Four Rhodes University PhD students have won the 2019 Hult Prize Challenge, putting them in the running for a $1-million (~R14.7-million) prize. The chemistry students created an electronic and electrical waste management system and the prize money will be awarded as a startup injection for their business concept, should they win.
Lindokuhle Nene, Nobuhle Ndebele, Reitumetse Nkhahle and Gauta Matlou flew to Kenya in April 2019 to present their e-waste management idea at the Hult Prize Regional Summit at the Brookhouse International School in Nairobi. After competing against 45 other teams from around the world, the four students were awarded the top prize.
Their business model aims to promote job opportunities for young citizens through the collection, repairing, repurposing and recycling of e-waste products. The panel of judges was impressed by the Rhodes University students’ social-entrepreneurship idea that has the potential to create around 10 000 jobs over the next 10 years.
Using e-waste to help the economy
South Africa currently produces about 316 000 tonnes of e-waste every year, according to the students. Only 12% of this is collected and recycled – most of which is then exported to foreign countries. The students’ business plan will promote South African markets for recycled electronic goods. “The electronic waste that is currently not collected and recycled or repurposed will raise about R15-billion for the South African economy,” says team member Nene.
The four students will spend eight weeks in the United Kingdom from July 2019 to attend the Hult Prize Acceleration programme. This course will prepare 25 winning teams from the regional competition for a number of summits and the final pitch. The best business idea at this summit will win the $1-million startup injection.
Nene says that the team decided to be the youth that will create things for themselves. “We are the driving force and agents for change and improvement in our country. We want to lay a platform for generations to come after us. They must know that as a human being, you can do anything you put your mind to. Students must not limit themselves based on specific disciplines that they are doing,” explains Nene.
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