouz fish farming project in Port Said. The devices help monitor water quality, save feed consumption and produce high-quality fish.

Since 2020, ReNile has helped 170 clients save 30 to 35 per cent of their operating costs, ReNile chief executive and founder Hazem El Tawab tells The National.

“There is a gap in the market for technological solutions to help farmers,” he says.

The start-up has helped decrease carbon dioxide emissions by reducing farmers' reliance on diesel fuel and optimising resource use.

ReNile is self-funded and operates mainly in Egypt and the Gulf, including Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Recyclizer

Founded by environmental researcher Aya Mohamed in 2019, Recyclizer converts plastic waste into plastic mulch films. These agricultural films protect crops from harmful sunlight radiation and soil pathogens, and reduce the evaporation rate of irrigation water.

The company collects plastic waste from homes and partners, cleans and disinfects it, and sorts it according to colour and size. Finally, the waste is put into a plastic recycling extrusion machine to produce the films.

Recyclizer estimates it eliminated around 500,000 kilograms of plastic waste in Egypt between 2019 and 2020.

Updated: October 04, 2022, 9:11 AM
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