Nairobi, Kenya. The UN Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), in collaboration with Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) Consulting Ltd launches a new regional Knowledge Brief, Harnessing Technology in the Circular Economy for Climate Action in Africa. During an online event, experts from the public and private sectors meet today to introduce the work done in the region to repurpose waste, highlight assets and technologies, and frame circular economy as a sustainable development opportunity.
In Africa, with a population growth expected to double by 2050, reaching 2.5 billion, the amount of waste generated could triple by 2050, exerting further pressure on resources, economic activities, and sustainable livelihoods. While 70–80 per cent of the municipal solid waste generated in Africa is recyclable, only 4 per cent is currently recycled, and only half of the generated waste is collected, and is often disposed of in dumpsites, rendering Africa home to 19 of the 50 world’s largest dumpsites.
Waste is one of the most pervasive collateral damages generated by the traditional economic model in which resources are mined, made into products, and then become waste. This damage can be reversed by adopting a circular economy (CE) model based on eliminating waste and pollution, repurposing materials (at their highest value), and regenerating nature.
To respond to the need for systems and technologies that increase resource efficiency, African nations are using circular economy strategies to meet their climate change and sustainable development goals while reaping various environmental, social, and economic benefits. Across a diverse range of sectors – including agriculture and food systems, the built environment, electronic waste, plastics, and textiles – innovative technologies serve as key enablers of the circular economy in Africa and beyond.
The Knowledge Brief launched today surveys technologies across African countries, sectors, and waste streams (such as organic, plastics, and e-waste) that can unlock new opportunities for circularity and ultimately reduce waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, advance economic development and job creation, bolster the roles of women, provide opportunities for youth, and benefit human and ecosystem health.
Countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, and Tanzania, among others, are pioneering various CE technologies as the concept has gained momentum at national level. Successful technology adoption and scale-up largely depend on the national or local context, as technologies integrate into a system of material (or waste) availability and resource demand, and may require physical or digital infrastructure.
The Brief showcases CE technology opportunities that exist along the material value chain, from product conception and production to distribution and consumption to end-of-life, and CE solutions that are both low-tech, such as composting and using local building materials, and high-tech, such as anaerobic digestion, material science and digital material marketplaces. Although CE technology adoption varies between countries, a multitude of CE technologies is already in use across Africa and other technology options are emerging with a high potential for being scaled across the continent.
“Africa is well positioned to make the circular economy transition. Many of the practices that are considered part of the circular economy are intrinsic and integral to many African nations and cultures. Africans are both resourceful and innovative, and their adoption of circular practices is more urgent than ever with the onset of climate change. This model is disrupting business as usual, calling for a whole-of-system approach to sustainable development,” stated Rose Mwebaza, Director of the CTCN.
“The circular economy low and high-tech solutions showcased in this report, often developed by grassroots innovators, are a reminder of the capacity and potential of the African continent and its communities in creating economic development solutions which are effective, sustainable, and inclusive. From reducing food loss in Kenya, to the usage of alternative and local building materials in Côte d’Ivoire, and anything in between, when it comes to technology for Circular Economy, the sky is not the limit,” said Prabhakar Vanam, CEO, KCIC Consulting Ltd.
“Circularity can decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, increase resource efficiency, and promote sustainable lifestyles. It is inspiring to see how technology can leverage Circular Economy opportunities. I look forward to seeing the impact of scaling up operations and making circular economy the default setting of development globally,“ said Koen Rademaekers, Managing Director, Trinomics, and Chair of the ACEN Foundation.
The Knowledge Brief - Harnessing Technology in the Circular Economy for Climate Action in Africa - is available here.