Yemen rebels cornered as govt forces advance

A member of the Yemeni government forces flashes the sign for victory on a road after they captured the southeastern port of Mokha from Houthi rebels on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 26 January 2017

Yemen rebels cornered as govt forces advance

ADEN: Yemeni rebels are putting up fierce resistance in a key Red Sea port city where they are encircled by pro-government forces, military and health officials said on Thursday.
Deadly clashes have shaken Mokha since loyalist fighters launched an offensive nearly three weeks ago to oust the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents and their allies from Yemen’s southwestern coast.
Fresh fighting has left 20 rebels and seven pro-government fighters dead over the past 24 hours, with dozens more wounded, a hospital official said.
“The city center is still in the hands of the Houthis, while the loyalist forces have taken up positions on three axes around the city and cut off the rebels’ supply route between Mokha and Taiz” further east, a military official said.
He said the rebels had “no choice” but to leave Mokha and head toward the rebel stronghold of Hodeida further north on the Red Sea coast.
The forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi are supported by Saudi-led coalition aircraft that have attacked a military camp and a rebel convoy in the past 24 hours, the military official said.
Nearly 230 rebel and loyalist fighters have been killed since Hadi’s forces launched a vast offensive on Jan. 7 to drive the Houthis from Yemen’s southwestern coast.
Pro-government forces have succeeded in recapturing the Dhubab district north of the Bab Al-Mandab strait, a key maritime route connecting the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Loyalist forces said on Monday they had also captured the port in Mokha, but rebels are still holed up inside the city.
Aided by troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Houthis overran the capital Sanaa in September 2014 and advanced on other regions of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation.
The World Health Organization says more than 7,400 people have been killed since the coalition launched its intervention in support of Hadi in March 2015.


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.”