Innovation foundation Nesta Challenges has launched the Afri-Plastics Challenge as part of its efforts to find African innovators with scalable and sustainable solutions to prevent plastic waste from entering the marine environment in sub-Saharan Africa.
The challenge involves a public competition that will reward the best solutions from across sub-Saharan Africa that address marine plastic waste in developing countries in a way that promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, but is also not limited by gender.
The competition’s first phase – Accelerating Ideas – invites entrepreneurs from across sub-Saharan Africa to showcase their best innovations that are 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 nongovernmental organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have proof-of-concept and the ability to scale nationally or regionally to reach a high number of people, particularly engaging women and girls.
Nesta states that more than 17-million tonnes of waste is generated throughout sub-Saharan Africa yearly, and only 12% of plastic waste is recycled.
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, about 12% of waste plastics are recycled, while the rest is either disposed of, burned or buried.
Nesta Challenges international development director Constance Agyeman says 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.”
She adds that, as Africa begins to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, 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 challenge will directly distribute C$14.5-million in financial support and C$1-million in nonfinancial (capacity-building) support to the winning innovators across the various phases of the challenge.
Applications close on September 15.
The Afri-Plastics Challenge is funded by the government of Canada and delivered by Nesta Challenges.