The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently unveiled the results of the 2020 edition of its Young Earth Champions initiative. Nzambi Matee, the founder of the Kenyan start-up company Gjenge Makers was one of the seven winners. The engineer, the only African woman selected, seduced UNEP with her project to transform plastic waste into sustainable building materials.
On December 15th, 2020, seven entrepreneurs who develop environmental projects around the world were named “Young Earth Champions 2020”. This is the United Nations (UN)’s highest environmental award, given to experienced environmental leaders whose actions have a positive impact on the environment.
In Africa, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at the initiative of the award, chose 29-year-old Kenyan Nzambi Matee. Through her start-up company Gjenge Makers, Nzambi Matee transforms plastic waste into sustainable building materials. These include paving stones, paving slabs and manhole covers. The start-up, founded in 2018, has already recycled 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste in the East African country. Nzambi Matee also employs 112 collectors via in its start-up Gjenge Makers.
UNEP is also supporting innovations in the recovery of water from the air, the sanitation of aquatic environments, etc. “As we enter this decisive decade in which we are striving to reduce CO2 emissions and protect and restore ecosystems, the Young Earth Champions are demonstrating that everyone can make a contribution,” says UNEP. According to UNEP, the seven ‘Young Earth Champions 2020’ will receive seed funding, mentoring and communication support. This will enable them to expand their activities.
The Young Champions of the Earth award, established in 2017, is part of the UNEP #ForNature campaign. The aim of the initiative is to encourage and motivate more young people to take action for nature. In four years, 28 environmental pioneers have been rewarded around the world.
The United Nations Environment Programme will also fund a zero or low-carbon mobility project in West Africa. This other initiative, led by the African Union of Public Transport (UATP), is expected to help mitigate global warming in the sub-region.