First published in Green Economy Journal, issue 35, page 26 (p.28 in the digital version), June/July 2019, South Africa
Western Economists could argue that Africa has not yet fully “benefited” from what is historically known as the linear economy. On the contrary, innovative new business solutions are emerging that are beneficial for profit, the planet and its people. The circular economy is no longer a hype; Africa may yet prove to be the continent playing the tune that others will follow in this economic revolution.
The linear economy is based on extraction models (often from African soils) to manufacture, assemble and then distribute consumer products. In its entirety this process is designed in a way that the extracted raw materials are sent several times around the planet in the assembly of goods, with obvious negative impacts on our environment as a result.
The consumer product is not built to last; it either becomes (technically) outdated or is replaced in favour of the ‘new’ and, if it was to be repaired this often comes at a higher cost that replacing it. This results in huge waste of products that are dumped into the environment, end up at a landfill or get incinerated as “residue” when reaching the end of their perceived “useful” lifespan.
This waste perception of end of life products does not factor in the multitude of costs and investments lost forever:
· costs of environmental destruction
· lost investments in research and development
· loss of residual energy now and working hours
In contrast to this model, the circular economy suggests preserving consumer goods as long as possible in our market economies and changing our way of thinking about the object by using it differently. The aim is to preserve the investments made, reduce our environmental impacts and make companies sustainable with innovative approaches based on a service economy rather than the consumption of goods.
In Africa, some countries have already banned single-use plastics and implemented decrees on electronic waste. In 2016, the African Circular Economy Network (www.ACEN.Africa) was born in South Africa based on the belief that Africa could thrive on circular economy principals. This movement has now spread across the continent to more than 29 countries with great results that showcase the regeneration of soils and the reuse of products available over the longer term, based on innovative service models.
Of the many examples in upcycling there is the start-up in Cameroon that turns tyres into flooring, or AmbiReciclo in Angola that recycles tyres and vegetable oils. In Senegal, many recycling programs exist (SeTIC, Proplast (Recuplast)). In Egypt, UpFuse has recycled more than 50,000 plastic bags since 2013. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, Coliba has developed a mobile application for municipalities to identify the value of unused resources and monetise it. In Ghana, the Agbogbloshie Marketspace Platform (AMP) is creating value from e-waste by giving it a second life. The African Development Bank in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for its part has rolled out a program aimed at creating 2,000 jobs in the collection and transformation of plastics. In Morocco, Tawafouk values waste. In Uganda, it is a car cleaning company that reuses water in closed loops. In Rwanda, the e-waste plant has collected more than 120 tons of electronic waste and repaired 400 computers in the first six months of its launch. In Mauritius, Belle Verte provides resource management solutions while reselling upcycled products, as does Environment 360 in Ghana through its resource recovery cooperative.
If we continue our journey in the re-manufacturing and refurbishing loops, we find a social enterprise in Kenya, the “Circular Economy Hub” which is about to launch its refurbishment unit for electronic products. In South Africa, Barloworld re-manufactures Caterpillar machine parts for resale on the market with the same warranty as a virgin product.
In the smaller beneficial loops which are the maintenance and repair of products there is Hello Tractor in Nigeria which gives access of shared agricultural equipment to hundreds of farmers. In eco-design, innovations abound in the Abidjan FabLab and Nairobi Circular Design in Kenya.
In the biological and agricultural cycles, Lono Côte d’Ivoire facilitates the lives of small farmers through permaculture solutions that negate the need for expensive fertilizers. The famous Songhai Farm in Benin has been using permaculture for several decades and influenced the concept of the Blue Economy. In South Africa there is the award-winning Agriprotein unit that produces animal feed from black soldier fly larvae. In Lilongwe Zambia, ICLEI Africa is implementing an ambitious composting programme. In Mozambique, a study on regenerative thinking was carried out in the Açucreira sugar factory in Xinavane based on the concept of industrial ecology. This same concept is being studied within the South African Economic Development Zones and supported by the three industrial symbiosis programmes. Zimbabwe has the unique Eastgate Shopping Mall running on 90% natural air system and Ethiopia, for its part, has a national programme to regenerate its agriculture. Meanwhile, the social enterprise Djouman organises Agri-Bootcamp in permaculture throughout West Africa and organic restaurants are open in Accra where you can eat the leaves of Katemfe.
Most of these examples come from the ACEN Network members, that have implemented innovative solutions and shared them in order to inspire further circular thinking.
The African Circular Economy Network is a South African Not-for-Profit organisation since 2016. It also has a registered organisation based in Nigeria. ACEN’s vision is about “building a restorative African economy that generates well-being and prosperity inclusive of all its people through new forms of economic production and consumption which maintain and regenerate its environmental resources.” ACEN today operates in 29 countries thanks to experts advising public and private organisations locally. They can be reached via our website: www.ACEN.Africa
Meet with ACEN!
We are an active partner of the upcoming Conference on Circular Economy and green jobs with UNIDO and the European Union, on 22nd/23rd July 2019 in Dakar, Sénégal.
For more information on how to co-create a beautiful definition of Africa write to : Info@ACEN.Africa
Alexandre LEMILLE is a co-founder of the African Network of Circular Economy and its Secretary General. Creating human value is the foundation for triggering answers to our economic, environmental and societal issues.