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  • Oluwapelumi Ajibesin

Unlocking Nigeria’s Future through the Circular Economy



Nigeria, commonly regarded as the giant of Africa, is not only the most populous black country in the world but also the world’s sixth-most populous country with over 230 million people. It is expected that this figure will hit 400 million by 2050, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Thus, it is no surprise that the country generates 32,000,000 tonnes of waste annually, which makes Nigeria the 7th largest waste polluter in the world. Less than 30% of this waste is recycled while the rest ends up in landfills, sewers, beaches, and water bodies. Nigeria’s most populated city, Lagos, with an estimated population of 24 million, generates over 13,000 tonnes of waste daily, according to the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA).


Nigeria urgently needs to transform its environment in response to climate change and its burgeoning population. Its economy is at risk as the world transitions from fossil fuels towards a post-petroleum era of green energy, being one of the largest exporters of oil in Africa. Although circularity is not entirely new to Nigeria as the country has had ‘circular activities’ for many years, it has largely been within the informal sector and driven by poverty rather than green thinking. There is, however, much room for growth as the country navigates its transition to a circular economy.


As a founding member of the Africa Circular Economy Alliance, Nigeria has been actively developing circular economy initiatives. The Alliance was established in 2017 during COP23 in Bonn by the governments of South Africa, Nigeria, and Rwanda with a mission to spur Africa’s transition to a circular economy at the country, regional and continental levels by operating as a collaborative platform to coordinate and link the various initiatives on the continent.



National Initiatives


The Nigeria Circular Economy Working Group (NCEWG) has the task of designing a national policy framework to foster circular economy principles. It functions as a platform for coordinated activities of strategic stakeholder groups on the implementation of circular economy policies and practices both at the regional and national levels. The main objective of NCEWG is to support the transition to a green economy through approaches that increase circularity. NCEWG has defined the concept of a circular economy as production and consumption systems that promote efficiency in the use of materials, water, and energy, considering the resilience of ecosystems, natural capital, and the circular use of material flows.


Its activities include:


● Design of a Nigeria Circular Economy Programme (NCEP) beyond waste management (2021-2030).


● Design of a Nigeria Circular Economy Road Map (NCERM) as a circular economy framework to drive Nigeria’s path to sustainable and inclusive green growth by 2030 (medium-term) and 2050 (long-term).


● Facilitate policy dialogues to integrate natural capital and circular economy as green growth strategies.


● Provide evidence for policy and project design and implementation.



Sectoral Initiatives


Nigeria has mainly approached the circular economy through a waste management perspective, setting up sectoral extended producer responsibility (EPR) programmes to curb waste. In 2014, Nigeria adopted EPR as a national policy and released guidelines for its implementation in the country through the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA). The guidelines have seen numerous revisions, the latest of which is the development and gazette of the EPR Guidance document in 2020. The guidance defines the roles and responsibilities of the critical public and private stakeholders, the product categories to be covered by the EPR scheme, and the collection and recycling targets. The National Environmental (Electrical and Electronic Sector) Regulation was also amended in 2022, which legally requires EPR subscriptions and prohibits suboptimal e-waste treatment. The country has also established various EPR frameworks namely, Alliance for Responsible Battery Recycling (ARBR), Food and Beverages Recycling Alliance (FBRA) for the food and beverages sector and E-waste Producer Responsibility Organization (EPRON).



Private Sector


Some of Nigeria’s most notable circular economy projects and opportunities are related to waste production. Waste management is a large business in other parts of the world, but in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, it is still in its early stages. As a result, there is ample opportunity to explore various waste materials such as plastic, glass, textile, food, metal, and electronics, amongst others, which are in abundance.


KALTANI: Kaltani is a clean-tech plastic recycling and waste management company committed to tackling the global plastic epidemic by utilising systematic scalable steps to reduce PET, PE and PP Plastic pollution and municipal solid waste. They work with collectors of post-consumer waste as well as suppliers of post-production waste. They collect PET (Water & Soda bottles), PE (Cooking oil containers, shampoo & soap bottles, laundry detergents, pure water sachets), PP (Bottle tops, margarine tubs, yoghurt cups,). Kaltani has raised $4M to increase production capacity to 15,000 tonnes annually.


WECYCLERS: Wecyclers is a for-profit social enterprise whose solution is a rewards-for-recycling platform that incentivizes people in low-income communities to capture value from recyclable waste. The platform is built on a fleet of relatively cheap, locally assembled cargo bikes called “wecycles” that its collectors use to pick up recyclable waste from households and deliver the materials to our collection, sorting, and packaging hubs around Lagos, Nigeria. Service subscribers are rewarded with points per kilogram of recycled waste, which they can exchange for essential goods such as food and household items. Wecyclers is building a low-cost waste management infrastructure using mobile tech and cargo bikes and incentivising people to embrace the environmentally friendly habit of recycling their waste.


RECYCLEPOINTS: RecyclePoints is a waste recycling and social benefit venture that operates an incentive-based scheme which collects recyclable materials from post consumers and, in turn, rewards them with “Points” which they can accumulate and use to redeem/shop for household items offered through our iRecycle store. The collected recyclables are further processed at our Collection and Sorting HUBs (CoSoHUB) and after that sold to manufacturing/recycling plants that use the items as raw materials for the production of a wide range of items, including but not limited to polyester fibre, carpets, hangers, pegs, aluminium ingots, craft papers for making carton among others.



Circular Economy Organisations


African Circular Economy Network: Since 2018, The Nigeria Chapter of the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN) has grown from a group of 5 experts to over 50 community members, reaching more than 3000 people. It has contributed to changing the narrative of circular principles in textiles, water, agriculture, and energy sectors with the collective efforts of multi-stakeholders. The ACEN Nigeria chapter hosted a WCEF2023 Side Event titled “Lagos to the world: Next steps”. This side event focused on circular financing and circularity in the built environment in Nigeria.


Circular Economy Innovation Partnership: The Circular Economy Innovation Partnership (CEIP) promotes Circular Economy business innovation and investment in Nigeria through research, advocacy, and programme facilitation. CEIP works in close partnership with individuals and organisations who share the goal of building a cadre of local entrepreneurs with the capabilities and opportunities to develop successful circular economy ventures.



A Circular Nigeria: The Way Forward


In Nigeria, particularly Lagos, the waste management and circular economy sector is a relatively new developing sector. The sector, in its process of evolution, has an opportunity to catalyse the nation’s sustainable future. Nigeria’s circular economy road map must outline concrete actions that can accelerate the transition to a competitive circular economy in Nigeria. It should highlight best practices and pilots that can be easily replicated and provide added value nationally. It should be a vehicle for sustainable development, economic growth, and environmental transformation, where both the waste originates from Nigeria and where the recycled product can be used in Nigeria.


The Working Group must also seek to address issues of lack of awareness on the part of the citizenry, non-compliance by manufacturers with provisions of the EPR policy guidelines, lack of enforcement of appropriate sanctions against defaulting companies and inadequate spread of collection centres for retrieving specific wastes from consumers for onward transmission back to the manufacturers/producers or recycling centres.


For a genuinely circular Nigeria, the need for multi-stakeholder and multilateral cooperation cannot be overemphasised. Startup businesses and innovations cannot drive the change alone, and there needs to be an ecosystem approach to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Nigeria.

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