Egypt expresses dismay to UK envoy over British Airways flight suspension

File photo shows British Airways planes parked at Heathrow Airport in London. On Saturday, July 20, 2019, British Airways said it is canceling flights to Cairo for a week for unspecified security reasons. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2019

Egypt expresses dismay to UK envoy over British Airways flight suspension

  • British Airways suspended flights to Cairo on Saturday for seven days “as a security precaution”
  • The British embassy in Cairo could not immediately be reached for comment

CAIRO: Egypt’s aviation minister on Sunday expressed his dismay over British Airways’ decision to suspend flights to the Egyptian capital to the UK’s ambassador to Cairo.
International Airlines Group’s British Airways suspended flights to Cairo on Saturday for seven days “as a security precaution” as it reviews security at the city’s airport.
Later on Saturday, Germany’s Lufthansa said it had canceled services from Munich and Frankfurt to Cairo but it resumed flights on Sunday.
Air France, Emirates and Etihad Airways continued to operate flights to Cairo.
Younis Al-Masry “expressed his displeasure at British Airways taking a decision unilaterally concerning the security of Egyptian airports without referring to the competent Egyptian authorities,” the aviation ministry said in a statement released after a meeting between the Egyptian aviation minister and British Ambassador Geoffrey Adams.
The statement went on to say that Adams had apologized for not informing Egyptian authorities before the decision was made and cited him as saying the flight suspension was not related to the security measures at Egyptian airports.
The British embassy in Cairo could not immediately be reached for comment.
A spokesman for Air France, in a statement sent to Reuters, said the airline had decided to maintain its service to Cairo after liasing with French and Egyptian authorities.
An Emirates spokeswoman said its flights were operating to schedule.
“We are closely assessing the situation and are in contact with the relevant aviation authorities with regards to our flight operations to Egypt,” the spokeswoman said.
The website for Abu Dhabi’s Etihad showed its services were also operating and a spokesman said the airline was monitoring the security situation in Cairo.
Tourism, a key source of foreign revenue for Egypt, has been recovering after visitor numbers dropped in the wake of a 2011 uprising and the 2015 bombing of a Russian jet, which killed all 224 people on board shortly after takeoff.
That attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, prompted Russia to halt all flights to Egypt for several years and a number of countries including Britain to cease flights to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, which have yet to resume.


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.”