Students often take on jobs to help fund their studies but Mostafa Hemdan, a 25 year old student from Cairo in Egypt, has gone one further. For he is the founder of Recyclobekia, one of the first companies in the Middle East that recycles electronic waste. It was five years ago when Mr Hemdan came up with his idea. “I was watching a documentary about electronic recycling, and I realised there was a lot of potential in extracting metals from mother boards – gold, silver, copper, and platinum,” said Mr Hemdan. “It was a booming industry in Europe and the US, but no one in the Middle East was doing it.”
It is one thing to come up with a great idea but another to make it happen and Recyclobekia has had its fair share of major obstacles to overcome. First up, military service. All males in Egypt between 18 and 30 are required to join the military for between one and three years. As Mr Hemdan is a student he can delay it until he finishes his studies, but the trade off is not being able to travel overseas when he wants. If that wasn’t enough there was the political turmoil that engulfed Egypt in June 2013, when the Egyptian military overthrew the government just when it looked like Recyclobekia had secured investment from a German firm. “Media reports said that roads were closed by the army and terrorists were out in the streets… it was a disaster for us. By the end of 2013, we had lost most of the investment we had received.” And that was before a sharp drop in the price of gold which brought the company to the brink of collapse. But it seems Mr Hemdan is a resourceful chap, for everytime he has faced a make or break moment he has found a way to overcome it. Fast forward to today and Reclyclobekia employs 20 people across four warehouses, and sells electronic waste worth US$2.4m per year. And Mr Hemdan doesn’t intend to stop there. He is now planning to expand across the Middle East and has also joined forces with African online retailer Jumia to enable people to trade electronic waste for vouchers to buy products. Proof if ever it was needed: where there’s muck there’s brass.