We viciously seek what’s new. We buy, we try; we mindlessly shift fashion trends and redecorate our homes, veering into an endless consumerist cycle that leaves nothing but discarded items behind. And in the corners, at the edges of a society too self-involved to look beyond itself, there are millions of people deprived of basic rights. “The rising levels of poverty and hunger in Egypt are a responsibility we should all act upon,” says 22-year-old entrepreneur Mohamed Asaad with striking conviction.
“We live in a society that consumes way more than what we actually need and then generate tons of waste. Whether it is an electronic device, food, or clothes, these are things that other people need,” he adds. Asaad, a fresh business graduate from Cairo University, is one of the three 20-year-olds who came together to channel people’s donations through their mobile app, Wasteless Egypt.
Their app was conceived as a university side project, as the trio strove to enter the Mobile Application Launchpad MAL competition – a programme steered by Google and Egypt’s Ministry of ICT, set to create a talent pool in mobile app development. Asaad then joined forces with computer science students Ismail Sabry and Assem Abdelwahab, determined to craft a solution to Egypt’s endless cycle of waste.
“We looked at the amount of waste in Egypt and compared it to the number of people who suffer from food insecurity, malnutrition, or a lack of basic necessities such as clothes; the numbers were really shocking. To think that we are wasting so much when people need it so much was incredible,” says Abdelwahab.
Their app, which is available for both Android and iOS, allows people to register the donations they want to make by taking a photo of the clothes or indicating the number of meals to give away, and uses GPS location services for people to indicate the collection point. For now, the entrepreneurs are collecting donations themselves.
Having beaten 20 other startup teams and racked up the first prize in the competition’s finale, the trio received a $7,000 seed fund to kickstart the business and have already closed a clothes donation campaign, which they delivered to an orphanage last December. “We attended mentorship sessions in Smart Village for three months and kept working on our business model and testing the app,” Asaad explains. But their goal, he points out, stretches way beyond a business project, as the entrepreneurs consider their offspring not as a company but rather a “movement.”
“We hope that we can one day change consumer behavior overall and just make people more responsible rather than just throwing things away because they don't need them,” Sabry explains. The social startup has not explored revenue streams, although they foresee the involvement of other stakeholders, such as private sponsors. “We are now using our seed fund to expand Wasteless Egypt, and strike partnerships with restaurants and charitable organizations,” explains Sabry. “Our main revenue stream will be sponsorships and we also plan to make a little revenue helping charitable organisations pick up food if they don't have means,” he adds.
The entrepreneurial trio, who is looking into recycling e-waste in the near future, looks into the social startup’s future with positive eyes. “The response so far has been amazing; in only two weeks, we secured 100 pieces of clothes; people were engaged with the cause and it was all over social media,” he says. “We want to make the donation process extremely easy for everyone, from people to businesses. Our dream is to make people believe in the power of individuals; one single donation can help another person in a significant way,” adds Abdelwahab.
You can find Wasteless Egypt on Facebook here.
Photography by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.
Photographer: Osama Selim.