Calling for a brave move of African economies from linear economic growth to that of a circular economy, Africa University graduate and World Circular Economy expert Tichakunda Maposa (class of 2015), says that the continent needs to rethink its growth trajectory to better anticipate and react to shocks that can jeopardize sustainable development.
Why the call for this paradigm shift? As the world , most especially Africa, grapples with the increasing realities and impacts of climate change, linear economies that are based on the transformation of raw materials into products which are consumed and then discarded with little to no thought given to the downstream impact of their disposal, environmental and otherwise , is overall unsustainable and presents more challenges in the long term . Profit is prioritized over sustainability with products intended to be thrown away once used.
On the other hand, circular economies push for more sustainable production systems that are developed with the ecological footprint of products at their core and hedged by the reuse, reduce , recycle ethos. Circular economies contain, mitigate and aspire to remedy environmental problems that may arise through the production cycle. Naturally, the adoption and implementation of the circular economy takes plenty of innovation and a new way of doing business which is exactly what Tichakunda Maposa looks to encourage.
We need to realize that time is moving. Challenges may only get worse. The youth are the beacon of hope for our country and continent. No one is going to change our personal situation until we change our mindset, think outside the box, become disciplined and make it happen.
At the recently held World Circular Economy Forum hosted in Kigali, Rwanda from the 5th to the 8th of December 2022, Tichakunda challenged the continent’s youth to find means through which to build sustainable livelihoods and business models that feed into the circular economy through recycling, upcycling and the conversion of waste into much- needed energy to fuel the domestic energy needs of households thereby reimagining waste as a resource.
What was clear was that we urgently need to move to a circular economy, which refers to new and innovative approaches which are important in addressing the current and future challenges being faced by communities and countries. In the past 15 years, there has been a severe climate change within the sub-Saharan African region and globally, resulting in more heatwaves that usual, much cooler winters and excessive rain. However, it seems we keep remaining conventional in an increasingly demanding and unconventional world. We have to come with a solution.
Currently, Africa only recycles 4% of the waste that is generated on the continent. Energy and uninterrupted access to it remains a challenge especially in sub- Saharan Africa which relies mainly on hydroelectric power generation whose capacity is increasingly diminished due to sustained droughts in the region. The environmental impact of waste and the pollution it brings compounds the problems of exclusively linear economies that the planet is struggling to sustain.
What this shows is that more needs to be done to realign Africa’s economic development goals and aspirations with those of the harsh realities of climate change and environmental degradation which have in part been exacerbated by the over- reliance on the linear economy model that has guided much of the world’s economic development. Tichakunda’s story is a an inspiration to youth everywhere the that the building of a better future does indeed lie within the hands of the next generation of transformative leaders.
Life after university has had its own challenges, but through the spirit of Ubuntu and humility, I have experienced slow but sure growth. As a regional environmental practitioner with emerging regional experience from South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, I believe that platforms such as the World Circular Economy Forum that give us youth and our ideas a voice provides hope and focus that all is possible and today’s challenges are for us to provide solutions for to give life to our tomorrow.
Tichakunda Kudzai Maposa graduated with a BSc. Natural Resources Management from Africa University in 2015. He was the Secretary General of Student Representative Council from 2013-2014 and the Secretary for the Students Union Parliament. He has worked in the Southern African region in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. He is also a member of the World Circular Economy Network, a Blue Member of the European Business Chamber of Rwanda and an Associate member of the International Society for Development and Sustainability (ISDS).