ISS TODAYCircular economy: moving Africa towards environmental sustainability
By Requier Wait for ISS TODAY• 22 September 2020
Greater use of renewable energy can help move away from carbon-intensive power sources to create low-carbon economies. (Photo: EPA/Nic Bothma) Less A circular economy can support Africa’s economic development, enhance sustainability and help curb future health problems. But it requires collaboration between government, business and consumers.
*First published by ISS Today.
For Africa, the impact of Covid-19 has made thinking about the future more important than ever. Recent analysis
Although we cannot predict the future, current societal, environmental and economic trends can be used to anticipate scenarios and decide what action is needed now to achieve our desired outcomes. For Africa, an important question is how to recover from Covid-19 while enhancing environmental sustainability.
The concept of a circular economy is a good starting point. A circular economy presents a shift
A number of avenues can be followed to shift towards a more sustainable and circular economy. Electricity, agriculture, urban infrastructure including transportation, plastics, manufacturing and textiles are a few examples that present economic opportunities in a circular economy.
Many existing initiatives are aimed at moving to the circular economy in Africa. For instance, the Switch Africa Green Programme promotes
In Ghana, a Waste Recovery Platform connects
Greater use of renewable energy can help move away from carbon-intensive power sources to create low-carbon economies. Modelling by BP estimates
The fusion of agriculture and solar energy generation could boost sustainable development. For example elevated solar photovoltaic panels are used to shelter crops planted beneath, referred to as agrophotovoltaic or APV projects
Small-scale farmers could use this approach while offering the potential of mini-grids and electricity access for rural communities. Overall, the adoption of more sustainable farming practices together with a reduction in food waste could not only help conserve water, but also sustain the productivity of agricultural land.
With Africa’s growing population and rapid urbanisation, urban planners should design systems for resilient and resource-efficient cities. Circular systems can help reduce rising levels of municipal waste
The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation identifies
Yet, with growing populations in much of Asia, if not in Europe and North America, there will be greater demand for food, inputs, water and energy. Planning for and investing in circular economy systems today could help Africa meet this rising need while also curtailing resource depletion and climate change.
In preparing for future disasters, a recent
When the clearing of forests results in more than 25% of the forest cover being lost, the likelihood of contact between wildlife, humans and their livestock increases. Protecting tropical forests could help curb the spread of zoonotic viruses. And the cost of investments to prevent future pandemics could be far lower than the cost of managing them.
The Congo Basin – which is the second largest tropical rainforest in the world – lost approximately 16.6 million hectares of forest between 2000 and 2014, according to a study
Protecting this resource with circular economy practices could go a long way to combating future pandemics while at the same time sustaining a forest that helps lower global carbon emissions. Here the example of combining
A circular economy can support Africa’s economic development, enhance sustainability and help curb future health problems. It requires collaboration between government, business and consumers. It may not be a silver bullet for development but can certainly make Africa more resilient to future threats. DM
*Requier Wait is a Senior Researcher, African Futures and Innovation, ISS Pretoria.*