In the quest to foster inclusivity across Africa, circularity models emerge as a beacon of promise, adept at addressing pressing economic and social challenges while propelling sustainable development forward.

Its potential lies in the reimagination of conventional linear models of production and consumption, where a circular economy not only signifies a departure from the status quo but also opens up avenues for inclusive growth that permeate all levels of society.

However, embracing this promise requires a nuanced understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Instead, each African country is tasked with tailoring its policies to align with its unique needs and available resources, stressing the importance of a bespoke approach to circularity for the continent’s diverse nations.

Henry Roman, Regional Representative for Southern Africa at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), in a briefing to the media in Pretoria, said the circular economy represents a transformative opportunity.

“In Africa, where resource scarcity and environmental degradation pose significant impediments to development, embracing circular principles can unlock novel pathways for job creation, entrepreneurship, and community empowerment, said Dr Roman.

“Through initiatives such as waste reduction, resource cycling, and innovative product design, the circular economy can leverage the continent’s abundant resources and creativity to foster shared prosperity.”

IWMI South African seminar series on circular economy. Image: courtesy.
IWMI South African seminar series on circular economy. Image: courtesy.

He said by prioritising local production, resource efficiency, and social equity, the circular economy has the potential to mitigate inequalities, empower marginalised communities, and foster resilient, self-sustaining economies across Africa.

By embracing the circular economy, Africa can pave the way toward a more inclusive and sustainable future, where economic prosperity is inherently linked to environmental stewardship and societal well-being.

“The circular economy is not merely about waste management, recycling, reuse, or reduction alone. Its principles involve designing out waste and pollution, maintaining products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. It underscores resource efficiency, circular design, product longevity, reuse, repair, and recycling to establish a sustainable, closed-loop system that minimises environmental impact and maximises economic benefits,” he said.

To ensure water security, Dr Roman stressed the need to consider circular approaches to water management, encompassing water reuse, recycling, and resource recovery in the form of nutrients from wastewater.

According to him, the reuse of wastewater does not always have to meet potable standards; it can conform to industrial or agricultural standards, thus minimising treatment costs.

Mr Roman referred to statistics from The Circularity Gap Report 2024, indicating a decline in global circularity despite the circular economy gaining mainstream recognition.

The data shows the share of secondary materials entering the economy has decreased from 9.1 percent in 2018 to 7.2 percent in 2023.

The official pointed out that over the last six years, consumption has approached levels comparable to that of the last century. Hence, it is imperative that circular solutions are designed with the developing world in mind.

The briefing, which was incorporated both virtual and physical attendance brought together media representatives from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and other African countries.