At a time when Africa is being invaded by waste, the question of moving to a circular economy is crucial. We have chosen to make a special case on this new model of production and consumption that could accelerate the transition to a more sustainable world, both in terms of preserving the environment and developing human capital.
Let us begin by defining this concept.
Today, we live in a linear economy pattern that emerged from the Industrial Revolution: raw materials extracted > production > consumption > waste. This model has shown its limits because it leads to the depletion of natural resources, deterioration of the environment, and especially tons of waste of which we know more what to do…
Consumption is driven and supported by constant product renewal and the creation of new needs through marketing. Not to mention the abuses of manufacturers with programmed obsolescence: strategy to reduce the life of a product to increase its replacement rate and cause a new purchase prematurely.
Waste is piling up, including waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), causing serious pollution in African countries. And for good reason, some of this waste comes from developed countries!
The consequences are not just environmental. This linear economy aggravates social inequality. To meet our needs for electronic equipment (laptops, tablets, etc.), for example, the massive exploitation of natural resources has accelerated sharply, with the extraction of rare minerals in certain regions of Africa. These minerals are now a strategic issue, making these mining areas plagued by conflict and child labor, as are the regions in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
So how can we think about economic development without wasting natural resources and energy?
Moving to a circular economy may be the answer. Indeed, the circular economy is an alternative model which proposes to take as few resources as possible and which recovers, reuses, repairs and recycles production. It is a model that focuses on no waste and increasing the intensity of product use while reducing environmental impacts. The circular economy is not limited to recycling: it is a cycle that encompasses the production, consumption and management of waste.
The Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) distinguishes 7 pillars of the circular economy:
The circular system also advocates the use of renewable resources and the dematerialization of services wherever possible.
The approach is structured with the creation of the African Network of Circular Economy. This group of experts from different fields is intended to promote the principles and good practices related to this new model with the objective of contributing to a more inclusive society.
Circular economy projects are flourishing all over the continent. We will be sharing this with you shortly in the rest of our circular economy dossier.