The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) has been spearheading efforts that are geared towards enhancing youth skills across the country and beyond; to create revamped business models through a series of completed and ongoing projects. These initiatives not only target youth in business, but also students and those in the informal sector. One such project, dubbed Creating Opportunities and Alleviating Poverty Through Sustainable Trade (COAST) is being implemented through Sustainable Inclusive Business Kenya (SIB-K); KEPSA’s knowledge center. It’s being executed at the Coastal County of Mombasa, and seeks to engage women and youth groups in the low-income areas; to create linkages with the private sector with a view to adopt circular innovations.

COVID-19 has impacted thousands of young people, with quite a huge percentage losing their sources of livelihood due to loss of jobs during the pandemic. To commemorate this year’s World Youth Skills Day which aims to celebrate youth’s creativity and resilience throughout the pandemic, I wish to highlight the efforts of a youth group in Tudor Ward, Mombasa County, who are reimagining their skills to adopt sustainable models by converting waste to value.

I met Naftal Kobags and his group of 14 youthful Coastarians in 2020. They were trainees in the first phase of the COAST Project, on sustainable waste management, entrepreneurship, business skills and financial literacy. Their enthusiasm was quite captivating, but more encouraging is that visiting them one year later, they are applying the skills learnt during the training to create a sustainable income while protecting the environment.

“As Roadside Self-Help Group, we are creating a prototype to make notebooks by recycling waste paper, which when implemented, will highly boost our objectives to scale our operations in the waste management sector,” said an elated Naftal.

Under KEPSA’s Social Pillar, this project has helped these youth earn an income that was otherwise not forthcoming especially due to unemployment; worsened by the pandemic. KEPSA aims to continue providing opportunities that enhance youth skills through existing programs geared towards empowering SMEs, including the Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience Program Mentorship Sessions. For Roadside Self-Help Group, this will increase their business skills, key in successfully implementing and scaling their operations including their ambitious plastic waste recycling plan.

Participating in the KEPSA training on the waste to value concept changed our mindset and helped us rethink waste as a material that can be re-used to create new products. We received an initial funding from KEPSA after presenting a winning business plan following the training, and we’re building on that amount to begin producing waste paper recycled egg trays”, he added. The group is also undertaking other small-scale projects including selling of clean water to the area residents. Income received from these initiatives is shared among the members, thus helping them improve their social status.

KEPSA will continue providing sustainable solutions through partnerships, to empower women and youth through creation of green jobs. For instance, through the Ajira Digital Project – A Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs initiative funded by Mastercard Foundation under Young African Works program, the youth are being trained on the use of digital technologies to scale their businesses.

The second phase of the COAST Project was launched on 8th July 2021, and 50 women from Tudor ward, Mombasa County are currently being offered similar training which will culminate in a clean-up and sensitization drive targeting 100 households (through a train-the-trainer model) on separation of waste at source. The exercise will take place on Saturday. the 17th of July 2021 and will engage the Tudor Community to reduce the amount of plastics disposed in the landfills and into the ocean, towards achieving a Blue economy and sustainable environment conservation.

About Author

Josephine Wawira is the Communications Officer at Sustainable Inclusive Business – Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA).

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