MTN and GIZ sign development partnership to manage e-waste

MTN Group has signed a development partnership with German-based public-benefit enterprise Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to manage the safe disposal of e-waste and foster enterprise development for e-waste handlers.

GIZ signed the partnership with MTN on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The partnership seeks to raise awareness among the general public and corporate businesses about the safe recycling, management and disposal of e-waste, and provide support to fledgling small and medium-sized companies.

Electronic waste or e-waste is any form of electrical or electronic technology that is no longer required, ranging from domestic and commercial ‘white goods’ such as fridges and air conditioners, to computers, phones and other electrical and electronic devices. As global consumption of electrical devices grow, and products become obsolete, the challenge of how to responsibly dispose of e-waste is growing alarmingly.

Global mismanagement of e-waste is resulting in large-scale dumping, often in open landfills, predominantly in areas or countries with poor levels of environmental governance or enforcement ability.

There is increasing concern at the growth of e-waste generated by global consumers, and ultimately often dumped, especially in developing countries in Africa and Asia. Valuable components are salvaged from discarded e-waste, but at the cost of human and environmental health, given some degree of toxicity of in all electronic components.

The pilot project, to be first implemented in South Africa, will focus on educating the public about what e-waste is, why it is a matter of human health and environmental concern, and the value of recycling and responsible disposal.

MTN South Africa will roll out e-waste collection points at key publicly-accessible sites e.g. schools, shopping malls and possibly in partnership with other corporate partners. These collection points will collect cellular e-waste regardless of network operator or handset manufacturer.

As part of this partnership GIZ will be undertaking a situational analysis, develop standards and disposal protocols for the piloting model and undertaking a multi-stakeholder engagement process. The partnership will also support enterprise development and the “green jobs” agenda by ensuring that selected small and medium sized e-waste handlers and large recyclers receive a steady, consistent and sizeable supply of e-waste. These recyclers will be monitored by MTN South Africa to ensure that they abide by approved and acceptable e-waste handling processes and protocols.

The partnership will initially be rolled out to two major cities in South Africa. The implementation of the partnership will be rolled out in a number of phases. Subject to a successful multi-year South African pilot, it is hoped that results and lessons learnt will be documented and replicated by MTN operations across the Group’s footprint in Africa and the Middle East.

GIZ, which has previous experience with e-waste management through partnerships in India and Morocco, will bring its experience, knowledge base and technical support to this partnership. This experience includes helping develop corporate standards for e-waste management, and supporting engagement processes with other parties, usually other companies and industry sectors which also generate e-waste, and who may wish to support this initiative.

Says Mr Christian de Faria, MTN Group Senior Vice-President: Commercial and Innovation: “We believe that this partnership will help us to increase public awareness about the problem of e-waste and provide assurance to MTN that e-waste is being handled appropriately locally in line with acceptable standards.

“While we do not manufacture handsets, computers and other electronic devices, within the context of network operators, e-waste is generated through customer purchase and use of mobile technology, and through the business' own technology operations. Addressing the e-waste challenge remains one of MTN’s top three sustainability imperatives, as required by and approved by MTN’s leadership.”

“Partnering with the private sector to address developmental issues such as e-Waste is a crucial component of GIZ strategy for sustainable development. This partnership represents an excellent example where public and private sector bring together their relative strengths to address a development issue and enable collective action. E-Waste is a growing challenge in South Africa and Africa and if not jointly addressed from both the public and private sectors will become an overwhelming challenge,” says Ellen Kallinowsky Coordinator for GIZ Centre for Cooperation with the Private Sector.

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