Afri-Plastics Challenge names 30 creative projects in the running for £1.8m

Innovation foundation Nesta Challenges has announced the semi-finalists of Promoting Change, the third and final strand of the £8.3m Afri-Plastics Challenge. The Afri-Plastics Challenge aims to reduce marine plastics in Sub-Saharan African countries by developing and scaling innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement. Each semi-finalist will be supported with £5,000 of funding and in-kind capacity building support to develop their ideas ahead of finalist selection in June.

While strands one and two of the challenge prize are scaling technological and engineering solutions to the problems of plastic pollution across sub-Saharan Africa, the final strand is focused on creative communication campaigns to ensure communities are engaged and enthusiastic about changing their long-term behaviour with regard to the way they interact with plastic waste and the circular economy. With estimates that plastic entering the ocean could triple to 29 million tonnes by 2040, the need for widespread attitudinal shifts around plastic consumption has never been more urgent.

Semi-finalists include Virtual Reality storytelling of the plastics lifecycle, blockchain based apps for manufacturers to follow the journey of reusable plastics and the creation of co-operatives to promote plastic alternatives in the fashion and garment industry. Other semi-finalist programmes include women-led campaigns to convince communities to ditch plastic and school education campaigns to encourage children to separate plastic waste from other rubbish.

The 30 selected semi-finalists come from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Fifteen finalists will then be selected in June 2022, receiving £50,000 each and capacity-building support. Three winners will be chosen in March 2023, receiving £250,000 each.

Adwoa Coleman, Afri-Plastics Challenge judge and Ghana Country Manager for Dow said: “Africa’s entrepreneurs and innovators are at the forefront of creating the solutions needed to scale plastics recycling and reduce the volumes of plastics entering the value chain – but their efforts will be for nothing without a groundswell of support from communities to make the circular economy for plastics a well-functioning reality. The semi-finalists announced today are using diverse approaches to engage communities – and particularly women and girls who are so integral to the plastic ecosystem in Africa – to drive the change needed to overcome the unfolding tragedy of unbridled plastic pollution on the continent.”

The timing of the Afri-Plastics Challenge comes as world governments grapple with the issue of plastic pollution. In March 2022, world governments agreed to establish a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution through the UN – the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris Accord. The resolution calls for a treaty which promotes sustainable alternatives to plastics and fosters international collaboration on access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.

To find out more about the 30 Promoting Change semi-finalists and to follow their progress, visit