“When I saw how close my friend came to dying from the heap of garbage, I decided to do something about this mounting problem. I set out to find solutions that utilise technology in order to ensure efficiency and innovative processes that can reduce waste in the environment,” said Irakoze.

Irakoze was one of 15 entrepreneurs selected from an application pool of nearly 700 start-ups who participated in the Africa ClimAccelerator – first pan-African accelerator focused on scaling the most promising climate-focused innovations.

Rwanda generates 7,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually, despite being one of only 13 African countries that have passed national legislation regarding e-waste regulation. A steady rise in sales of electronics and increasing usage of information and communications technology has contributed to an e-waste epidemic. 

Founded in 2018, Wastezon works to virtually connect electronics users, producers and recyclers via a dedicated app. Users earn money from recycling phones, electric fans, microwaves, computers, fridges, blenders, shavers and other household electronics. The items are then refurbished and can be sold back on the market, eliminating landfill waste by implementing a circular approach.

“Our app works by enabling a user to take a picture of the item they want to get rid of and find a buyer. The company that wants to buy the item then gets a 10 per cent commission for every kilogram of e-waste material sold via the app. Recycling industries are charged a subscription fee while households earn an average $10 per month from the sale of e-scraps,” added Irakoze.

The app also features a traceability function to solve any tracking issues and regulates the pricing to ensure fairness for all. The e-waste detector function assists end-users with uploading the waste materials while various agents assist in manually sorting the e-waste at the source.

“We have a smooth logistics process that is facilitated by the use of GPS. This helps buyers to locate the waste products and guide our logistics partners in the delivery and collection of waste material. From waste to cash, Wastezon is creating an e-waste free zone and making the earth a safe place,” said Irakoze.

In Rwanda, the company has benefitted over 1,800 households, 150 “e-scrappers,” or individuals, and at least three recycling plants. It has also facilitated the recycling of over 580 tonnes of e-waste through its app. Wastezon is also present in East Africa where the potential for recycling e-waste is 20,000 tonnes per annum.

“We target to have at least 4,000 active users in Rwanda by 2022, expand to Tanzania by 2023 and attract at least 1,000 active users in the first year of operation. In Rwanda, we will have 10,000 active users by 2024 as well as expand to Kenya where we aim to have 2,000 active users in the first year of operation,” said the CEO.

The Africa ClimAccelerator was designed to enhance the development and deployment of innovative technology to accelerate climate-positive business solutions for a net-zero Africa. From January to 2022, the programme was delivered by partner organisations GrowthAfrica and the Carbon Trust, supported by the Climate-KIC International Foundation and funded by the German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH (‘GIZ’) exclusively on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘BMZ’).

An original version of this article was published here on 19 April.