I had the esteemed honour to be the Master of Ceremony for the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN), Kenya Chapter Forum that took place on Thursday, 8th June 2023 at The Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi. This followed the annual World Circular Economy Forum WCEF event that took place May 30th and 31st in Helsinki, Finland, a global initiative of Finland and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. Yearly, the Forum brings together over 4,000 business leaders, policymakers, and experts from around the world to present the world’s best circular economy solutions. The WCEF examines how businesses can seize new opportunities and gain a competitive advantage through circular economy solutions, and how the circular economy contributes to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The purpose of the event in Nairobi was to have these conversations from an African context, with key players who provided examples of how the continent is shifting from a linear economy to a circular economy. The event curated conversations from a finance and education angle, and what came out clearly from both the Helsinki and Nairobi events, is for there to be a global change and a smooth transition, there needs to be constant collaboration among various stakeholders, including governments, businesses, consumers, and communities. This cooperation must transcend along the entire value chain, from product design and production to consumption and waste management. But we as individuals must also be involved by changing our behaviour towards how we treat the environment through everyday actions.
Here are some facts that you need to know about why the shift is necessary:
1. Environmental Impact
The circular economy is an economic system that aims to eliminate waste and keep resources in use for as long as possible. It is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. By reducing waste and resource consumption, the circular economy helps to mitigate environmental issues such as climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution. It aims to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.
2. Waste Prevention:
When we minimise the generation of waste, we reduce the environmental impact of resource extraction and production.
3. Resource efficiency:
This shift to a circular economy prioritises resource efficiency by maximising the value extracted from resources through strategies such as recycling, remanufacturing, and refurbishment.
4. Value Add
It promotes innovation and encourages companies to find value in the products and materials they use, even after their initial purpose is fulfilled.
The circular economy is gaining global attention as a way to address sustainability challenges and create a more resilient and resource-efficient future. Many organizations and initiatives are actively promoting and implementing circular economy principles worldwide. Transitioning to a circular economy may face challenges such as technological barriers, lack of consumer awareness, policy and regulatory hurdles, and the need for significant investment. Overcoming these challenges requires collaboration and commitment from multiple stakeholders. However, as Nicola Pochettin, Director of the European Investment Bank said: “To support the circular economy transition it is imperative that the most impactful projects can be identified swiftly and funded accordingly. The circular economy holds immense promise for sustainable, secure, resilient economic growth and finance is a critical driver in this transition.”