Kenyan-based firm among finalists for Prince William’s Earthshot Prize


Prince William launched the Earthshot Prize in October 2020 to find inspiring and innovative solutions to problems facing the planet by 2030. PHOTO | AFP

Sanergy, a Kenyan-based social enterprise, is among 15 finalists in the inaugural Earthshot Prize, a global competition launched by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, last year.

The company makes affordable and hygienic sanitation accessible to people living in informal settlements in Kenya, who are forced to rely on unsanitary options such as open defecation and “flying toilets”.

Sanergy serves about 140,000 slum dwellers daily. It collects and treats 20,000 tonnes of waste annually, which is used to manufacture organic fertiliser.

The Earthshot Prize, which was launched in October last year, aims to find new solutions to environmental crises and improvement of living standards, particularly for communities most at risk from climate change.

“The rapid growth of cities around the world has created a sanitation and waste management crisis which affects the health of millions of people and the future of our planet. Sanergy’s circular economy model is for safe sanitation and waste management.

“Being part of the inaugural Earthshot Prize will help Sanergy further scale to safely repurpose five million tonnes of waste in the next five years within Kenya and other developing countries, improving the lives of millions,” said Sanergy chief executive, David Auerbach in a statement.

The finalists were picked from over 750 nominations. The winners will be selected from five Earthshots categories: protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world, and fix our climate.

The shortlist has innovators, a city and even an entire country.

Fixing the planet

“I am thrilled to see a Kenyan company has been named a finalist of the inaugural Earthshot Prize. Kenya is leading the way in tackling climate change in the region and as the UK we’re proud of our partnership as we work together to tackle climate change and build a clean and resilient recovery from Covid-19,” said British High Commissioner, Jane Marriott.

The prize was inspired by US President John F Kennedy’s ‘Moonshot’ programme whose aim was to mobilise people to reach the moon. It resulted in the first man setting foot on the moon in 1969 on the US Apollo 11 spaceflight.

The Earthshot Prize aims to find inspiring and innovative solutions to problems facing the planet by 2030.

Prince William, announcing the finalists on Friday said: “They are working with the urgency required in this decisive decade for life on Earth and will inspire all of us with their optimism in our ability to rise to the greatest challenges in human history.”

Every year from 2021 until 2030, Prince William, alongside the Earthshot Prize Council, which covers six continents, will award the prize to five winners, one per Earthshot.

The 15 shortlisted nominees will receive tailored support and opportunities to help scale their work from the Earthshot Prize Global Alliance, a network of organisations that share the ambition of the Prize to repair the planet.


Sanergy is one of three African-based organisations among the finalists. The two others are Pole Pole Foundation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Reeddi Capsules in Nigeria.

Sanergy was founded in 2011 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduates—David Auerbach, Ani Vallabhaneni, Lindsay Stradley and Nathan Cooke – who came up with the idea of franchising toilets to meet the sanitation needs in urban informal settlements.

The social venture establishes low-cost improved sanitation facilities, branded as Fresh Life Toilets, which it franchises to community members who operate them as businesses for profit.

Sanergy collects the waste and transports it to a processing plant where it is used to manufacture fertilisers and other by-products.

The five winners, one from each Earthshot category, will receive £1 million (Sh129 million) in prize money in a ceremony on October 17 in London.

Here are the 15 inaugural finalist by category:

1. Protect and restore nature:

Pole Pole Foundation, DR Congo: A community-led model of conservation that protects gorillas and local livelihoods.

The Republic of Costa Rica: A scheme paying local citizens to restore natural ecosystems that has led to a revival of the rainforest.

Restor, Switzerland: An online platform connecting and empowering local conservation projects.

2. Clean our air:

Takachar, India: A technology to create profitable products from agricultural waste and put a stop to the burning of crops.

Vinisha Umashankar, India: A 14-year-old innovator and activist who has designed a solar-powered ironing cart with the potential to improve air quality across India.

The Blue Map App, China: China's first public environmental database enabling citizens to hold polluters to account.

3. Revive our oceans:

Coral Vita, Bahamas: A coral farming project designed to restore the world's dying coral reefs.

Pristine Seas, US: A global conservation programme protecting 6.5 million square km of the world's ocean.

Living Seawalls, Australia: Innovative tiles attached to sea walls create habitats for marine life to attach to.

4. Build a waste-free world:

Sanergy, Kenya: A sanitation solution that converts human waste into safe products for local farmers.

The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs, Italy: A city-wide initiative that has dramatically cut waste while tackling hunger.

Wota Box, Japan: A tiny water treatment plant that turns 98 percent of wastewater into clean water.

5. Fix our climate:

Reeddi Capsules, Nigeria: Solar-powered energy capsules making electricity affordable and accessible in energy-poor communities.

SOLbazaar, Bangladesh: The world's first peer-to-peer energy exchange network in a country on the front-line of climate change.

AEM Electrolyser, Thailand/Germany/Italy: An ingenious clean hydrogen fuel technology designed to transform how homes and buildings are powered.