Sustainable technology is a bright spot, enabling businesses to contribute positively to both the environment and their bottom line. In recent years, MENA has shown a promising commitment to adopting eco-friendly technologies to balance business interests with reduced environmental impacts. Here we delve into the region’s burgeoning sustainable tech exploring how businesses are taking innovative steps to build a greener future.
Key Developments in Green Tech
2023 marks an important year for using sustainable technology in the MENA region. As per His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 2023 is the Year of Sustainability. According to BusinessChief, the top agenda for governments, businesses, and investors globally is COP28, which is the most important sustainability summit that is set to take place in the UAE later this year.
To increase awareness and improve regulatory framework policies, some key developments have taken place towards the use of sustainable technology :
- The UAE was the first country regionally to establish the net-zero by 2050 strategy, followed by Oman; while Saudi and Bahrain have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. Qatar, which has the highest carbon intensity per capita in the world, plans to lower emissions by 25% by 2030.
- QatarEnergy is building the world’s largest blue ammonia plant, a US$1 billion plant projected to support Qatar’s efforts to develop carbon capture technology. Additionally, the Investment Promotion Agency claimed the country is set to drive growth in the clean tech industry in MENA, largely thanks to its favourable government policies and advanced tech infrastructure.
- In Jan 2023, The Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) of the African Development Bank Group will provide a $1 million technical assistance grant to the Green Mobility Facility for Africa (GMFA).GMFA provides technical assistance and investment capital to accelerate and expand private sector investments in sustainable transport solutions in seven countries: Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and South Africa.
- In May 2023, the Africa Finance Corporation and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on infrastructure projects that accelerate energy transition in Africa.
- Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan presented a USD 18 billion energy transition proposal to increase renewable energy generation (solar and wind) by around 8.4 GW for 12 southern African countries (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).
- The Tunisian government recently launched a call for bids on renewable energy projects to produce 1,700 megawatts (MW) nationally by 2025, including the Hecha and Khobna photovoltaic plants and eight solar projects of 100 MW each. The bid also calls for eight new wind farm sites with 75 MW each.
Major Challenges in Sustainable Tech
Sustainable technologies and practices may be relatively new or unfamiliar for certain countries in the MENA region. A lack of awareness and understanding can hinder the adoption of green investments and sustainable tech. On a corporate level, this could cause a misunderstanding towards the need for corporate compliance. In addition, implementing sustainable technology has high infrastructural and financial dependencies.
The adoption of sustainable technologies may require infrastructure upgrades and a skilled workforce to implement and maintain them effectively. Also, Implementing sustainable technologies often requires significant upfront investment, which may be challenging for some governments and businesses in the region, especially if they are facing economic pressures or budget constraints. Furthermore, the MENA region is characterized by arid and water-scarce environments, which pose unique challenges for certain sustainable technologies that require substantial water resources.
Businesses Embracing Cleaner and Greener Technology
In addition to government initiatives, private businesses are also working towards greener and cleaner technologies to combat infrastructural and environmental hurdles in the MENA region.
Harnessing the power of technology is essential to providing food to people in a more sustainable way.
- Dubai-based Emirates Crop One (ECO 1) is the world’s largest vertical hydroponic farm. It aims to produce over one million kilograms of premium quality leafy greens annually while using 95% less water than conventional agriculture methods.
- Elsewhere, the Mleiha farm in the desert sands of Sharjah uses AI to analyze weather and soil data and also employs thermal imaging to regulate irrigation rates and monitor growth across its 1,400 hectares.
Green Air Conditioning:
- Air conditioning accounts for as much as 70% of UAE electricity consumption in the UAE and produces millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. Based on Sorbent Ventilation Technology (SVT), enVerid provides a non-toxic tech solution that cleans indoor air and helps reduce outside air requirements by as much as 80%. As a result, annual HVAC energy costs can be reduced by up to 40%, substantially lowering a building’s energy intensity and carbon emissions.
- Founded in 2017 by Basima Abdulrahman, KESK offers green building materials to construction companies as well as solar energy products. The company aims to change the way buildings and communities are constructed and maintained while also providing standalone solar air conditioning units that help reduce dependence on the power grid.
- Nomadd, founded in 2016 by Georg Eitelhuber in Jeddah, develops technology to make solar generators technically and commercially viable in harsh desert environments like Saudi Arabia. NOMADD’s “fixed-tilt installations” offer dust control solutions for all desert solar array applications, with each of its robots capable of cleaning up to one kilometre of solar panels. NOMADD’s robots also require no manual labour or water usage, and they can be remotely controlled and monitored at all times. They are designed to be adaptable and durable for a 25-year-long operation, with the feature of not running on the panel surface.
- Shamsina creates unique and economical solar water heaters for energy-deprived regions. It operates out of a workshop in Cairo’s AlDarb AlAhmar, an unplanned neighbourhood. It is a community organisation as it uses a local design, sources raw materials from local, small-scale enterprises, trains and employs community members, promotes local and worldwide environmental awareness, and, finally, offers energy services to the community. It inspires communities to generate their own energy using a similar concept.
- Neutral Fuels is gearing up for an IPO in 2023 with its promise to make reducing carbon emissions a commercial proposition by converting cooking oil into biodiesel. Neutral Fuels is unique in the GCC, offering biodiesel containing 10% to 20% fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), also called biodiesel, blended with either marine gas oil (MGO) or very low sulfur fuel oil. The company, which listed the first green bond from the Middle East in 2019, uses sensors and apps to optimise fuel consumption and save time and money in the management of transport fleets.
- Biofire is based in Tébourba, Tunisia and provides people with more inexpensive energy options while also preserving forests that are dwindling owing to inefficient wood fuel use. The company gathers and converts agro-forestry waste into solid biofuels such as wood briquettes, eco-friendly coal, and biochar, which are both efficient and healthy for cooking and heating.
Motivating MENA Startups – How Big Tech Companies are Aiding Green
Google for Startups Accelerator
In June 2023, Google announced the launch of a clean tech accelerator programme aimed at startups from across the MEA region. The 10-week, equity-free hybrid programme aims to back Seed to Series A startups focused on sustainable technology climate solutions, cleantech and green energy.
The ongoing accelerator aims to identify, support, and scale startups to build sustainable tech solutions in the MENA region. The selected startups will not only benefit from mentorship courtesy of Google engineers and business experts but also from various educational workshops and access to Google Cloud technical expertise.
PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator
PepsiCo also recently introduced its Greenhouse Accelerator programme to the MENA region earlier this year. The soft drinks giant has partnered with Food Tech Valley, a UAE government-backed hub for future clean tech-based food products, to provide 6 sustainable food startups from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia with funding and mentorship.
NoorNation in Egypt is a renewable energy startup that aims to provide sustainable decentralised energy and water infrastructure solutions to the off-grid sector across Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa. Their product, LifeBox, is a solar-powered, self-contained mobile unit that delivers clean energy and safe water at an affordable price.
SmartWTI is a Jordan-based IoT/AI solutions provider that specializes in designing and manufacturing water management solutions to enable the Internet of Things (IoT).
Smart Green is a Jordanian startup that provides Agri-tech solutions to agribusinesses for Digital Transformation from traditional agriculture to modern agriculture based on Industry 4.0 Technologies.
Dooda Solutions is a Lebanon-based women-led earthworm farm that uses advanced technologies to produce premium-grade solid and liquid vermicompost (organic fertilizer) at a commercial scale.
YY ReGen is a forward-thinking company in Lebanon which is committed to providing innovative solutions through the promotion of renewable energy, sustainable water management, and regenerative farming.
RoboCare is a Tunisian company that specializes in using spectral technology and AI to promote sustainable agriculture. Their precision farming services offer solutions to monitor crops, prevent stress, control plant requirements, improve land efficiency, and optimize pesticide needs.
As experts in the technology ecosystem, Purple Quarter comprehends the relevance of clean tech for MENA in the times to come. We partner with companies and work with leaders who can drive a paradigm shift and think for the long-term vision. While the government’s initiatives are noteworthy in the MENA region, we envision a high possibility of more green startups in the sector which will consequently lead to an inter-connected chain of growing businesses and, subsequently, more lucrative government initiatives to support the ecosystem.
In conclusion, we can add that the MENA region is revving up the use of sustainable technology not just as an alternative, but as an essential business strategy. Purple Quarter can predict that there will be huge growth in this sector in the upcoming decade, with potentially limitless applications in almost every viable business sector.
Authored by Tathagata Chakrabarti
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