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Circular Economy in Africa :
Connecting the dots between Climate Change, Resilience, and Opportunities


Nov 30, 2023

When it comes to climate change and Africa, the usual narrative revolves around the increasing vulnerability of the continent to the negative effects of climate change.However, a panel discussion held on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai advanced a more optimistic view. The discussion on Advancing Circular Economy for Climate Resilience in Africa concluded that Africa could be a hub of opportunity for combating climate change. The African Development Bank, the Africa Circular Economy Facility (ACEF), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and ACEA cohosted the event.

Participants posited that by embracing the concept of circularity, African countries can cut their reliance on finite resources, diversify their economies, and create new employment prospects. Ultimately, this will position them to withstand climate-related shocks better.

Africa's ability to harness circularity's economic, social, and environmental advantages holds significant importance, not just for the continent but also for its partners. Finland, for example, has emerged as a prominent advocate for circularity in Africa as one of the initial contributors to the ACEF, alongside the Nordic Development Fund (NDF). The country also took a pioneering step in 2016 by becoming the first country ever to establish a comprehensive national circular economy roadmap.

The attendance of Tuula Yrjola, Finland's Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, at the side event is a natural reflection of Finland's commitment to promoting circularity in Africa. She shared in her opening remarks that the circular economy model could drive a decoupling of economic growth from resource consumption. She also emphasized the promotion of regional value chains as a practical approach to achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

The circular economy has the potential to significantly contribute to climate action by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 60% by 2050 while enabling a transition to sustainable and clean energy sources. It offers a pathway for comprehensive societal transformation and innovation, with significant economic potential for green growth.

In Africa, the circular economy represents an annual market opportunity of approximately $8 billion. "Africa has numerous opportunities to not only tackle climate change but also position itself as a global solution to address the climate crisis," noted Dr Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank.

Emmanuel Siakilo, Senior Advisor of Climate Change at the African Union Commission, emphasized the importance of the topic: “This (circularity in Africa) is an important discussion to have, for Africa but also the globe because if waste is managed in all sectors, then clearly we are reducing discussions around major challenges that affect the world today”.

Africa has made progress toward a circular economy. The African Union Commission (AUC) has devised the Continental Circular Economy Action Plan for Africa, which serves as a roadmap for the transition to a circular model. The African Development Bank plays a crucial enabling role in promoting circularity across the continent through the ACEF, which is currently the only multi-donor trust fund dedicated to mainstreaming the circular economy in Africa. The ACEF, in collaboration with the ACEA, led by the African Development Bank Group Regional Member Countries, will play a vital role in implementing the continental circularity action plan. 

One such example is Chad, one of five countries, along with Benin, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Uganda, benefiting from ACEF's multi-country national circular economy roadmap project.

Ms. Tchere, representing the Chadian Ministry of Environment, shared her country's journey towards a circular economy. She affirmed the determination of African nations to progress towards circularity and the subsequent demands arising from it: “In Chad, we aspire to establish a nationwide platform that fosters collaboration among associations and non-profit organizations involved in circularity, as well as engaging all stakeholders dedicated to addressing climate change. Moreover, we are actively seeking assistance and guidance to ensure the successful realization of our circularity goals.”

However, much work remains. Dr Rose Mwebaza, UNEP Regional Director and Representative in Africa, emphasized the need for further support in transitioning African countries to circularity, saying, “We need to strengthen partnerships and alliances so that we define common goals and collaboratively mobilize resources needed to finance this implementation”.


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