NAIROBI, KENYA - Leading mobile phone handset maker, Nokia, has announced it will set up waste dumping centres across East Africa to reprocess old mobile phone waste, including batteries.
Nokia Eastern Africa chief customer care officer, Mr. Nicholas Maina, told reporters last week the firm was at an advanced stage of setting up phone collection centres in rural areas to facilitate faster and more efficient collection of mobile phone waste for recycling.
Nokia will collect mobile phone waste for recycling and repairs as part of its environmental policy of reducing emissions of electronic waste, the fastest growing source of urban pollution.
The firm has set up a recycling plant in Europe but is considering setting up a similar facility in Africa in future.
"We have set up take back centres in urban areas. These centres will collect mobile phone waste. We will take them to our centres and recycle them," Maina told journalists.
Environmentalists say the amount of electronic waste has been increasing substantially and currently constitute 50% of all municipal waste as users turn to newer electronic goods.
Electronic waste is blamed for the fast spread of diseases in Africa and pollution among animals and humans.
Pollution among animals and humans occurs when animals scavenging for food in municipal dumpsites, stray on deadly chemicals used in the manufacture of these products.
Experts predict e-waste is likely to skyrocket over the years as the lifespan of mobile phones and computers continue to reduce because of the constant need to upgrade.
Nokia's marketing drive is luring consumers to constantly purchase new phone handsets, leading to the culture of discarding old phones.
The handset maker has unveiled a customer care facility to help consumers upgrade and download other softwares online.
"People tend to keep phones in the drawers. We are encouraging people to take them to our collection points," said Ms. Dorothy Ooko, Nokia Communication Manager, East Africa.
Mid this year, Nokia was forced to recall millions of mobile phone batteries after they developed technical problems, leading to fatalities in some cases.
Meanwhile mobile phone handset maker, Nokia, says it is targeting a 25% expansion in demand for new mobile phone handsets in East Africa.
Already, the company has introduced a range of new low-cost products on the lucrative Kenyan market to stave off competition from Chinese telecom firms.
Mr. Piotr Labuszewski, Nokia Area Manager for East Africa, said the firm was anticipating "very strong demand" for its handsets in East Africa next year with the introduction of new low-cost handsets.
Telecom firms anticipate that Africa will set the pace in the demand for mobile phone handsets next year as intense competition among network operators and the entry of new players increases demand for new products, the industry analyst said.
Nokia projects sales of mobile phone handsets in Africa would be driven by the restructuring of existing network providers and the expected entry of new players like Econet Wireless into the Kenyan telecommunication market.
"We have customized products available in this range of products including Swahili, these phones have been delivered to the market," Labuszewski said.
Nokia has lately taken a keen interest in emerging markets in Africa and the Middle East as high sales popular in the rich markets in Europe is constantly under threat of over supply of gadgets, reducing demand for new handsets.
"In general, our growth expectation is at 25% growth," Labuszewski said.
Senior industry experts said last week the dynamism recorded in the telecommunication scene in East Africa is also expected to drive demand for new mobile phone handsets.
Kenya's telecommunication giant, Telkom Kenya, is among a number of the telecommunication firms undergoing serious internal institutional re-organisation. The firm's balance sheet has been cleaned and its huge debts paid off by the government.
The company has ventured into the provision of mobile phone services and was given a license to that effect on Tuesday last week, ending nearly six-months of industry bickering among the incumbent mobile phone network providers.
Nokia estimates its 2006 sales was slightly above 100 million handsets in the growth markets like Africa and Middle East.
"The growth is in relation to each region but because of the economic growth in the East African region, we expect mobile phone demand to increase," Labuszewski said.
The 25% growth focus for Africa means that at least 25 million people are expected to buy new mobile phones next year.
"There is quite a massive growth potential in this region. The penetration rate-of new mobile phone handsets-and the very aggressive and dynamic operators in East Africa would see the regional (demand) grow faster than 2006," the Nokia executive said.
"We presume having new players would dynamise the users and inject faster growth," he added.
Source: East African Business Week