Ten teams of innovators from across sub-Saharan Africa were on Thursday, June 30, 2022, named finalists in the Afri-Plastics Challenge with solutions for reducing plastic usage. Each will receive £75,000 to invest in and develop their ideas. The winner will take home a first prize of £750,000 in January 2023, with the runner-up receiving £250,000 and third place winning £100,000.
They include projects to facilitate the reduction of single-use disposable diapers. One such project is Toto Safi, a solution from Rwanda. Toto Safi’s app-based service facilitates the reduction of single-use disposable diapers, a major source of land and marine pollution. Through this app, parents will be able to receive a fresh bundle of clean and sterilised cloth diapers, at an affordable cost.
Another solution is ShoppersBag, a solution by Well of Science from Nigeria. ShoppersBags are reusable, recyclable and biodegradable bags that allow people to get paid or earn rewards on every usage.
Other teams in the running include South Africa’s Regenize and the Uganda Industrial Research Institute. Regenize’s Zero-Waste Spaza can plug into any existing spaza shop and enables it to become a zero-waste shop where their customers can shop without creating plastic waste. The customers will need to bring their containers to purchase goods supplied by Regenize and stored in secured food-safe containers. Besides reducing plastic waste, it will also enable customers to live a healthier lifestyle.
On its part, the Uganda Industrial Research Institute manufactures biodegradable and biocompostable paper packaging bags from the long wasted agricultural fibres of the banana pseudo-stem, sugarcane bagasse, all cereal crop straw (rice, maize and wheat), cotton waste/rags, and pineapple crowns, among others, as an alternative product to reduce the usage of the polythene bag.
The Afri-Plastics Challenge, from innovation experts Challenge Works and funded by the Government of Canada, is rewarding the most promising Sub-Saharan African innovators working in the circular economy to develop ideas that will tackle the worrying rise in plastic pollution across the continent and in its marine environment.
Canada is a leader on the world stage through ongoing work to champion the Ocean Plastics Charter and membership in the Ocean Decade Alliance. With the longest coastline in the world and one quarter of the world’s fresh water, Canada is uniquely positioned to lead in reducing plastic pollution and protecting ocean health. The government will continue to work with partners at home and around the world to protect the environment and build a healthy future for generations to come.
Tackling plastic pollution through three prize strands, the finalists in the second strand – Creating Solutions – announced on Thursday are being supported to develop innovative products that specifically reduce the volumes of plastic entering the value chain through ingenious and novel approaches.
Harjit Sajjan, Minister of International Development, Government of Canada, said: “We must urgently reduce plastic usage worldwide. It’s clear that increasing pollution levels are devastating our shared environment. The finalists announced today in the Afri-Plastics Challenge demonstrate innovation and African entrepreneurialism at its best. I can’t wait to see how the innovative solutions proposed will reduce plastic usage and benefit the whole world.”
Constance Agyeman, Director of International Development, Challenge Works, said: “Eradication of the plastic waste menace in the environment is critical to ensure resilient, sustainable communities. This calls for new solutions that go beyond traditional thinking. Today’s finalists are leading the way in dramatically reducing the volumes of plastic entering the economy to bear down on the avalanche of plastic waste that is engulfing Africa and its precious marine ecosystems.”
Having made their way through the semi-final round, each finalist has already received grants of £25,000 to develop their ideas. The 10 finalists will now receive a further £75,000 each to further advance and implement their solutions tackling the elimination of plastic usage across Sub-Saharan Africa.
The successful community-centred products and services have demonstrated a sustainable approach to reducing the reliance on plastic that also supports the empowerment of women and girls. The Afri-Plastics Challenge’s goal is that the development of the innovators’ solutions will encourage the creation of new, sustainable local enterprises, bringing economic opportunity to communities, while creating solutions with application across Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world.