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  • Miyuki Niyungeko

Building a Sustainable Future: A Blueprint for Namibia’s Circular Economy

Namibia's spectacular landscapes, beautiful mountains, and expansive savannas have made the country a unique travel destination. In recent years, Namibia has been progressively shifting away from a more traditional linear economy—the 'take, create, use, dispose' model—towards a more circular economy. This change aims to transform products at the end of their life cycle into resources that can be recycled, minimising waste and advancing sustainability.

Environmental Obstacles Facing Namibia Today

The amazing Namibian landscapes conceal a sad reality: environmental dangers threaten the country's dream of economic growth; pollution from mining and manufacturing is a significant problem in the nation, endangering ecosystems, human health, and the quality of the air and water. The exacerbated effects of climate change have caused desertification, reduced fertile land, and strained already limited water resources. This desertification, pollution, and human encroachment shrinks habitats, pushing Namibia's unique biodiversity towards a dangerous edge. A final obstacle is waste management in urban areas, especially the growing problem of e-waste, for which there are no standard methods for quantification and few regulations in place.

Namibia's Mining Boom: A Double-Edged Sword in the Circular Economy

Namibia's economy leans heavily on mining, generating a large percentage of the country's GDP. While diamonds have historically been the most valuable metal, other essential elements, including uranium, zinc, and potentially lithium, and other rare earth minerals, are also significant players. This mineral richness fuels the nation since mining creates employment, increases government jobs, and spurs rallied industries like sulfuric acid. However, a circular economy approach necessitates managing this complex problem by prohibiting the export of unprocessed minerals to manage this intricate situation. To navigate this complex issue, Namibia has implemented a ban on exporting unprocessed minerals. The strategy will aim to create more jobs by building processing facilities domestically; this policy will increase employment opportunities for locals while the country receives a larger share of the value by processing its resources.

New research has emphasised the potential benefits for mining companies and the nation. The CE approach is ideally aligned with sustainable development, which places equal importance on economic success and environmental health. Mining has historically frequently had adverse effects on the environment. Nonetheless, Namibia's Chamber of Mines,, with its established partnership with the Namibian Chamber of Environment, is setting the benchmark for ethical mining methods. Their initiatives include informative workshops, a national environmental policy, and responsible mining awards.  Namibia's mining industry may directly fund sustainable development initiatives nationwide through the creative National Offset Scheme, demonstrating the nation's commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

Namibia's Water Crisis

Namibia faces an impending water crisis. The nation's dry environment, erratic rainfall patterns, and rising water needs threaten the country's future. The country's leaders are, however, taking action with a two-long-term plan of action. They are expediting ongoing water-saving measures to make the most out of their current supplies as far as possible. They have a multi-faceted plan in place to secure water resources in the long run. The plan includes funds for a long-term project to access the Okavango River while investigating the viability of building a desalination plant in the north and researching the possibility of utilising water from existing dams in southern regions. We aim to secure a water supply through 2025 and prevent severe water shortages in the coming years by taking these critical steps.

The Goreangab wastewater recycling recently took an innovative approach by establishing a cutting-edge water solution managed by Veolia. Over 400,000 residents' wastewater is treated at the facility to transform it into high-quality drinking water. The Goreangab plant reduces reliance on limited natural resources and drastically lowers water pollution. The plant established Windhoek as a pioneer in sustainable water management.

Namibia's Balancing Act: Biodiversity and a Circular Economy

Namibia's rich biodiversity is essential for its economy, with 70% of the population relying on it for their livelihood. However, overexploitation, poaching, overgrazing, and bush encroachment challenge the country's biodiversity. These problems are frequently due to a linear economic model that extracts and wastes resources. One solution is to shift towards a circular economy. This strategy aims to maximise resource use and reduce waste. Namibia, for instance, is encouraging the sustainable use of encroaching bushes for energy, biochar, animal feed, and construction materials. This creates employment for locals, reduces waste, and aids in ecosystem restoration.

Furthermore, it is possible and desirable to recover and repurpose end-of-life fishing gear (EOLG) in Namibia, which causes entanglement and death of marine species. Recovering these used materials can help reduce dramatically the quantity of plastic waste entering the aquatic environment. The recovery of these resources can also create jobs and generate income for local communities. If WOLF adopts a circular economy, improved waste management techniques in Namibia may result in a more ecologically conscious and sustainable fishing sector.

Transforming Waste to Wealth: Namibia's Potential

Namibia will soon face challenges in waste management, particularly plastic pollution. Landfills overflow with plastic bags and packaging, harming the environment and jeopardising tourism, a key component of the economy. Marine debris is a growing concern, with plastic harming wildlife and polluting Namibia's beautiful coastline.

The Namibian government is addressing these problems with actions. The National Solid Waste Management Strategy outlines a plan to enhance waste collection, promote recycling, and reduce waste generation. A plastic bag levy and a prohibition on plastic bags in national parks have been recently implemented.

These efforts act as a transition towards a circular economy, where resources are utilised for as long as possible. Namibia aims for a more sustainable future and understands the need to move away from a linear "take-make-dispose" paradigm.

However, there are still challenges. The full impact of plastic pollution and the effectiveness of current regulations need further study. By 2027, Namibia hopes to have established itself as the leading African nation in solid waste management. To achieve this, the policy prioritises establishing formal trash collecting systems, encouraging recycling and waste reduction, managing hazardous waste, enhancing municipal garbage disposal, and bolstering waste management institutions. The strategy follows a waste hierarchy, giving reduction and recycling precedence over treatment and disposal.  Namibia's long-term goal is to incorporate a circular economy principle to optimise resource use For implementation to be successful, the collaboration between various stakeholders, including government ministries and municipalities, must work, following the "polluter pays" principle.  Given the exorbitant expenses and Namibia's particular economic limitations, an innovative approach to raise revenue for improved waste management is.

Lastly, Namibia opened its first waste buyback centre(WBBC), which allowed and will continue to allow the locals to earn income by collecting and selling recyclables. This was demonstrated at an event held in the Katutura settlement in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, in April 2024. 

Collaborative efforts: Private and Public Sector

EUROPEAN UNION: The EU funded the waste buyback centre (WBBC) under the Improving Solid Waste Management in Windhoek project, which was carried out in collaboration with the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. By 2028, the WBBC aims to set Namibia as a solid waste management leader in Africa. The EU also sponsored the project's 2.2 million euros.

RENT-A-DRUM: a private Namibian company that provides comprehensive waste management solutions, including recycling and waste collection services. For instance, the company has an active material recovery facility, shredding services, and several mobile recycling stations.  In addition, the corporation oversees other mines nationwide and focuses on handling hazardous and landfill garbage.

NAMIBIA BREWERIES LIMITED(NBL): a private corporation with significant influence over the Namibian beverage industry, has implemented several sustainability initiatives. One includes recycling water used in the brewing process and reusing by-products as food for livestock or other purposes, minimizing waste, and promoting a circular economy for the country.

Circular Vision for Namibia

Namibia combats environmental challenges with a circular economy. It encourages water reuse, trash reduction, and sustainable tourism by striking a balance between the advantages of mining and ethical principles. International collaboration strengthens its fight for a future where economic development and environmental conservation thrive and coexist.

Moreover, Namibia's wildlife tourism is another vital part of the economy. However, increasing game fences for private reserves restrict wildlife movement, reduces habitat availability, and increases the number of wildlife deaths due to collisions or entanglement. Namibia can also take action by supporting wildlife conservancies, which can allow animals to live freely on managed land. Policies should also support animal crossings at the roadside and porous barriers. Therefore, promoting ethical hunting methods in open, unfenced areas is equally important. These steps will guarantee healthy wildlife populations and a sustainable tourism industry.

Namibia's present actions and innovative strategy encourage several South African nations to hope. A circular economy aims to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental conservation. In addition to safeguarding the country's natural resources, this all-encompassing strategy guarantees the country's long-term economic growth. In light of Namibia's particular economic constraints, the general public, the governmental sector, and the business sector must work together to implement the circular economy concepts to successfully enhance waste management. 


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