Rwanda is seeking a partner investor for its electronic waste plant.
The recycling facility in Bugesera district in Eastern province, which started operations last December, is supposed to collect and recycle electronic waste, refurbish old IT equipment while recovering valuable materials for export.
The $1.5 million project, led by Ministry of Trade and Industry, is meant to reduce the ICT industry’s environmental footprint. The ministry is now rooting for a public private partnership model to boost the plant’s output and create new business opportunities related to e-waste management.
“The government has, through normal procurement procedures, been looking for an investor that we can partner with to run the facility, process is still ongoing” said Olivier Mbera, manager for the e-waste project at Ministry of Trade and Industry.
According to Mr Mbera, the private investor will expand, and start other lines for recycling, adding, “It’s the wish of the government to see the facility function properly.”
The facility has an installed capacity of 7,000 tonnes of e-waster a year, making it the second largest e-waste recycling plant in Africa after a South Africa.
According to data from the facility’s management, more than 120 tonnes of e-waste has been treated since the beginning of operations.
“Our role was to show the private sector that this can be done,” explained Mr Mbera.
While the high tech plant has managed to dismantle and recycle some ICT devices, there is still untapped potential in e-waste management.
For instance, there are valuable materials found in IT devices that can be exported and recycled in smelting industries in developed countries.
Investors are expected to explore such opportunities and others in the new technology field.
Some local and international companies have already expressed interest.
According to experts, e-waste contains hazardous materials that can pose a danger to human life, cause illness such as cancer and pollute environment.
Rwanda Today has learned some recovered materials from the Bugesera plant are being used in local steel and plastic industries.
Mr Mbera said the plant has saved 300 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Investors are expected to make the facility produce at higher capacity and boost ongoing projects such as establishing district collection points and creating more jobs.
Main source for e-waste treated at Bugesera plant is government institutions.
Engineer Colette Ruhamya, director of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) earlier said broken computers, laptops, printers and other obsolete electronics from government offices and other institutions such as schools and universities, “are mostly locked up in rooms at the different user points.”
As the ICT sector grows around the world, e-waste managing is becoming a nightmare to the extent that some countries in Africa, have become dumping sites for old digital devices.
Mr Mbera told Rwanda Today in the country, one of challenges in e-waste materials management, people don’t want to dispose their old and unused devices, yet they pose danger to their health and the environment.