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Africa needs our support, says metal recycler Sharif

Dubai is the gateway to Africa’s recycling potential, observes metal recycler and scrap trader Salam Sharif of the newly founded Recycling Association of Africa (RAA). RAA is co-host of a UAE-held Metals Recycling Conference MEA on 15 March.

‘At RAA, we are working to correct the negative rhetoric that has tarnished Africa,’ says Sharif. ‘From being a needy continent for human aid and a lack of resources to being one of the most potential natural and human resource centric continents.’

According to the UAE-based metal scrap recycler and trader, African countries are slowly recognising the benefits of a thriving recycling industry. ‘Africa is the world’s second largest continent with an area of about 30 million km2 and a growing population of more than 1.2 billion. With an estimated GDP of US$ 5.5 trillion (EUR 5.3 trillion), the continent is an economic area of growing importance.’

Spectacular growth

Africa’s recycling industry has big opportunities, says Sharif. ‘According to the World Bank, the recycling industry in Africa has seen a yearly growth rate of between 6% and 8% in recent years. This growth is due in part to the increasing recognition of the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. The increasing urbanisation of African countries has also led to a rise in the amount of waste generated, which has created a larger market for the recycling industry to serve.’

Changing consumption

However, Africa faces development challenges as the urban population is increasing at a rate of 3.5% per year. ‘One aspect is the waste management, which is driven not only by population growth but also by changing consumption habits, production patterns and global waste trade.’

Although Africa currently recycles only 4% of its waste, the outlook for its recycling industry is promising as there is a growing demand for recycled materials, particularly in the construction and manufacturing sectors. ‘The rising awareness of environmental issues and the need for sustainable waste management practices is expected to continue to drive growth in the industry,’ Sharif argues. ‘This trend is also expected to continue as African countries continue to urbanise and their populations continue to grow.’

Missing links

At the same time, he sees major challenges to be addressed. One of the biggest is the lack of a proper waste management infrastructure in many countries, making it difficult for recyclers to properly collect, sort, and process waste materials. ‘This in turn makes it more difficult for the industry to function efficiently and effectively, and also has a negative impact on the environment,’ he says.

Another challenge facing the recycling sector is a lack of investment. ‘Many African countries lack proper regulation and the funding for infrastructure and equipment needed for a thriving recycling industry. This makes it difficult for the industry to grow and compete with other sectors. In addition, the lack of investment also makes it difficult for the industry to attract the necessary talent and expertise to run a successful business.’

About the Recycling Association of Africa

A non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting sustainable waste management practices in Africa, RAA has a strong membership from the continent (237 of the 336 registered members are African-based companies) with the vision of transforming the recycling industry into a thriving and environmentally responsible sector that can provide economic and social benefits to the communities.

One of the key contributions of RAA is promoting awareness about recycling and waste management in Africa through conferences, networking and education.

About the conference

Organised by Waste & Recycling Middle East and Africa, together with RAA, the Metal Recycling Conference MEA will take place on 15 March in The Ritz-Carlton Dubai International Financial Centre.       

The event will explore, among other topics, recycling business opportunities across the African continent.

Among the speakers are Fastmarkets reporter Lee Allen, Keegan Vas, general manager Middle East, India & Turkey at Lindemann Metal Recycling, and Hannu Heiskanen, vice president recycling raw materials at Aurubis.

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