$14.5 million contest seeks African innovators working in plastic waste management

Nesta Challenges has announced the launch of the Afri-Plastics Challenge. The Challenge will involve a public competition that will reward the best solutions from across sub-Saharan Africa to addressing marine plastic waste in developing countries in a way that promotes gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

The competition’s first strand, Accelerating Ideas, invites entrepreneurs from across sub-Saharan Africa to showcase their best innovations designed to improve plastic waste management in a socially and environmentally responsible way, and to reduce the presence of marine plastic litter across sub-Saharan Africa. The Challenge calls for applications from registered non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have proof of concept and the ability to scale nationally or regionally to reach a high target number of people, particularly engaging women and girls.

Over 17 million tonnes of waste are generated by sub-Saharan Africa annually, and only 12% of plastic waste is recycled. The Afri-Plastics Challenge seeks to find innovators with scalable and sustainable solutions to prevent plastic waste from entering the marine environment in sub-Saharan Africa. While not limited by gender, the Challenge encourages women and girls to participate by submitting their solutions.

Over 220 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year across the world, and much of it ends up in oceans and other water bodies. In many African countries, approximately 12% of waste plastics are recycled and the rest are disposed of, burned or buried.

Constance Agyeman, Director of International Development, Nesta Challenges said: “The drive for home-grown innovation in Africa has led to a major rise in African entrepreneurs developing solutions that are effective and contextual to their environments. This in turn has attracted several global firms and tech hubs to the continent. We are looking for founders, innovators and entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa with exciting concepts to alleviate the negative impacts of plastic pollution, to help protect marine environments.”

 “As Africa begins to recover from COVID-19, innovation remains vital to economic growth, competitiveness and health. SMEs are an important part of the solution because they are constantly innovating, pushing the boundaries of what is possible under much pressure and often with limited resources. We are excited to hear from African entrepreneurs about the ways that their initiatives meet the Afri-Plastics Challenge.”

The Challenge will directly distribute CA$14.5 million in financial support and over CA$1 million in non-financial (capacity-building) support to the winning innovators across the various strands of the Challenge.

Innovators interested in participating in the Challenge can learn more about the criteria and process for application by visiting the website. The application deadline is Wednesday September 15, 2021 at 12PM BST. The Afri-Plastics Challenge is funded by the Government of Canada, and delivered by Nesta Challenges.

Nesta Challenges, based in London, in the UK, was launched in 2012 to increase understanding and practical evidence about challenge prizes as an innovation method to encourage more governments, charities and businesses to use competitions to make a tangible, positive impact on society.

As part of the commitment to reduce marine plastics globally, the Government of Canada has launched a project aimed at improved plastic management in sub-Saharan Africa; the Afri-Plastics Challenge, aims to reduce marine plastics in Sub-Saharan African countries by developing and scaling innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement. The Afri-Plastics Challenge places particular emphasis on promoting gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. While not limited by gender, the challenge encourages women and girls to participate by submitting their solutions.


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