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World Circular Economy Forum 2019: Africa wants to go green


On 3-5 June, 2019, the third annual World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) 2019 in Helsinki, Finland, organised by the Finnish innovation fund Sitra, brought together over 2,200 of the world’s top business leaders, policymakers, researchers and innovators from more than 90 countries to work towards implementing a circular economy.

This year’s forum included a dedicated session on Africa to discuss the goal of scaling up the circular economy in the continent. Almost 70 African representatives from different parts of the continent attended the forum.  The companies represented innovative and commercially viable African expertise in the circular economy.

The African Development Bank’s ten-year strategy (2013-2022) aims to change African economies to inclusive green growth, and it helps several countries to develop green growth strategies that incorporate circular economy principles. It hosts a suite of tailor-made de-risking financial instruments that drive innovations on the continent including public and private circular economy projects.

A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which resources are kept or used for as long as possible, maximum value is extracted from them whilst in use, the materials are recovered, and products are regenerated at the end of each life cycle.

Juha Savolainen, Director of the unit for southern and western of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Finland, said at the session organised by the MFA and the African Development Bank that Africa should remain in the spotlight at the WCEF. “Africa’s population growth and expanding economies mean that Africa needs work and jobs. The implementation of the principles of the circular economy offers plenty of opportunities for sustainable economic growth in Africa.” 

Vincent Biruta, Minister of the Environment of Rwanda, also chairman of the African Circular Economy Alliance, said that the transition into the circular economy must be inclusive, so that jobs and opportunities are also created for youth and women. The Alliance aims to quicken the uptake of the circular economy across the continent, share experiences and help to create new partnerships between public and private institutions.

Anthony Nyong, the Bank’s director of climate change and green growth, gave the Bank’s endorsement: “We believe that the circular economy presents Africa with the opportunity to grow and use the resources efficiently while remaining low in emissions” he stated.

”We don’t need to be superheroes. We need to be ordinary people who do ordinary things for an extraordinary goal. We can save the only planet we have” was the powerful message from students from 70 countries during the opening ceremony. 

 “The full transition to the circular economy will require large-scale investments, especially in the developing regions of the world,” said Mikko Kosonen, president of Sitra."We have approximately 10 years to decisively switch the direction of our global economy to prevent an ecological catastrophe," he added.

World Circular Economy Forum 2019

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Other WCEF side events

On the first day of the forum, Davinah Milenge, principal programme coordinator in the climate change and green growth department, presented the Bank’s Fashionomics programme as a way of directing finance towards inclusivity and circularity in Africa's textile industry at the roundtable on the implications of sustainability and circularity in the complex global value chain of textiles. The session made recommendations for promoting sustainability and circularity, from both a policy and business perspective, and highlighted the next steps for a systems approach to closing the loop in textiles.

Al Hamdou Dorsouma, manager for climate change and green growth participated in a panel on the circular economy in developing countries to explore opportunities to harness existing circular practices in developing country settings, and to scale up circular value chains at the regional and global level.

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