Circular EconomiesCircular economies use industrial systems and economic activities that are regenerative to keep materials and services recycled as long as possible. By recycling products and services, circular economies eliminate excess waste and use fewer raw resources. Circular economies are alleviating poverty in Africa by creating a new workforce in resource recovery and reducing the use of scarce natural resources like water.

Many communities are taking the concept of circular economies into their own hands, forming cooperatives, or organizations ran jointly by their members. A cooperative in Kenya utilized solar resources that they had an abundance of to generate energy for the area, alleviating poverty by allowing people access to electricity. By making policies more environmentally friendly, circular economies are alleviating poverty in Africa in more ways than one.

Limitations on Single-use Items

There are currently 37 African countries that have a ban focused on eliminating single-use plastic, most focused on plastic bags. In 2017, the East African Community (EAC) endorsed the Polythene Materials Control Bill which provides the regulation and control of the use, sale and manufacturing of polythene materials like plastic. Circular economies are alleviating poverty in Africa by eliminating single-use plastics. By doing this, there will be less pollution in communities in Africa where poverty is present, resulting in less money allocated towards the cleaning of this pollution and more funds dedicated to the people of the area.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Policies

EPR is an environmental policy in which a producer is still responsible for their product even after it is consumed. This way producers fully take into account the environmental implications of producing their product. In South Africa, EPR policies regulate producers to be responsible for funding a salary scheme for workers to determine how employees are paid in the informal sector, where businesses are generally cash-based and workers have informal agreements with their employers. South Africa’s EPR plan also outlines expanding the Packa-ching project, which advises people in informal settlements to sort their waste, clearing the settlements of pollution. Circular economies are alleviating poverty in Africa by giving policies the chance to steadily pay their workers and rid their communities of waste.

Enabling Digital Transformation

South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda have all implemented digital accessibility policies and this could contribute to circular economies alleviating poverty in Africa because they can support youth employment and skill development by creating jobs that focus on the management, use and repair of equipment. The policies include free or subsidized internet access to those who can not afford it by recycling old technology and fixing it to make it functional.

Specifically, Rwanda collaborated with the World Economic Forum to host a Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2022, promoting emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and blockchain, which is an advanced business database. Within the same year, Rwanda’s capital held the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference, which included a new Generation Connect Global Youth Summit to discuss engaging the next generation of leaders in a digital age. Rwandan entrepreneurs use Irembo, a government-to-citizen service portal located on a kiosk, as micro-businesses that generate income. Rwanda is a great example of a country using technology in a circular way to alleviate poverty– by giving its citizens resources, people have more opportunities to make money while giving back to their community.

Pushing Circular Economy Agenda through Policy

Circular economies are alleviating poverty in Africa, but there still is a way to go before Africa and other continents can fully adopt an economy focused on reusing and recycling. This can be done by introducing policies that incorporate a circular economy and post-pandemic recovery, including low-carbon emissions carrying over from the pandemic to the post-pandemic era.

In addition, by giving the public more of a say in policymaking, such as people working in waste management and secondary material production, circular economy policies are developed where benefits are distributed fairly.

Olivia Maillet
Photo: Flickr