Minister Molewa’s speech during launch of Africa Alliance on Circular Economy

Bonn, Germany, 16 November 2017


Mr Vincent Biruta, Minister for Environment in Rwanda;
Mr Ibrahim Jibril, Minister for Environment in Nigeria;
Deputy Ministers;
Members of Parliament;
Members of Provincial Legislatures;
Members of Mayoral Committees;
Captains of Industry;
Government officials;
Members of the Media;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen

I greet you all,

What is the circular economy?


In the last few years the concept of the Circular Economy (CE) has been receiving increasing attention worldwide as a way to overcome the current wasteful linear production and consumption model based on the cradle to grave approach which is mainly focussed on production, use and disposal.

On the other hand and contrary to the linear model the Circular Economy advocates a cradle to cradle approach with a complete life cycle analysis of inputs and outputs within the value chain. By promoting the adoption of closing-the-loop production patterns within an economic system a Circular Economy aims to increase the efficiency of resource use, with special focus on urban and industrial waste, to achieve a better balance and harmony between the economy, environment and society.

Research has shown that Circular Economy origins are mainly rooted in ecological and environmental economics and industrial ecology. The concept of the circular economy has been widely used in recent years. The definitions of circular economy are many but most of them are centred on restoration and regeneration. Some defined circular economy as a regenerative system in which the resource inputs, waste, emissions are reduced.

This can be done through reuse, design, repair, re-purposing and recycling. In essence, the circular economy avoids wastage of resources, it actually brings back the materials that would have been disposed of. It is important to note that circular economy is referred to as the sustainable development model.

It is said that the idea behind the Circular Economy is a simple one, it keeps resources at their highest possible level of value at all times within the loop for as long as possible. The idea is to limit or totally eliminate waste and to extend the lifespan of a product as well as to maximize the utilization of products and assets in the value chain.

But with the right business model, products could stay in the economy many times longer than today, and utilization rates of everything from cars to consumer goods could increase up to ten times through the use of innovative sharing models. Circular economy encourages companies to re-think about how goods can be designed, produced and marketed with reuse in mind.

Africa alliance on circular economy


The discussion on taking forward the cooperation with the European Union on the South Africa-EU Dialogue that had a Seminar on Circular Economy in May this year, a side event to the World Economic Forum that was held in South Africa, Durban. Subsequent communication took place with the WEF on the hosting of a Seminar on the Launch of the Africa Alliance on Circular Economy. This Alliance is not just for few countries but for all countries who will be interested in participating.

The objectives of the African Circular Economy Alliance will be set and discussed by all of us in here and those who are not with us today. However, primarily we are looking at linking up the various projects and programmes on the continent and stimulating momentum towards the transformation to a circular economy. This will happen by the creation of a continent wide leaders’ network, “The Alliance”, to advocate and implement Circular Economy strategies, programmes and projects across the continent and in turn to catalyse projects by aiding and creating coalitions to implement on the ground projects.

At the WEF there was agreement on a follow up meeting and we have identified the UNFCCC COP 23 as a perfect time as it also involves Minister Biruta of Rwanda and Minister Jibril of Nigeria and they will be present.

On the 17th June 2017, in Rwanda, Kigali, I together with Minister Biruta signed a Letter of Intent for a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries to be developed to enhance mutual cooperation in the field of environment on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. The Africa Alliance on Circular Economy presents us with an opportunity to look at a collaboration with Rwanda that includes other countries in the continent.

Circular economy in South Africa


South Africa fully embraces the circular economy approach and has been mainstreamed in our green economy strategy as well as our initiatives within the waste-recycling economy.

South Africa has committed to the implementation of its Green Economy Strategy. The Working for WasteProgramme is an Expanded Public Works infrastructure initiative focusing on waste recycling and beneficiation while creating much needed jobs and includes amongst others, the following:

  • Buy back Centres
  • Landfill Weigh bridge installation and remediation
  • Material Recovery Facilities

In addition, we have initiated a Recycling Enterprise Support Programme for promoting the establishment of SMMEs, cooperatives and new entrants in the waste sector.

We have commenced with the implementation of Industry Waste Management Plans for 4 priority waste streams, namely; tyre, paper and packaging, lighting and electronic waste which fully encapsulate the circular economy principles.

There is huge potential in South Africa to create circular economies that generate wealth from waste. When this is achieved, it will have a particular value for poor and marginalised communities, who will benefit enormously from the jobs created and the businesses established from waste recycling. However, the creation of successful circular economies requires the following policy steps:

We recently launched the Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa Lab with the following objectives;

  • Grow the secondary resources economy by increasing local utilization and beneficiation of waste resources by 50% - 75% through creation of an enabling regulatory environment,
  • Generation of opportunities from chemical and waste resources for the creation of jobs/ opportunities in new / existing markets specifically through enabling SMMEs,
  • Investment in research, development and innovation (R&DI), to enhance the utilization of local waste resources for new products, substances and services that will create jobs, and enhance the production of environmentally friendly chemicals, and
  • Reduce waste to landfill by 75% of industrial waste and 50% of municipal waste through education and awareness, a more compliant society and application of cleaner technologies.

The Phakisa outcomes pointed us to a number of opportunities relating to waste recycling and circular economy; including;

  • Recycling and beneficiation of Bulk industrial waste for construction – ash, gypsum, slag, and sludge and municipal biomass,
  • Establishment of Refuse Derived Fuel plants using waste as fuel,
  • Separation of waste at source regulations to maximise waste recycling,
  • Development of standards for waste minimisation and product design, and
  • Recognition and Incentive programmes for best practice.

Furthermore we have launched several large scale commercial business ventures jointly between government, the private sector and micro-collectors. (Mpact, Extrupet)

Opportunities for job creation exist in moving waste away from landfilling towards alternative waste treatment across the entire waste hierarchy are as follows:

  • Cleaner production, industrial efficiency, design for environment,
  • Dismantling, refurbishment, reuse,
  • Collection, sorting, reprocessing, manufacturing, and
  • Waste-to-energy operation.

In conclusion

In conclusion, ladies and gentleman South Africa is committed to its 2030 vision through the National Development Plan of a “transition to an environmentally sustainable, climate change resilient, low-carbon economy and just society”; and from this, to enhance South Africa’s implementation of the Circular economy.

The conversation among African countries and other role-players in waste management should be clearly and mostly about the economics of the circular economy. It would be silly to forget that resource use is strongly connected to environmental and social issues. More especially for us as Africa and for the Africa Alliance on Circular Economy.

There is also a great potential for reducing environmental harm in applying the circularity concept and many proponents of circularity see this as an important argument in favour of the concept. The Alliance will also help us in providing more opportunities for the Africa Continent.

As leaders in African Governments we want to support the circular economy. We believe that relevant policies are needed to achieve both economic growth and reduced negative environmental impacts.Important results have been achieved in some activity sectors such as in waste management, where large waste recycling rates can be achieved.

To achieve circular economy, all role players of all sectors must be involved including the society.  There is also a need for an economic return on investment, in order to provide suitable motivation to companies and investors.

It is mainly through our commitment and continued participation by all role players that we can achieve what we want to achieve through the adoption of Circular Economy and the establishment of the Africa Alliance on Circular Economy.