“African cities have everything to gain from the circular economy”

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View of avenue de l'OUA, commune of Kintambo, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on November 21, 2021.

Producing durable goods that can be easily transformed to limit the consumption of resources is the basic principle of the circular economy. A sober approach that Africa has long adopted, according to Jocelyne Landry Tsonang, represents and adviser of the African Circular Economy Network for Cameroon, and that it tries to amplify to participate even more in the economy of resources planetary.

What are the virtues of the circular economy?

Jocelyne Landry Tsonang It is an economic model that retains material in circulation as long as possible. It is based on three essential pillars. The first, « design out waste and pollution », is to avoid generating waste and pollution from the design of the product. Then, we must be able to keep the latter in circulation as long as possible. Finally, the third pillar, we must regenerate natural systems. To do this, as much as possible, avoid waste and when it exists, see how to give it a value. In short, from the design of the product you have to think about the life cycle, the value chain, it is very important.

What is the reality of the circular economy in Africa?

The circular economy is not new to Africa. Unlike more developed societies, Africans have always practiced it consciously or unconsciously, avoiding waste, promoting repair, reuse, sharing of objects and materials. But today, with the rise of the middle class and also the very rapid urbanization, the continent faces certain difficulties.

“The circular economy promotes innovation, job creation, by solving health and environmental problems”

Are governments fully aware of the need to support these natural gestures in Africa, by promoting a circular economy model?

An African Alliance for the Circular Economy was created in 2016 by the governments of Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria. Today, it has eight countries and many more have expressed their wish to join. But between this expression of interest in the Alliance and the development of policies on the ground, the gap is still very large.

Presentation of our series African cities facing their future

Policies do not yet see the circular economy as a priority. For them, the priorities are elsewhere, in health, education, basic services … But this reasoning is a big mistake. Because the circular economy places people at its center, promotes innovation and the creation of many jobs, while solving health and environmental problems. The African continent has every interest in moving towards a circular economy model. But for that to happen, political will is needed.

Evolving towards this model seems all the more essential for African cities which welcome a growing population, and are highly exposed to climate change.

African cities have everything to gain from integrating the principles of the circular economy into their planning. Because, unlike Western cities, they are still in an embryonic state. However, this development is easier to achieve during the design of the city than once it has been built.

Shouldn’t States provide a framework for this necessary development of a circular economy?

Obviously. Today on the African continent, many small businesses are engaging in an activity related to the circular economy. But in many countries they are not supported: there is no incentive policy to promote their development. States should already play their role by setting up a legislative, regulatory and normative framework which promotes the competitiveness of companies which have a circular model. And a healthy environment, free from corruption.

“Young people must integrate circularity into their practices so that it guides their choices of consumption, orientation, tomorrow of production”

They must also give themselves the means to carry out the measures they take. For example, many African states have pledged to ban single-use plastic packaging. But many countries are having a hard time implementing this ban. Political measures are taken, but there are no coercive measures to enforce them. Because the priorities are elsewhere.

Can cities get things done?

With decentralization, which is on the rise all over Africa, cities, becoming more autonomous and having a territory smaller than the state to control, can more easily make decisions with a more immediate impact on the population. . They can set up public-private partnerships that will help them move forward, because alone, it is difficult.

Investment in education in environmental values, the adoption of eco-gestures, is it not also essential?

Raising public awareness is very important, otherwise the measures taken will have no impact. Local associations have a key role to play in this regard: they act as relays and can help develop community solutions. Also, it is essential to integrate the circular economy into education from the ground up. Because it is important to train the consumers and producers of tomorrow. Young people must integrate circularity into their everyday practices so that it becomes a reflex and guides their choices of consumption, orientation, production tomorrow.

You defend an inclusive approach to the transition to a circular economy. What does that mean ?

The inclusive approach involves taking into account all the components of sustainability: economic, social, environmental and above all human, an essential dimension that we tend to forget. The private sector also has an important role to play, as do development partners. This change also requires collaboration between the North and the South. Especially since the circular economy is a means of reducing illegal immigration by providing employment, by providing a healthy and pleasant living environment in the South.

Take part in the conference “From Rabat to Cape Town, Africa as a sustainable continent of the 22nd century”

The World Africa and The World Cities organize, on Thursday, December 9, 2021, a conference on African urbanization and its social, economic, environmental and political issues. This is the fourth part which closes the cycle of debates “Tomorrow, the African city”.

Free entry upon registration.

Conference | “From Rabat to Cape Town, Africa as a sustainable continent of the 22nd century”
Thursday, December 9, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Auditorium of World, 67 Avenue Pierre Mendès France, 75013 Paris
See the detailed morning program.

Summary of our series “African cities facing their future”