Mauritian startup aims to encourage recycling with UNESCO-backed eco-game

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Mauritian startup Panda & Wolf Holdings has rolled out Eco-Warriors, the first UNESCO-supported mobile game in Africa, to teach kids about waste sorting and recycling.

Panda & Wolf has a couple of other brands, namely travel platform Discover Mauritius and real estate app Homepanda, but for now is pouring its energies into Eco-Warriors.

The game, which has secured the patronage of UNESCO, using gamification to teach children about waste sorting and recycling. 

“They learn the history and geography of the area, city or country through the different levels, and sort the collected waste in recycling bins to earn points and complete the levels. They also meet the endemic animals of each place, helping them in the cleaning of their natural habitat and fight the pest,” creative director Brian Dean told Disrupt Africa.

Eco-Warriors also provides a call-to-action for users by providing a monthly comic and activity book that not only continues the adventures of the “eco-warriors” but also provides activities and Q&As related to the environment and their school curriculum. 

“The kids are able to get their free copy of the comic book by exchanging 5kg of household recyclable waste, like plastic, paper, glass, and metal cans. This call-to-action helps the kids to put in practice what they learned in the game but also helps us track waste patterns and understand the carbon dioxide emissions of consumer goods,” Dean said.

“We then provide a monthly report of waste tracking and carbon emissions per region to manufacturers, in order for them to understand the indirect emissions of their products and help them reduce their carbon taxes.”

All very innovative. The game was only launched in September 2019 in Mauritius as well as Rodrigues, Reunion, and Madagascar, and is now deployed in hundreds of schools and being used by 250,000 children. Dean thinks it has found a huge gap that needs filling.

“What we saw was the increase in pollution in the last couple of years and that despite clean-up campaigns the situation did not change. We understood that the younger generations did not know much about waste sorting and recycling,” he said. 

“The focus of most educational systems puts forward mathematics and sciences more than environment and ecology. We also saw the gap in the market from companies having to deal with the newly-introduced carbon taxes.”

The whole Eco-Warriors project has been bootstrapped by Panda & Wolf, and is being rolled out in partnership with sponsors. Pepsi is the main sponsor of the game, and the startup has partnered with the Mauritius Commercial Bank for its distribution and communication regionally. 

“We received UNESCO patronage for this project and their help in communicating Eco-Warriors among the other UN offices throughout Africa,” Dean said.

“We are seeing a lot of traction at the moment. More and more parents are downloading the game for their kids as well as teenagers and young adults playing it.”

The startup, which is monetising the project through selling advertising in the monthly comic, selling the recyclable waste collected, and monthly subscriptions to its carbon dioxide emissions reduction report from consumer goods manufacturing companies, has plans to expand beyond Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands.

“We are planning to expand to the African continent as from this year, starting with South Africa as they just introduced the carbon taxes in July 2019. This will be an opportunity for them to make a drastic change and reduction of their emissions taxes for the year 2021,” Dean said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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