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Africa Makes Its Case for Circular Economy at the World Circular Economy Forum 2023, in Helsinki, Finland


The 2023 World Circular Economy in Helsinki, Finland, organized by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, brought together 2000 participants from 156 countries including business and government leaders, policymakers and experts from around the world. Participants presented the world’s best circular economy solutions. The circular economy is a model of production and consumption involving sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible.

African government ministers and representatives from the Ministries of Environment attended, including from Zambia, whose Minister of Small and Medium Enterprise Development, Elias Mubanga, urged African countries to begin the transition to embed circular systems swiftly. “In Africa we have what it takes to deliver on the circular transition, and we will deliver,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change & Green Growth, led the African Development Bank delegation to the forum. During his participation in several events, he said that tapping domestic resources, with support from local banks, will be critical for enabling Africa’s circular transition.

 “The right legal and policy foundations need to be created by the national governments to encourage money to flow to circular economy solutions,” said Nyong.

Through the Africa Circular Economy Facility (ACEF), a multi-donor trust fund, the African Development Bank is supporting five African countries to develop national roadmaps to enable the transition to a circular model. “It is important that the roadmapping process is inclusive to result in locally owned sustainable results,” Nyong added.

 ACEF also supported the African Circular Economy Alliance’s (ACEA) participation in the forum. ACEA is a collaborative platform that coordinates and links various circular economy initiatives across the continent.

ACEA, the African Development Bank and the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN) organized an Accelerator Session on circular economy in Africa to highlight the continent’s progress on the circular transition. The event covered three key topics: circular economy and resource efficiency in Africa’s mining and nature-based sectors; establishing a common approach to standards for plastics design and recycling in Africa; and Regenerative Food Systems in Africa.

The ACEA also brought a delegation to the forum that included two young entrepreneurs: Mr. Fela Akinse Buyi, the Nigerian co-founder of Salubata(link is external), which repurposes plastic oceanic waste to produce footwear; and Mr. Noel N’Guessan, whose innovative biotechnology company LONO(link is external) based in Côte d’Ivoire converts organic waste into electricity and fertilizer. The two entrepreneurs are from the Youth Adaptation Solutions Challenge (YouthADAPT Challenge) which is an annual competition and awards program for youth-led enterprises (50% women-led) jointly organized by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Climate Investment Funds (CIF) as part of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) YouthADAPT Flagship Program.

The African Development Bank through its Multi-donor Trust Fund, the Africa Circular Economy Facility (ACEF), enabled ACEA’s participation at the event and at the WCEF Solutions Exhibition. ACEF supports the creation and diffusion of circular practices in the Bank’s regional member countries. It receives funding from the Government of Finland and the Nordic Development Fund.

The Bank delegation also participated in the WCEF Accelerator session on International Financing and Funding for Circular Economy Business Opportunities, organized by MFA Finland and Business Finland, which provided the opportunity to interact with over 50 Finnish businesses looking to work in Africa. In addition, the Bank delegation was part of a WCEF Accelerator Session that touched on a jobs-rich transition to a sustainable future for all, organized by Circle Economy and SITRA, which highlighted the important employment creation and economic benefit opportunities of circular economy in Africa.

On the side-lines of the WCEF, the environment focused directors from the leading Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) met to discuss the topic of the circular economy..  As outlined in the report “Unlocking the Potential of the International Financial Institutions in the Circular Economy Transition(link is external)” the directors agreed that the future MDB collaboration will consider the following aims:

  • Link circularity to key environmental objectives and in particular with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • Improve and align impact assessment methods for circular economy investments
  • Build internal (MDBs) and external (project partners) capacity for utilizing the circular economy as a strategy to achieve economic success and resilience in client countries.
  • Develop mechanisms to de-risk investments in the circular economy and facilitate better access to blended finance through public-private collaboration.

Based on the above, the MDBs agreed to continue to work together to introduce circular economy approaches into their sustainable development activities.

Source: African Development Bank Group

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