Kenyan's Unique Innovation Honoured by UN

  • Nzambi Matee a 29-year-old inventor and entrepreneur  has been named UNEP's young champion of the earth 

    The prize is awarded every year to six entrepreneurs under the age of 30 with bold ideas for sustainable environmental change. 

    In 2017, Matee quit her job as a data analyst and set up a small lab in her mother’s backyard. There, she began creating and testing pavers, which are a combination of plastic and sand.

    The neighbours complained about the noisy machine she was using, so Matee pleaded for one year’s grace to develop the right ratios for her paving bricks.

    Nzambi at her workshop
    Nzambi at her workshop

    This was where she developed the prototype for the machine that turns discarded plastic into paving stones – an invention that underpins her company, Gjenge Makers.

    Gjenge is a social enterprise whose aim is to tackle waste pollution, by collecting recyclables from households and institutions in addition to up-cycling by making paving and building blocks from recycled plastic bottles.

    Her project was given a boost when Matee won a scholarship to attend a social entrepreneurship training programme in the United States of America. With her paver samples packed in her luggage, she used the material labs in the University of Colorado Boulder to further test and refine the ratios of sand to plastic.

    Each day, the business churns out 1,000 plastic pavers, which are prized by schools and homeowners because they are both durable and affordable. 

    Gjenge Makers is also giving a second life to plastic bottles and other containers that would otherwise end up in landfills or, worse, on Nairobi’s streets. 

    Matee, who majored in material science and worked as an engineer in Kenya’s oil industry, was inspired to launch her business after routinely coming across plastic bags strewn along Nairobi’s streets 

     She has financially empowered over 112 individuals the majority of whom are women and youth groups who are our partners in supplying the waste plastic and the pre-processing stage of our production process.