New Frontiers for Circularity in Africa: Lagos Circular Economy Hotspot 2023
Since its inception in 2016, the Circular Economy Hotspot has been a convergence of world-renowned experts and delegates from business, politics, science, and public initiatives to discuss circular business models, strategies, and approaches from the respective host regions. The event provides an avenue for exchange between international industry counterparts to drive the regional and global development of the circular economy. Previous Circular Economy Hotspots were held across various European countries such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Catalonia – Spain, Dublin, and Ireland.
The Circular Economy Hotspot was held outside of Europe and in Africa for the first time ever when the vibrant city of Lagos hosted the two-day event from 26 – 27 July 2023 with the theme Towards a Circular and Resourceful Economy: The Future Lagos. Under the Think Local, Act Global approach, the Lagos Circular Economy Hotspot explored local solutions, innovations, and models that have been successful in the Nigerian market. The Hotspot featured panel discussions, plenary sessions, learning labs, industry tours, and exhibitions showcasing local excellence, allowing delegates to explore what circularity translates to within the Nigerian context. Focus areas were: enabling policies and institutions, limitless collaboration, and systems for the future. The discussions highlighted the need for contextualized research and funding for businesses and manufacturers. They also emphasised the need for greater collaboration, advocacy, and harmonisation of policies and regulations across industries and stakeholders.
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, while giving his speech, remarked that the Circular Economy is not a distraction from the current model of effective public service delivery but a pragmatic approach and fundamental tool to approach global crises such as pollution, climate change and the loss of biodiversity. According to him, the Lagos Circular Economy Hotspot 2023 was instrumental not just in developing the Circular Economy in Lagos, Nigeria, and the entire sub-Saharan Africa, but also in countries that have contributed the least but are suffering the worst impact from climate change. He highlighted the Technical Working Group on "Circular Lagos'' which was set up in 2021 by the Lagos State Government to coordinate and facilitate the development of the initiative while supporting and monitoring project implementation.
At the Event, the Lagos State Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Netherlands Circular Hotspot on technical cooperation and knowledge exchange on implementing policies to promote a circular economy.
The first panel discussion of Day 1 of the conference was on the topic of Circular Economy development through policies, hubs, agencies, and global treaties. Mrs. Titilope Oguntuga, Head of Sustainable Development and Corporate Brand at Lafarge Africa, stated that while Nigeria has Circular Economy policies, frameworks, and existing regulations, there is a need to consider the ease of doing business for companies all across the value chain.
Mr. Clem Ugorji, Consultant and Advisor to the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), added that a silo mentality cannot further the change and transition needed for a sustainable finance strategy. Nigeria needs to do the necessary to become a model for the rest of the continent.
On the same topic, Sunday Adebisi, an Associate Professor at the University of Lagos, implored NESREA to look at the implementation of the 35 regulations and policies created rather than impose an outright ban on single-use plastics in Nigeria and also to create awareness to influence consumer behaviour where people think twice before disposing of their plastics.
Day 2 hosted a panel discussion on the topic of circular strategies for the future. Mr. Luca Polidori, Program Manager at the Holland Circular Hotspot, said such events are there to push the needle and build momentum in the transition to a Circular Economy. He further mentioned that partnerships will be beneficial in creating the necessary traction in the Circular Economy in Africa while expanding the country into new territories.
Mr. Opeyemi Oriniowo, Consulate of The Netherlands in Lagos, highlighted efforts of the Lagos State Government to support the Nigeria Circular Economy Working Group (NCEWG) in developing the National Circular Economy Roadmap which could be ratified locally with the needed contextualisation in Lagos. He added that it is a multi-stakeholder approach, and public-private partnerships must be encouraged.
From the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Sunday Adejo Adejoh stressed the need to support manufacturers through finance, research, training, ease of doing business, and policy harmonisation instead of taxing a few known manufacturers. He said all these help to incentivize manufacturers and players across the board and ultimately achieve a holistic transition.
The Need for Systems Change
Consular General of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Mr. Michael Deelen, congratulated Lagos for being the first sub-national to embark on a Circular Economy project, noting that it was time for Nigeria to develop a change of perspective and expectations.
Mr. Deelen, represented by Deputy Consular General Ms. Leone Van der Stijl, observed that climate change has been projected to become more severe and will hit a point where the ecosystem of the planet will no longer replenish the resources being consumed. Ms Leone said: "With 70 percent of Nigeria's population under 30 years of age, the possibility of climate change tainting their future is exponentially higher, as this means there will be more people living with more scarcity in the future from the scarcity we are creating today." It makes sense to replace the current linear model of grab, use and dump with a circular model of feeding recycled materials back into the system. The Netherlands is willing to provide the knowledge and capacity needed to build the circular economic model." She emphasized the need to drive consumer behaviour, new thinking, and attitudinal changes toward the circular economy, stating that Nigeria will have to find its unique path toward the Circular Economy, as it will not be the same as Europe and must be context-specific to be effective.
Ms. Josefine Khoeler, Program Manager at ACEN Foundation, mentioned the need for intentionality in procurement, leasing, and intergovernmental collaboration rather than working in silos. She referred to the National Roadmap currently in the works, noting that Lagos does not need to create another version of it but implement the existing one across the board. She also emphasized the importance of youth and women engagement across the value chain.
Some of the talking points raised during the event included the need to focus not just on the business gains of the Circular Economy but also on its environmental benefits and impacts. Furthermore, the engagement of citizens is central to a successful transition. This engagement must start at the local government level and be institutionalized, while those on the advocacy level push the conversation forward. It has to be a collective process. Improved access to finance will help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) develop circular businesses as markets for Circular Economy products develop. Also, regulators must mandate waste diversion from dumpsites. Co-processing as a final solution to waste must also be considered, especially in the cement industry.
The Lagos Circular Economy Hotspot ended with industry tours to the Ikeja Plant of the SevenUp Bottling Company, the largest in Africa, and the Lafarge Cement Factory, where both companies showcased their implantation of circular practices and efforts in driving the transition. While South Africa will be hosting the Hotspot in 2024, Ethiopia was unveiled officially as the host for the Hotspot in 2025 at the closing ceremony.