By Mark Kawalya
Franc Kamugyisha, a Ugandan innovator, has made the country proud by winning the overall title of 2022 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, a title that attracts a cash price of $5,000. Kamugyisha received the awards due to the efforts of his start-up EcoPlastile which recycles consumer waste into a byproduct that the firm uses to produce biodegradable face-masks.
This year more than 1,000 entries were received, which was the highest that has ever been recorded. Of these, twenty finalists were selected for each of the awards’ regional categories after going through rounds of a thorough judging process.
Besides this, Kamugyisha also won the regional award for Africa. He was driven to start EcoPlastile after witnessing the deeply ingrained problem of poor waste disposal that was rampant in the slum area where he lived.
He witnessed first-hand, the consequences of this problem that is driven by post-consumer plastic waste that littered the streets, clogged sewers and burned off, producing toxic fumes.
EcoPlastile has so far created jobs for more than 180 people who earn more than 1.9 times the national wage. The startup has since recycled more than 360 tonnes of plastic and started a micro-insurance programme that seeks to enable more than 100 uninsured households to access medical services.
While accepting the prestigious accolade, Franc spoke of the award as a stamp of approval for EcoPlastile’s efforts since its inception.
“Winning the Commonwealth Youth Award is a stamp of approval for our small efforts as a social enterprise. It means a lot to EcoPlastile in our strategy to scale and impact a bigger community in Africa. The recognition from the Commonwealth Youth Award will enable us to get more visibility and connect us to young and like-minded young people across the world solving today’s global challenges.“ He said.
During the event, five outstanding young people were crowned regional winners for impactful projects that have improved education, alleviated poverty, addressed gender equality, and promoted action that mitigates climate change.
The awards are organized by the Commonwealth Youth Programme, to recognize outstanding individuals (ages 15-29) from different Commonwealth regions who are involved in projects that transform lives in their communities. Similarly, the project should offer practical solutions to long-standing problems while moving communities closer to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.