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Rwanda’s Toto Safi and Nigeria’s Well of Science Among Finalists In £1.1m Afri-Plastics Challenge

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  • Ten (10) finalists of the second Afri-Plastic Challenge strand – ‘Creating Solutions’ – have been named.
  • Finalists were drawn from Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria.
  • Reusable shopping bags and sterilised cloth diapers are among the key innovations.
  • The second strand of the Afri-Plastics Challenge is supporting sustainable solutions for reducing the reliance on plastic waste.

0900, 30 June 2022 (Johannesburg, South Africa) – Ten (10) teams of innovators from across Sub-Saharan Africa have been 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 today are being supported to develop innovative products that specifically reduce the volumes of plastic entering the value chain through ingenious and novel approaches.

Honourable 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.

To find out more about the Afri-Plastics Challenge and the 10 finalists in the Creating Solutions strand, please visit afri-plastics.challenges.org

For media enquiries please contact Brian Leputu, Africa Communications Group on brian@africacommunicationsgroup.com, +2772 525 3472

About the Afri-Plastics Challenge

The Afri-Plastics Challenge, run by London-based innovation experts Challenge Works, is tackling the scourge of plastic pollution in Sub-Saharan Africa thanks to funding from the Government of Canada. The challenge comprises three strands to take on the problem on multiple fronts.

  • Strand 1Accelerating Growth – finalists announced in February 2022 – is rewarding innovative solutions to managing plastic waste after it has been used and discarded (i.e. downstream solutions) – £1m first prize
  • Strand 2Creating Solutions – finalists announced today – is rewarding innovative solutions to reducing the volume of plastic in packaging and other products before it is used (i.e. upstream solutions) – first prize £750 000
  • Strand 3Promoting Change – finalists to be announced next month – is seeking creative campaigns and projects to influence behaviour change among individuals and communities to promote sustainable consumption around plastic – three prizes of £250 000

The 10 finalists in the Afri-Plastics Challenge Creating Solutions strand

  • Naza Agape Foundation, Nigeria

Naza Agape Foundation uses an innovative, ecofriendly approach to produce affordable and biodegradable sanitary pads that are made using banana fibre, a plant product that is an ideal substitute for the polypropylene used in conventional pads.

  • Chemolex, Kenya

Chemolex’s Biopactic solution is a recyclable, reusable and 100% biodegradable next-generation material that replaces the use of single-use plastic polymers in food and product packaging as well as in manufacturing diapers. The biopactic material is a bio-based material that is produced from invasive water hyacinth plants that grow aggressively in Lake Victoria in Kenya.

  • Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI), Uganda

Uganda Industrial Research Institute manufactures biodegradable and biocompostable paper packaging bags from the long wasted agricultural fibres of the banana pseudo-stem, sugarcane bagasse, 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.

  • SHE ECO RESPONSE, South Africa

She Eco Response has developed the Wash, Hang and Store Kit, designed to reduce the stigma around reusable menstrual pads across Sub-Saharan Africa. Their kit consists of a washing board and a brush that will help women and girls rinse and wash the pads without twisting or tampering with the underlayer too much. This kit will encourage more women and girls to consider green menstruation across Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Toto Safi, Rwanda

Toto Safi’s app-based service offers reusable cloth diapers as a service so that parents do not have to choose between convenience and pollution. For many parents, reusable nappies are neither affordable nor convenient as they may lack adequate washing and drying facilities or are put off by upfront costs. This service is therefore reducing single-use disposable diapers, which are a major source of land and marine pollution.

  • Lwanda Biotech, Kenya

Biotic is a sustainably sourced, bio-based, biodegradable bioplastic derived from blending fibre composites of agricultural waste/feedstock with a non-toxic, inert plasticiser. It looks, feels and functions like petroleum-derived plastic. Biotic is a direct drop-in replacement for plastic designed to fit into existing production infrastructure without requiring design modifications for particular use cases. Thus, it provides a sustainable approach to the elimination of plastic usage through direct substitution.

  • Regenize, South Africa

Regenize, through Zero-Waste Spaza (ZWS), can plug into any existing informal shop and enables it to become a zero-waste shop where customers can shop without creating plastic waste. The customers will need to bring their containers to purchase goods supplied and stored in secured food-safe containers. Besides reducing plastic waste, it will also enable customers to live a healthier lifestyle.

  • EcoCoCo Homecare, Kenya

EcoCoCo Homecare is spearheading the development of a range of multi-purpose everyday homecare products made from compostable natural coconut fibre. These will include scouring pads, scrubbing brushes and brooms with coconut fibre bristles. The coconut husk fibre is the outside of the coconut and is considered waste from coconut consumption and oil production. The bodies and handles of the brushes and brooms will be made from wood offcuts recycled from timber yards and commercial carpentry.

  • Well of Science, Nigeria

ShoppersBag is a web and mobile app powering a community of shoppers, shopping malls, eco friendly bag producers and brands to reduce the usage and disposal of single-use plastics. The app allows users to earn rewards every time the bags are used.

  • Derocolbags Packaging Limited Company, Ghana

Dercolbags Packaging Limited Company is developing a unique package-as-a-service system that educates households, communities and restaurants. They encourage exchange of packaging containers to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of styrofoams. Their Smartpacks will be distributed to participating restaurants, and participating households will receive their foods in the Smartpacks, while couriers will pick up used and washed Smartpack, which will be disinfected and cleaned for delivery to restaurants.

About Challenge Works

Challenge Works is the new name of Nesta Challenges. We are a social enterprise founded by the UK’s innovation agency Nesta. For a decade, we have established ourselves as a global leader in the design and delivery of high-impact challenge prizes that incentivise cutting-edge innovation for social good. In the last 10 years, we have run more than 80 prizes, distributed £84 million in funding and engaged with 12,000 innovators.

The world finds itself at a critical juncture. Together, we face multiple compounding problems, but there is enormous opportunity to discover solutions and expand innovation frontiers. The impact of climate change is felt more harshly by the year, but innovation can mitigate this impact; the growth of chronic health conditions and the widening global inequity in access to healthcare can be reversed; an ever more complex, connected and digitally driven world poses a multiplicity of societal challenges but also makes rapid, positive, life-changing technological change possible – if harnessed and directed properly.

We believe no challenge is unsolvable. Challenge Works partners with organisations, charities and governments around the globe to unearth the entrepreneurs and their innovations that can solve the greatest challenges of our time. 

Challenge prizes champion open innovation through competition. We specify a problem that needs solving, but not what the solution should be. We offer large cash incentives to encourage diverse innovators to apply their ingenuity to solving the problem. The most promising solutions are rewarded with seed funding and expert capacity building support, so that they can prove their impact and effectiveness. The first or best innovation to solve the problem wins. This approach levels the playing field for unknown and previously untested innovators so that the best ideas, no matter their origin, are brought to bear on the most difficult of global challenges.

Visit us at challengeworks.org

About the Government of Canada

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.

Learn more about Canada’s international partnerships and initiatives toward reducing plastic pollution.

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