Fifteen teams of innovators from across sub-Saharan Africa have been named finalists in the Afri-Plastics Challenge with solutions that will change both the behaviour of individuals and communities around plastic waste in sub-Saharan Africa. Finalists from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda will receive a £50,000 grant towards their solutions.
Projects that made it to the finals include “Change at the till”, a solution developed by Botswana’s Meeticks Africa. “Change at the till” runs a 30-day challenge that aims to get users to gain knowledge on how their use of single-use plastics, especially when shopping, negatively affects the environment and contributes heavily to marine plastic waste, and to practice what they learn. The solution is a multi-day gamified experience conducted over an intelligent WhatsApp chatbot and backend app.
Another project is a Training-Empowerment-Promotion (TEP) model developed by Catharina Natang, a Cameroonian organisation. The TEP model aims to provide training on sustainable fashion and resource mobilisation to fashion designers and equip local designers to understand the subtle but massive presence of plastic-based fabrics in the fashion industry, and how this contributes to the global plastic waste problem.
Students will learn about innovative non-plastic alternatives that are in existence and how to access them, and also how to recycle, properly dispose of and select non-plastic alternatives. The project will also organise annual sustainable fashion events to widen public awareness on sustainable fashion to reduce plastic wastes that end up in oceans.
Also in the running is Kenya’s Homeless of Kisumu’s M-taka solution which aims to train and empower women economically to become recycling agents who build communities of recyclers by leveraging technology and inducing behavioural change through social connections and incentives. Through an app, the masses will be targeted to increase recycling culture and link them with agents in their areas to collect the plastic and transport it to recyclers.
Harjit Sajjan, Minister of International Development, Government of Canada, said: “Plastic pollution is threatening our ecosystems and food systems. I strongly believe that we must empower communities across the world to make sustainable choices. Choices that result in a better, more environmentally friendly future for all. I look forward to seeing the hard work and innovation of these amazing finalists and can’t wait to contribute our expertise and efforts in supporting Africa in becoming a plastic waste-free continent.”
Tackling plastic pollution through three prize strands, the finalists in the third strand – Promoting Change – announced today are being supported to develop innovative engagement strategies such as gamification, incentives and storytelling to promote behaviour change and educate communities, as well as provide insights into the roles that women and girls play across the value chain. The marine plastic pollution issue is growing, and we need to ensure that awareness translates into action and long-term behaviour change, at both individual and collective levels. To help the finalists achieve this, they will be further supported through a capacity-building portfolio of subject matter experts over the next several months to further develop their solution.
Constance Agyeman, Director of International Development, Challenge Works said: “The issue of marine plastic pollution has grown rapidly in recent years. It is crucial that awareness translates into action and long-term behaviour change, at individual and collective levels alike. The 15 finalists will be supported over the course of the next seven months to develop their communications campaigns and projects. The £50,000 grants will support teams to generate evidence of change around reducing littering, segregation of plastic waste, choosing reusable options, or refusing single-use plastic all together.”
Having made their way through the semi-final round, each finalist has already received grants of £5,000 to develop their ideas. Three winning projects will be awarded £250,000 each in March 2023.
While women and low-income populations are more likely to be negatively affected by plastic pollution, they are also a driving force of positive change, leadership and innovation in their communities. The Afri-Plastics Challenge aims to support innovative efforts to reduce plastic pollution in a way that empowers all, by promoting greater gender inclusiveness and social justice in national policies on plastic waste.