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Africa: the most ‘ready-for-circularity’ continent?

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The continent’s chances of moving towards circular business models are easier than in other continents where most infrastructures were built without their next life cycles in mind. Africa is potentially one of the most ‘ready-for-circularity’ continents because its ecological footprint is still very low. Join REVOLVE Circular and circular experience on 14 January to learn more about the opportunities and challenges of circularity in Africa.

Circular economy approaches can ensure affordable and eco-friendly infrastructure development, provide jobs for millions of Africans working in the informal economy, and help preserve the productive capacity of critical natural capital. But what exactly is this new concept, and how can it inspire investments, policy-making and socio-ecological as well as economic development challenges in Africa? Join four high-level panelists for answers and insights in a free live-stream (https://bit.ly/2XCtjgo) on 14 January at 2 pm (WAT). 

“Our reporting (https://bit.ly/3sky24u) and the live-stream aim to address a perception challenge: too many people, in Africa and elsewhere, equate the circular economy to recycling and waste management,” explains Sören Bauer, President of REVOLVE Circular (www.Revolve.media/Circular). “The concept is much bigger than that. For example, one of the so-called ‘action imperatives’ of the circular economy is ‘Refuse’ – with implications for different stakeholders: product designers refuse certain materials in the first place, to avoid waste; producers refuse the use of specific hazardous or toxic materials or any virgin material; consumers refuse certain products, choose to buy less, use less, or to reject packaging waste and shopping bags. Once all the action imperatives of the circular economy are better understood, people start realizing just how innovative and potentially disruptive the concept, and a ‘circular lifestyle’, is.”

In addition to recycling, at least two other action imperatives of circularity present big opportunities for Africa: remanufacturing and refurbishment. Remanufacturing hubs across the continent can be created in many African countries and would generate sustainable jobs. A network of remanufacturers in charge of restoring products back to their original state can satisfy local and regional demand or resell remanufactured products to Europe and the Middle East.

Co-produced by REVOLVE Circular and Circular Experience, two Vienna-based non-profit organisations, the live-stream on 14 January will address the opportunities and challenges of the circular economy in Africa. Four distinguished panelists from finance, academia, policy-making and civil society will offer insights into four different perspectives:

  1. Dr Anthony Nyong (https://bit.ly/2XB5OEq) from the African Development Bank Group (https://bit.ly/3skDOTw)
  2. Dr Olawale Olayide (https://bit.ly/2KgsLd6) from the Africa Circular Economy Research and Policy Network (ACERPiN) [https://bit.ly/3i6KK29]
  3. Ms. Jocelyne landry Tsonang (https://bit.ly/3ib5NQQ) from the African Circular Economy Network (https://bit.ly/38FYJc1)
  4. Mr. Hezekiah Okeyo (https://bit.ly/2XExmsk) from the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development in Kenya (https://bit.ly/3i7bOhw)

The panelists will discuss questions such as:

  1. What should young African entrepreneurs know about the opportunities and the potential of the circular economy and circular practices?
  2. To what extent are circular policies and practices part of Africa’s industrial transformation?
  3. How can African-led research on the circular economy inform policy-making? And what should the research focus on?

Michael Boyle, founder of circular experience, will co-moderate the event; he offers his perspective on circularity: “I believe that Africa is one of the centers of frugal innovation, the process of reducing the complexity and cost of a good and its production.  This allows us to overcome scarcity and optimize what we have. For me, frugality is the main source of innovation, and it can help turn the circular economy into the game-changer we need to reach sustainability goals globally.”

The circular economy is indeed an emerging paradigm and ‘umbrella concept’ which includes many various views, concepts and schools of thought. Among those usually referred to are industrial symbiosis, cradle-to-cradle and biomimicry; while the concept is rightly criticized for mainly being rooted in such theory that emerges from the Global North, the CRESTING research project, a partner of REVOLVE Circular, now provides an interactive timeline of over 70 circularity concepts (https://bit.ly/39wmJ0i) from the Global South and North alike; they also include Ubuntu, Vivir Bien or the second encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, in which the pope critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, and laments environmental degradation.

The first pan-African circular economy conference

The 14 January live-stream is also an important stepping stone towards “Africa Circular”, the first pan-African Circular Economy Conference planned for 2022 by the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN), a civil society group; it will bring together policy-makers, academia, corporate decision-makers and circular economy specialists from around Africa and beyond.

“As part of our policy advocacy we are planning five regional online workshops in 2021; they shall prepare and culminate in 'Africa Circular' next year, the first pan-African multi-stakeholder event to inform about and drive the circular agenda in Africa”, says Jocelyne landry Tsonang, Executive Team member ACEN. “We are pleased to collaborate with REVOLVE Circular on the event and invite governments, international organisations, development banks and companies with a sustainability mind-set to join us in this effort and make it happen.”

Towards a compelling Circular Economy narrative

Stuart Reigeluth, founder of REVOLVE Group and Vice-President of REVOLVE Circular explains the reasons behind creating this new non-profit organization: “The circular economy is a key concept that can and needs to set different priorities in different world regions. We created REVOLVE Circular as a non-profit organization with the goal of informing and driving the necessary transformation from a linear to a more circular economy with policy advocacy and strategic communication. Part of our work is to collaborate with media decision-makers and journalists to help ensure they understand the concept and report in an informed manner.”

More than 1 000 attendees from over 30 countries have already signed up for the free live-stream. Media representatives and media decision-makers are particularly invited to join and learn more about the circular economy, circular polies and practices and what they can offer Africa.

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