Kenya e waste

From trash to triumph – Kenya’s E-Waste Management takes third place in the Green Skills Award 2023

Tracy Weru knows that a pioneering new training programme in vocational training schools in Kenya that is helping address electronic waste management – and creating employment opportunities in safer, healthier processing facilities – is a winner. It’s a winner for the environment, and a winner for job creation.

Now it is also a winner for her and her team in the ETF Green Skills Award 2023, placing third in a competitive field that drew more than 600 applications from over 600 countries.

“Promoting Demand-Driven Skills in E-waste Management and Recycling in Kenya”, is part of a slew of projects supported in Sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Latin America by VET Toolbox, an EU consortium co-implemented by the British Council, Enabel, Expertise France, Germany’s GIZ agency and LuxDev. Co-funded by the EU and the German government, VET Toolbox is dedicated to “developing a skilled workforce aligned with private sector investment needs,” organisers say. The consortium’s core objectives include “fostering local decent job creation and promoting economic growth.”

Kenya’s project ticks all those boxes – involving a group of Vocational Education and Training Schools where 400 young people have been trained in modern techniques of waste management and recycling that is helping reduce the country’s 51.3 metric tonnes of e-waste that is generated annually. Currently only 1% of that is recycled.

Tracy says that coming in the top three in the competition has really highlighted Kenya’s “commitment to environmental sustainability” and “the role played by the VET institutions in designing and developing the first e-waste management technician curriculum” in the country.

The project has achieved “significant milestones” since the summer when the ETF wrote about it as one of the ten semi-finalists.

“We’ve provided practical placements for our trainees, offering them real-world experience in e-waste management, and conducted capacity-building programmes for 45 staff members from the National Industrial Training Authority, focussing on curriculum development, assessment, and review,” Tracy says.

A pivotal moment for the project was a study tour to Germany that enabled stakeholders to witness first-hand “the sophisticated methods of e-waste management employed in Germany.”

Exposure to those techniques is helping project managers refine their approach and methodologies, Tracy adds.

The result has been to document lessons learned, and to recommend two “crucial policies” on e-waste management: establishing the need for proper recycling and collection facilities that integrate both formal and informal sectors; and enforcing responsible electrical and e-waste management in Kenya. A new focus on repair and maintenance of old electronic items will also help reduce waste and promote job creation.

Project managers plans to expand the programme’s reach, increase the number of VET schools involved, and by handing its curriculum over to the National Industrial Training Authority make it widely accessible. There will also be a new emphasis on working with Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in the e-waste value chain, where opportunities have been identified to reduce and re-use e-waste.

The three VET schools already involved in the project are keen to continue offering the programme, which Tracy says is “a testament to the project’s success and its potential for long-term impact.”

She adds: “Winning the award have provided significant visibility for our initiative in the region. This serves as a powerful tool for creating awareness and attracting the interest of potential donors and stakeholders who are crucial for the scaling up of the project.”

It also gives greater visibility to current partners that include Computer for Schools in Kenya, The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, E-waste initiative of Kenya, Meru University of Science and Technology and the National Industrial Training Authority.

Tracy says that she believes the project won an ETF Green Skills Award because of its “comprehensive approaching, addressing both environmental concerns and the need for sustainable employment.”

And her advice to would-be entrants in next year’s competition? Be sure to partner with relevant stakeholders in your local eco-system.

“Remember, the success of a Green Skills project lies in its ability to work alongside and enhance the existing ecosystem, not in isolation from it.”

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