Turning Ethiopia's garbage into energy Japan companies' challenge June 6 at 1:19

Ethiopia in Africa continues to experience economic growth.

The garbage problem has become a social problem today.

Is it possible to use our technology to solve the problem?

What are the challenges of companies aiming to expand into this country?

(Obihiro Broadcasting Station Reporter Asaka Kamida)

Many victims behind economic growth

Ethiopia is located in eastern Africa.

With a population of approximately 1 million, it is the second largest in Africa and continues to grow rapidly.

While foreign companies, including Japan, are attracting increasing attention, they are now facing a challenge.

That is the "garbage problem".

At a garbage disposal site in the capital Addis Ababa, it is said that the garbage that could not be disposed of is still in landfill.

There is an incinerator nearby, but it is sometimes shut down and the treatment is not keeping up.

Six years ago, a pile of garbage collapsed at this disposal site, killing many people.

In addition to the impact on the surrounding environment, there are concerns about health hazards caused by foul odors.

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A waste recycling company in Obihiro City is now aiming to expand into Ethiopia.

This is Mr. Yoshiyasu Tanabe, managing director of the company.

After meeting an exchange student from Ethiopia, Tanabe became interested in Ethiopia.

He went to see if he could do business there, and there he learned about Ethiopia's serious garbage problem.

Yoshiyasu Tanabe, Managing Director
of Tanabe: "When I went there 10 years ago, most of the landfill sites were large lands, but when I went there last year, I felt that the situation was not very good, as it had already become a mountain and the foul odor was wafting several kilometers away."

The company's technology for recycling waste may be used to solve the garbage problem in Ethiopia.

Mr. Tanabe began to aim to develop his business locally.

At its core, it is a solid fuel called RPF.

RPF is made from industrial waste such as paper, wood, and plastic.

It is made by crushing the material for easy processing, removing unnecessary metal, and compressing it with heat.

According to industry groups, it is also used as an alternative fuel to coal in Japan and emits less carbon dioxide than coal, and Tanabe wants to make it take root locally.

Growing expectations locally

JICA = Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) also uses ODA = Official Development Assistance to support the overseas expansion of small and medium-sized enterprises with technologies to solve the problems of developing countries.

Taking advantage of this support framework, Mr. Tanabe has repeatedly visited the site for about 10 years.

In March, we also signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopia's public industrial parks and the city's Cleaning Department regarding the handling of industrial waste.

Mr. Tanabe aims to build his own factory locally to manufacture RPF and sell it as fuel.

In the future, with the cooperation of the Ethiopian government and others, we would like to create a system for separating and collecting waste, and then start a pilot project for RPF manufacturing.

Yoshiyasu Tanabe, Managing Director
: "Ethiopia has a desire to reduce the amount of garbage that is buried in everything, and there are economic advantages in various aspects, such as recycling it, effectively using it as a resource, and reducing the transportation cost of transporting it to a landfill site hundreds of kilometers away, so I hope we can do that over there."

"I think it's important to establish it as a system first, and then I hope to somehow create a system that can benefit both parties."

In cooperation with another waste recycling company in Obihiro City, we are also aiming to use non-waste such as paper and wood, which are raw materials for RPF, as compost.

As an agricultural country, Ethiopia is currently facing soaring global fertilizer prices.

While reducing waste, it is also expected to lead to the solution of fertilizer problems.

When the MOU was signed, local media came to interview the memorandum, and there was a high level of interest.

China's presence is also felt, what are the barriers to advancement?

This challenge aims to solve the garbage problem in Ethiopia.

However, there are challenges.

One is the awareness of local people regarding waste disposal.

In Ethiopia, the awareness of spending money on waste and disposing of it appropriately has not yet taken root, so Tanabe says that it is necessary to spread the importance of effective use of waste.

Whether we can raise the awareness of local people about waste disposal is an important point for commercialization.

Another major challenge is competition with China.

In Ethiopia, which can be said to be one of Africa's diplomatic hubs, including the headquarters of the African Union, China's huge economic initiative "One Belt, One Road" has invested a large amount of Chinese capital, including infrastructure, and China is making its presence felt.

SMEs Japan must eat into this.

As a company, we would like to differentiate ourselves from Chinese companies by appealing the stability of our business and gain the trust of the local people, which will lead to business opportunities.

Is it possible to contribute to solving social problems in developing countries while making it viable as a business?

It is still unclear whether we will be able to enter Ethiopia, but Mr. Tanabe wants to go beyond the walls one by one and aim for commercialization while conducting pilot projects.

Yoshiyasu Tanabe, Senior Managing Director
: "We want to eliminate the situation where there are mountains of garbage that can no longer be disposed of in landfills, and foul odors are wafting in houses several kilometers away."

Obihiro Broadcasting Station Reporter
Asaka Kamida Interviews local governments in the area where he joined the station

in 2021