Circular economy in Africa

The rest of the world has a lot to learn from Africa’s approach to circularity, not to teach it, or nor import ready-made solutions. If the circular economy is more about a mindset than complex technical solutions, it’s likely that many African countries, with indigenous and ingenious approaches to keeping scarce materials in circulation, are already more circular than countries in the industrialised North. 

This report by Footprints Africa showcase 23 case studies of the potential of circular economy in Africa. The newly launched Knowledge Hub will enable users to contribute, update and curate more cases in the database. The objective is to build up a comprehensive set of 500 case studies by the end of 2021. 

The core principles of doing less with more, repairing and innovating with what is there can be seen everywhere in Africa. The circular economy is about revisiting our current ‘take-make-waste’ extractive industrial model, which has delivered tremendous benefits but also created many downsides. Circular systems employ the concepts of reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create ‘closed loops’. 

These systems do three things: 

  • Design out waste and pollution;
  • Keep products and materials in use for as long as possible; and
  • Regenerate natural systems. 

Opportunities for a real circular economy in the global south are promising. It’s easier to round a modest material stream than an swollen pipe of over-consumption known in the North. This publication features cases from such sectors like plastics, e-waste, textiles, construction, bio-waste to feed. Majority if not all are rather low tech, low-energy, low-investments, but with job potential and building communities’ resilience. Social benefits of circular economy in Africa will be significant. And the creativity of people thrives just as it does in developed countries. Maybe even more, driven by need.

Many countries share the twin challenges of a lack of good information on the circular economy, as well as quantitative data on the economic, social and environmental impact that the circular economy is having in specific contexts. 

If you wish to get started with bringing circular economy solutions to your community, subscribe to our newsletter on and keep an eye out for the next training. 

Read the whole report and also how you can contribute. 

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