800 Egypt troops boost Yemen force

Updated 11 September 2015

800 Egypt troops boost Yemen force

SANAA: As many as 800 Egyptian soldiers arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday, Egyptian security sources said, swelling the ranks of a Gulf Arab military contingent which aims to rout the Iran-allied Houthi group after a five-month civil war.
It was the first reported deployment of ground troops there by Egypt, which has one of the Arab world's strongest armies.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has scored major gains against the militia and its allies in Yemen's army, backing a push by Yemeni fighters to seize much of the country's south and now setting its sights on the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.
Four Egyptian units of between 150 to 200 troops along with tanks and transport vehicles arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday, two Egyptian security sources said.
"We have sent these forces as part of Egypt's prominent role in this alliance ... the alliance fights for the sake of our brotherly Arab states, and the death of any Egyptian soldier would be an honour and considered martyrdom for the sake of innocent people," a senior Egyptian military source said.
Yemeni officials put the number of foreign troops from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar at least around 2,000, while Qatari-owned Al Jazeera TV said at least 10,000 foreign soldiers had arrived, including 1,000 from the emirate.
They are part of a force preparing to eventually assault the capital, which the Houthis seized last year.
The alliance sees the campaign as a fight against the influence of arch-rival Iran in their neighbourhood, but the Houthis say they are fighting a revolution against a corrupt government, which they drove into Saudi exile in late March.
More than 4,500 people have been killed by fighting and air strikes since the beginning of the conflict, which has also unleashed disease and hunger in the impoverished country.
Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, a spokesman for the coalition, told Reuters its forces were focusing on overcoming Houthi resistance in Yemen's central and southern provinces, pounding their positions from the air across the country before beginning any thrust towards Sanaa.
"Before you start the ground operation, you have to have the prerequisite of the air campaign," al-Asseri said.
"I don't want to talk about Sanaa because the military issue is in phases ... Now we are talking of Marib and Taiz."
Residents reported heavy air raids on military bases throughout Sanaa on Wednesday, the latest in a series of daily assaults which fishermen said killed 20 Indian nationals off a Red Sea port on Tuesday. At least 15 other civilians were killed throughout the country on Tuesday, medics said.
The alliance has increased air strikes on Sanaa and other parts of Yemen since Friday, when a Houthi missile attack killed at least 60 Saudi, Bahraini and United Arab Emirates soldiers at a military camp in central Marib province.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Angus McDowall)


Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

Updated 24 August 2019

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

  • Egyptian social startups are taking alternative approaches to fostering awareness and reducing waste

CAIRO: Global plastics production reached 348 million tons in 2017, rising from 335 million tons in 2016, according to Plastics Europe. 

Critically, most plastic waste is not properly managed: Around 55 percent of it was landfilled or discarded in 2015. These numbers are extremely concerning because plastic products take anything from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose, and the effects on the environment, especially on marine and human life, are catastrophic.

While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively.

“We’re the first website in the Middle East and North Africa that trades waste,” said Alaa Afifi, founder and CEO of Bekia. “People can get rid of any waste at their disposal — plastic, paper and cooking oil — and exchange it for over 65 products on our website.”

Products for trading include rice, tea, pasta, cooking oil, subway tickets and school supplies.

Bekia was launched in Cairo in 2017. Initially, the business model did not prove successful.

“We used to rent a car and go to certain locations every 40 days to collect waste from people,” Afifi, 26, explained. “We then created a website and started encouraging people to use it.”

After the website was launched, people could wait at home for someone to collect the waste. “Instead of 40 days, we now could visit people within a week.”

To use Bekia’s services, people need to log onto the website and specify what they want to discard. They are assigned points based on the waste they are offering, and these points can be used in one of three ways: Donated to people in need, saved for later, or exchanged for products. As for the collected waste, it is given to specialized recycling companies for processing.

“We want to have 50,000 customers over the next two years who regularly use our service to get rid of their waste,” Afifi said.  

Trying to spread environmental awareness has not been easy. “We had a lot of trouble with initial investment at first, and we got through with an investment that was far from enough. The second problem we faced was spreading this culture among people — in the first couple of months, we received no orders,” Afifi said.

The team soldiered on and slowly built a client base, currently serving 7,000 customers. In terms of what lies ahead for Bekia, he said: “We’re expanding from 22 to 30 areas in Cairo this year. We’re launching an app very soon and a new website with better features.”

Go Clean, another Egyptian recycling startup dedicated to raising environmental awareness, works under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment. “We started in 2017 by recycling waste from factories, and then by February 2019 we started expanding,” said founder and CEO Mohammed Hamdy, 30.

The Cairo-based company collects recyclables from virtually all places, including households, schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, companies and embassies. The customers separate the items into categories and then fill out a registration form. Alternatively, they can make contact through WhatsApp or Facebook. A driver is then dispatched to collect the waste, carrying a scale to weigh it. 

“The client can be paid in cash for the weight of their recyclables, or they can make a donation to a special needs school in Cairo,” Hamdy explained. There is also the option of trading the waste for dishwashing soap, with more household products to be added in the future.

Trying to cover a country with 100 million people was never going to be easy, and Go Clean faced some logistical problems. It overcame them by hiring more drivers and getting more trucks. There was another challenge along the way: “We had to figure out a way to train the drivers, from showing them how to use GPS and deal with clients,” said Hamdy.

“We want to spread awareness about the environment everywhere. We go to schools, universities, companies and even factories to give sessions about the importance of recycling and how dangerous plastic is. We’re currently covering 20 locations across Cairo and all of Alexandria. We want to cover all of Egypt in the future,” he added.

With a new app on the way, Hamdy said things are looking positive for the social startup, and people are becoming invested in the initiative. “We started out with seven orders per day, and now we get over 100.”