Kenya will scale up support for youth- and women-led plastic recycling projects in mushrooming urban centers in order to restore livelihoods ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said on Friday.

Chris Kiptoo, principal secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry said the government has come up with fiscal and regulatory incentives to spur the growth of the circular economy, generate jobs for vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19 disruptions and reduce urban pollution.

“We have put in place a robust supportive infrastructure to promote a circular economy that we consider a viable pathway towards poverty eradication and environmental sustainability as the country charts a post-pandemic future,” said Kiptoo during a virtual summit organized by the investors’ lobby.

The Sustainable Inclusive Business Kenya (SIB-K) that is affiliated with Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) organized the annual conference to discuss new strategies that can inject vitality into the circular economy.

Participants including policymakers, investors and entrepreneurs agreed that Kenya has the potential to become a circular economy hub subject to the enactment of conducive policies, innovative financing, training and public awareness.

Ayub Macharia, director of Education and Awareness in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said the government has adjusted the policy frameworks to expand space for a circular economy.

“Promoting circular economy is at the heart of our national waste management policies,” said Macharia.

“We have mapped key enablers to sustain circularity in the economy that includes technology, financing, capacity building, education and awareness,” he added.

Carole Karuga, CEO of KEPSA said that Kenya should leverage the innovation and entrepreneur spirit of the country’s youth to develop a robust circular economy.

“There are abundant opportunities in the circular economy that can be harnessed to provide new livelihoods to urban youth and women affected by adverse impacts of COVID-19 to the national economy,” said Karuga.

The east African nation generates an estimated 22,000 tons of waste daily and Nairobi, the capital city, accounts for about 11 percent or 2,475 tons of solid waste that finds its way into landfills every day.

Karin Boomsma, director of Sustainable Inclusive Business Kenya said that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to promote environmental hygiene through innovative waste recycling models.

“The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that we need to adjust our production and consumption patterns, enhance the resilience of our economy, promote environmental and human health,” said Boomsma.

She said that youth and women-owned start-ups that promote waste recycling have a promising post-pandemic future thanks to increased capital flows to the circular economy.

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