Two Kenyans have emerged winners in a global award that recognises individuals whose work is inclined towards ending extreme poverty and its systemic causes.
Mega Gas Alternative Energy chief executive Peter Njeri was the overall winner of the 2023 Waislitz Global Citizen Awards.
His start-up, which focuses on clean energy, is already enabling more than 10,000 low-income families to access clean and affordable cooking. Mega Gas converts plastic waste into clean cooking gas.
As the overall winner, Mr Njeri will receive $100,000 (about Sh14.3 million) to help expand his business to benefit an additional 5,400 people.
Peter’s background influenced his choice of business. He was hoping to come up with a solution for indoor air pollution, which he experienced growing up.
Another Kenyan, Esther Kimani, bagged the Waislitz Global Citizen Disruptor Award. She is the chief executive officer of Farmer Line Technologies, which uses a solar powered artificial intelligence-based crop pest and diseases detection device. Her company’s goal is to end hunger for more than one million smallholder farmers.
“Her inspiration comes from experiencing farm losses from pests and diseases first-hand as she grew up farming the slopes of the Aberdare mountains. Her technology has so far impacted over 60,000 farmers in Kenya,” read a statement from the Waislitz Foundation.
She received a cash prize of $75,000 (Sh10.7 million) that will enable her firm to help more than 200,000 farmers and expand to other African countries such as Namibia, Uganda, Nigeria and Rwanda.
The third winner was human rights lawyer Oluwafunke Adeoye who bagged the Waislitz Global Citizen Choice Award. She also received a cash prize of $75,000.
“After experiencing first-hand the injustice of the legal system, including that of her father’s arrest and detention for a crime he did not commit several years ago, Oluwafunke founded Hope Behind Bars Africa,” said the Waislitz Foundation.
Her organization now closes the justice loop by providing pro bono services and direct support to poor incarcerated individuals while promoting criminal justice reforms through research, evidence-based advocacy, and technology. So far more than 7,000 people who are behind bars have benefited from her organisation.
She intends to launch a new tech platform called Justicepadi with the hope of transforming legal aid in West Africa and continue to expand her work for criminal justice.
“When we first conceived these awards almost 10 years ago, we wanted to shine a light on those heroes working at grassroots levels to end global poverty. We also wanted to encourage others to do the same,” said Alex Waislitz, Chairman and Founder of the Melbourne-based Waislitz Foundation.
“The awards have grown in stature and participation rates every year and I am proud that we’ve been able to assist so many outstanding and inspirational young champions from around the world to advance their efforts in the fight against global poverty. This year’s winners are no exception and I wholeheartedly congratulate them all,” he added
This year’s applicants were evaluated based on individual merit in five key areas: global citizenship, proof of concept, disruption, scalability, and adaptability.
The awards are presented by the Waislitz Foundation in collaboration with Global Citizen, supported by Mesoblast Limited and New York businessman Drew Schaefer.