Kenya has emerged as the winner of the Afri-Plastics Challenge, a continent-wide plastic innovation contest worth £4.1M. Five out of nine shortlisted start-ups, two of which were from Kenya, received £2m in prize money. The awards ceremony was held at the inaugural Afri-Plastics Summit and Awards, which marked the culmination of a four-year initiative designed by Challenge Works and funded by Global Affairs Canada. The initiative aimed to recognise innovative trailblazers that are tackling the global plastics problem and protecting the ocean. Women-led start-ups claimed five of the awards, highlighting the crucial role of women in designing sustainable solutions that benefit communities.
The Afri-Plastics Challenge had become necessary, with Kenya producing 37,000 metric tonnes of plastic that enter the Indian Ocean every year, causing devastating harm to the marine ecosystem. The country has invested heavily in policies and law enforcement to combat plastic pollution. Since 2017, Kenya has banned the manufacturing, distribution, and importation of plastic carrier and flat bags for commercial or household use, and in 2019, their use in protected areas was also prohibited. The country implemented the Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (2016-2030) and The Sustainable Waste Management Act 2022 to transition to a green growth and circular economy pathway, strengthening its position as a global environmental steward. Other African countries have also made similar commitments against plastics.
The winners of the Afri-Plastics Challenge demonstrated that there is a way forward for establishing a successful circular economy for plastic waste, with innovations capable of changing how plastic is used and disposed of worldwide. The event brought together leaders, innovators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs from all corners of the African continent to foster collaboration and develop innovative, sustainable solutions to tackle plastic pollution in Africa and beyond. The Afri-plastics Challenge provided a unique opportunity to create lasting change and forge a sustainable, plastic-free future for Africa.