Ethiopian Startup Kubik Faces Funding Challenges for Innovative Plastic Recycling Technology

…By Roland Peterson for TDPel Media. Kubik, an Ethiopian startup specializing in climate-friendly technology that converts plastic waste into construction blocks, has faced significant hurdles in securing funds for its groundbreaking project.

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The CEO of Kubik, Kidus Asfaw, revealed that the company encountered numerous rejections from cautious investors before finally obtaining substantial funding.

Despite this, Kubik’s exceptional work recently earned them the prestigious AfricaTech award, increasing their visibility and recognition.

Transforming Discarded Plastic into Construction Blocks

Kubik’s recycling process involves sorting bundles of discarded plastic, melting selected plastics with additives, and molding them into desired shapes.

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The result is a collection of interlocking blocks and beams that are currently being utilized in a pilot project—the construction of a daycare center in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

These blocks are assembled by fitting them together like Lego pieces, eliminating the need for glue or cement.

The beams, securely bolted on all sides, provide structural support for the walls.

Environmental and Social Benefits

Apart from the speedy construction process and utilization of unwanted plastic, Kubik’s recycling efforts offer additional advantages.

Compared to cement production, their recycling method generates just one-fifth of the carbon emissions.

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By processing 45 tonnes of discarded plastic daily, Kubik estimates that their plant can avert 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year.

Additionally, their operations have a positive social impact by empowering informal waste pickers, particularly women.

Funding Challenges Faced by African Startups

Kubik’s CEO, Kidus Asfaw, shared his struggles in securing seed money for the company.

He highlighted the scarcity of individual investors in Africa and the difficulty of raising funds despite his extensive professional network.

This lack of funding opportunities poses a persistent challenge for African startups, compounded by regulatory hurdles, infrastructure limitations, and fragmented markets across the continent.

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Sergio Pimenta, the vice president for Africa at the Societe Financiere Internationale, emphasized the need for increased financing options and investment support in Africa.

Overcoming Bias and Demystifying African Investment

Henry Mascot, CEO of Nigerian startup Curacel, echoed the sentiments of many African entrepreneurs, explaining that Western investors often exhibit biases towards the unknown.

Familiarity and personal connections play a significant role in securing investments, which can hinder opportunities for African startups.

Fabrice Aime Takoumbo, co-founder of Cinaf, a streaming platform featuring African content, highlighted the impact of negative perceptions and stereotypes that deter non-African investors.

Without timely funding, many promising African startups struggle to sustain their operations, leading to potential setbacks and even closures.

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