Ghislain Irakoze, the founder and CEO of Westezon, a Rwandan green tech startup, has been named among 20 finalists for the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work 2023.
According to The Commonwealth, the 20 finalists were identified as changemakers who are actively making progress towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. They were selected from a group of 50 shortlisted young leaders.
Irakoze made it to the top four regional finalists alongside Mawuse Christina Gyisun from Ghana, Deliwe Makata from Malawi, and Emmanuel Tlemu from Tanzania.
Each of the 20 finalists will receive a trophy, a certificate, and £1,000 as their prize. The top finalist from each region will be recognised as the regional winner and will receive £3,000. One of the five regional winners will then become the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2023 and be awarded £5,000.
Speaking to The New Times, Irakoze expressed excitement about the opportunity and Westezon’s plans to expand operations within and outside of Rwanda, using the recognition as a platform for visibility among potential supporters.
He attributed their success to a clear value proposition for their solution, impactful projections for the next two years, and a strong leadership team.
Wastezon’s mission revolves around providing consumers, manufacturers, and recyclers with efficient tech-empowered traceability services.
Irakoze mentioned one of their project which aims to reduce e-waste pollution by extending the lifespan of electronic devices and promoting the use of quality used products, aligning with climate action and sustainable consumption goals.
“We have a platform called Waste Zone 2.0, which facilitates the exchange of products between our sellers and buyers. In our refurbishment lab, we inspect all materials that are intended to be transacted on the platform to ensure device quality before they are listed. On the other hand, we also assist recyclers and manufacturers in acquiring materials that have a short production period. We have one model targeting consumers, sellers, and buyers, and another model aimed at manufacturers and recyclers interested in acquiring recyclable e-waste,” he explained.
The Commonwealth Youth Awards will be one of the main side events of the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (CYMM), which takes place from 11-15 September 2023. Ministers and senior officials from across 56 nations will gather at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth headquarters, to deliberate on proposals, share best practices and decide on future plans to support young people across the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth’s Head of Social Policy Development, Layne Robinson, said: “These awards are a source of pride for us at the Secretariat, and particularly the Secretary-General, as we have wholeheartedly committed to empowering and amplifying young people. These 20 regional finalists have sacrificed much and it is with great pleasure that we have an opportunity to reward them. I also want to thank the Duke of Edinburgh for agreeing to attend the Awards and the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust for their continued partnership.”
In continuation of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s partnership with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT), an additional prize of £20,000 in funding will also be presented to one project at the award ceremony, to be delivered over the course of two years. The winner will also be enrolled in QCT’s Youth Ventures Programme and given access to coaching and development opportunities.