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Kenyan students awarded Sh120million in global competition

 Eco-Bana founders Lennox Omondi, Dullah Shiltone and Brian Ndung'u posing with their award. (Courtesy)

A team of St Paul's University students bagged $1million (Sh120million) in a global competition to emerge winners of the 2022 Hult Prize.

The Hult Prize "challenges young people around the world to solve the planet's most pressing issues through social entrepreneurship."

The team comprising Lennox Omondi, Dullah Shiltone, Brian Ndung'u, and Keylie Muthoni, competed as Eco-Bana Ltd and beat five other finalists to win the prestigious award.

The other finalists included Savvy Engineers from Pakistan, Breer from Hong Kong, Openversum from Switzerland, Flexie from Australia, and Cooseii from Taiwan.

Eco-Bana is a social enterprise that produces biodegradable, eco-friendly, and hygienic sanitary towels made from banana fibers.

The awarding event took place at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City, with President Bill Clinton presenting the award and delivering a keynote speech.

The Embassy of Switzerland in Nairobi posted a snippet of the event on Twitter, showing Lennox, Dullah, and Brian anxiously waiting for the results.

And when Eco-Bana was mentioned, the three jumped out of their seats with excitement - seemingly in disbelief - and did a trio hug before proceeding to the stage. Unfortunately, Keylie Muthoni, the Chief Operation Officer, did not manage to be part of the event due to visa hitches.

"Always in awe of our people making a true global impact! Huge congratulations to our 2022 Hult Prize Winner @eco_banalimited from St. Paul's University, Kenya ?? and our finalists, we are immensely proud and glad to be part of your journey!" wrote Hult Prize on Twitter.

The team had made it to the finals after winning the regional summit held in Johannesburg in May and coming in the second position during the Global Accelerator in Boston, Massachusetts, in August.

President William Ruto couldn't have been any prouder of the team for representing the nation as he quickly took to Twitter moments after the announcement and congratulated the entrepreneurs.

"Congratulations to Eco-Bana, a Kenyan social venture started by four university students, that has just won the prestigious Hult Prize and a cash award of 1 million dollars. The prize is awarded to entrepreneurs who strive to tackle pressing global issues through innovation.

"The firm makes hygienic sanitary pads from banana fibres. This is the Hustler Spirit that we are keen to support," read Ruto's tweet.

In their pitch, Lennox, who serves as the Chief Executive Officer, said the prize money would "make their dreams come true" as they "predict to sell more than three million pads, generating over $50 million and employ more than 2,000 people by 2024."

Shiltone and Ndung'u serve in the capacity of chief financial officer and communication and marketing officer, respectively.

The company, founded in 2020, aims to end period poverty across the world through eco-friendly sanitary pads while reducing environmental pollution.

Eco-Bana says the sanitary pads are "more comfortable and safer for the user as they don't contain bleach which has carcinogenic dioxins, they are all-natural pads not containing any chemicals, thus reducing CO2 emission of production."

The pads are readily available for the Kenyan market as the company plans to expand its market to Egypt.

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