AFRICA – The government of Canada in partnership with Nesta Challenges, have launched the second strand of the Afri-Plastics Challenge, focusing on creating solutions.

This strand invites individuals or organisations with a new or early-stage idea that seeks to reduce or eliminate plastic usage across Sub-Saharan Africa to apply for the Afri-Plastics Challenge.

The challenge’s first strand, Accelerating Growth, was launched in July 2021 and it is ongoing, showcasing the best innovations designed to improve plastic waste management in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

For the second strand, Creating Solutions, 25 finalists and three winners will be selected by a panel of experienced and professional judges who will assess the entries.

The applicants’ ideas will be evaluated against criteria such as innovation, empowerment of women and girls, social impact in the community, environmental impact and the applicants’ capability to achieve success.

Judges include Dr. Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, UN Environment Programme Director & Regional Representative for Africa, Matthew Haden who is a solid waste management expert and Radhia Mtonga, a Zambian social entrepreneur.

“It’s extremely exciting to be part of an initiative committed to finding innovative solutions that promote the circular plastic economy while simultaneously improving the social economic standing of women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa” says Radhia Mtonga.

By the end of the second strand of the Challenge, successful community-centered products and services will have demonstrated a sustainable approach to reducing the reliance on plastic that also supports the empowerment of women and girls.

In the long-term, the development and scaling of the innovators’ solutions will encourage the creation of new, sustainable local enterprises, bringing economic opportunity to these communities and contributing to poverty reduction.

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 sub-Saharan Africa, over 17 million tonnes of waste are generated annually, and only 12% of plastic waste is recycled and the rest are disposed of, burned or buried.

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.

The recently launched project is an element of the CA$100 million (US$78.7m) Marine Litter Mitigation Fund announced by Prime Minister Trudeau at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix in June 2018.

Financing for the initiative comes from the International Assistance Priorities Fund.

While scaling plastic waste collection and recycling is crucial, it cannot solve the problem alone. The quantities of waste produced easily outpace the development of waste management systems, and recycling is still not an economically or technically viable option for several types of plastic.

The Afri-Plastics Challenge aims to reduce marine plastics in Sub-Saharan African countries by finding ways to minimise reliance on plastic, develop new ways of managing plastic waste, and/or develop new uses for plastic that has been discarded.

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