Circular Economy – Navigating Sustainable Growth

Ana Beatriz Benatti

“It is time for African and European innovators to work together. The problems that need to be solved are the same here and there,” said Harald Schützeichel, CEO of the Solar Energy Foundation and head of the Startup Energy initiative. In our online format TECHimpulse, we discussed the importance of the circular economy with him and three other entrepreneurs from Europe and Africa in mid-March 2024.


Our speakers were Léandre Berwa, co-founder and CEO of SLS Energy from Rwanda, Allen Mohammadi, co-founder and CEO of PlasticFri (Sweden) and PhD student at the Chair of Entrepreneurship and Technology Management at KIT, and Mirko Ross, co-founder and CEO of the Stuttgart-based IT company Asvin.
The discussion focused on sustainability, innovation and new markets in Africa. Léandre explained how his young company has dedicated itself to the fight against battery waste. SLS Energy uses its expertise to efficiently reuse used batteries until the end of their useful life. “Our main mission is to develop energy storage solutions from e-waste or used electric vehicle batteries.”


Allen also emphasized the power of innovation. His green tech company PlasticFri, as the name suggests, is fighting for plastic-free solutions. “People using a material with a half-life of several decades for a few minutes is crazy.” Allen sees the circular economy as a “movement”. As a young company, it is important to think holistically. It is not enough to solve one problem and create ten new ones.

Mirko felt that this holistic approach was missing from many smart products. As a cybersecurity expert, he brought a new angle to the discussion: DRM and other security measures could thwart sustainability efforts. Products such as cell phones, cars, and tractors are becoming increasingly difficult to repair, shortening their lifespans and contradicting the idea of a circular economy.


All speakers agreed on the need for social change and rethinking – both here and in Africa. An idea or a product should be considered circular from the beginning – from design to functionality to repairability.


Not every startup in this field can save the climate immediately, but creative, new and internationally minded approaches can drive the circular economy forward. As Mirko aptly summarised: “As a small start-up, you can’t change the big world, but you can talk about it in your environment, in your networks and with the people who have influence”.


The next TECHimpulse online event will take place on Wednesday 18 June 2024 on the topic of “Corporate Innovation Programmes” and is open to all interested parties.All information on the TECH4Transition project can be found on the project website.

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