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UN Environment Assembly: Circular economy gains traction as Morocco plans to join regional Alliance

The African Development joined public and private sector actors in Nairobi this week to discuss the implementation of circular economy policies, and action plans in Africa. Highlights of the side event included news that Morocco plans to join the African Circular Economy Alliance.

The side event on accelerating a just transition to a circular economy in Africa took place on 28 February during the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) and was jointly organized by the African Development Bank and the UN Environment Program.

The event was in keeping with the central theme of the assembly: “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” It helped member states to better understand the importance of the circular economy transition and the opportunity to build back better and greener in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Al-Hamndou Dorsouma, Officer-in-charge for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank, delivered a presentation on the Bank’s support for mainstreaming the circular economy as a development strategy for Africa. “As a development finance institution, we aim to enable the proof of concept of the circular economy as a bankable business model,” he said. The Bank recently launched its new climate change and green growth strategic framework (2021-2030), which features the circular economy as one of its flagship initiatives.

Experts on the diverse panel agreed on the importance of the private sector. Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa, stated: “We are worried about plastic waste and its impact on the environment and ultimately on our oceans. We understood that if we want to implement the circular economy effectively, we need to do it in partnership with the private sector.”

The speakers also recognized the benefits of scaling circular practices to African countries, especially for tackling the triple crises of pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change. They emphasized the need to regulate informal activities, where most waste management activities currently lie, and the importance of implementing conducive regulatory environments and supporting greater access to finance to de-risk investments.

The European commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, highlighted the African Circular Economy Alliance (ACEA), whose secretariat is hosted by the Bank, as a leading platform for promoting business cooperation, knowledge sharing and technology transfer. This sentiment was shared by Dr. Leila Benali, the Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development of Morocco. “Our national strategy has already identified the circular economy as a strategic asset for intervention. We look forward to formally joining the ACEA as a new member country.”

While circular principles have been applied for many generations in African customs, there are now greater opportunities to harness the circular economy as a development strategy to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty. The implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions, under the Paris climate agreement, presents a $3 trillion market opportunity between now and 2030.

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