The company won Startup of the Year at the 2023 Global Startup Awards and was recognised as the top climate tech startup in Africa at the VivaTech conference last week.

Kubik, an upcycling startup with operations in Kenya and Ethiopia, is one of the businesses leading efforts to reuse plastic waste and promote sustainability in Africa’s developing recycling industry, which currently recovers only 4% of the continent’s waste production.

The Startup Kubik diverts 45,000 kg of plastic waste per day from landfills by turning difficult-to-recycle plastic waste (polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene) into cost-effective building materials. In light of a recently completed $3.34 million seed funding round, the startup is now preparing to intensify its building material production in Ethiopia before expanding to other African nations.

Kubik, which was established in 2021 by Kidus Asfaw and Penda Marre, intends to increase production at its facility in Ethiopia later this year. The company claims it has the ability to construct more than a quarter million square metres of wall surface area annually.

“For instance, this could result in the construction of up to 10,000 affordable homes annually. In terms of housing for the poor that is considered affordable, there is a 300M+ unit shortage worldwide. We have the chance to address a $2T+ market, and we’re just getting started, according to Asfaw, the company’s CEO.

The company won Startup of the Year at the 2023 Global Startup Awards and was recognised as the top climate tech startup in Africa at the VivaTech conference last week.

Plug and Play, Bestseller Foundation, GIIG Africa Fund, Satgana, Unruly Capital, Savannah Fund, African Renaissance Partners, Kazana Fund, Princeton Alumni Angels, and Andav Capital are a few of the investors who participated in the round.

“We are thrilled to work with Kubik and support them as they begin their transformative journey. Kubik is positioned as a scalable and sustainable solution to Africa’s most pressing problems thanks to their purpose-driven vision, exceptional team, and innovative business model that combines positive social impact, circular economy, and low-carbon construction, according to Romain Diaz, co-founder of climate tech VC Satgana.

Startup Kubik creates interlocking building components, such as bricks, columns, beams, and jambs, so that architects and builders can construct walls without using cement, aggregates, or steel. According to Asfaw, this does not jeopardise the structure’s integrity, and the strength of walls constructed using its products is on par with walls made of cement.

He continued by saying that Kubik’s products have chemical characteristics that make them safe, non-flammable, and non-degradable, and that they cost at least 40% less per square metre. In addition, he adds, these products emit “at least 5 times less greenhouse gas than cement-based products,” making them low carbon.

According to Asfaw, the affordability of the materials can help close the current housing gap, which is largely caused by a growing urban population and high construction costs. Even though there are ongoing calls for governments to enact laws that reduce plastic waste and promote a more circular use of plastics, the startup is driving this change.

The burden of unmanaged plastic waste, unaffordable living conditions (especially in housing), and the effects of climate change are being felt by cities as the world becomes urbanised at an alarmingly rapid rate. Through a lower-carbon, lower-cost building solution that eliminates environmental plastic waste, our company helps to address all three of these issues. We think this is the reason why our business and its mission are so exciting,” Asfaw said.

“We see ourselves as a company that will continue to drive technology into the materials used for more quickly decarbonizing the built environment because we have a product that is transforming how we build sustainably and more affordably.”

Global plastic waste production will triple to more than 1,000 million tonnes by 2060, with developed countries producing the majority of it. Emerging nations like those in Asia and Africa will expand quickly. By 2060, recycled plastic is anticipated to increase by twofold, to 17%.