Rwanda launches plan for next 14 years with focus on circular economy

The plan needs $211.2 million to manage waste and adopt clean production technologies 

By Christophe Hitayezu
Published: Monday 09 January 2023
Photo: iStock

In a move to place the circular economy at the core of economic decision-making and practice, Rwanda has launched a 14-year Circular Economy Action Plan and Roadmap that needs $211.2 million to manage waste and adopt clean production technologies. The plan that includes 17 policy interventions and activities across priority sectors was launched on December 6, 2022.

"We are not really the only one but among the first. Ghana has also developed a similar action plan that was presented during the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF). Kenya has an Action Plan as well, but limited to the plastic economy,” Basile Uwimana, communication and outreach specialist at the Ministry of Environment said.

The action plan that goes up to 2035 targets initiatives to ensure high-quality waste fractions, high-quality reuse, high-quality wastewater treatment, recycling and recovery, reduction of post-harvest losses as well as collaboration across the public and private sector, academia and civil society for a circular economy. 

It analyses key economic sectors including waste, water, agriculture, textiles, information and communication technology, transport and construction. 

In fact, according to the Rwanda Compendium of Environmental Statistics by Rwanda Environment Management Authority, solid waste generation is expected to rise by 14 per cent from 2020-2035.  

However, proper management is still relatively low, according to the 5th National Household Survey released in 2018 by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda; households that live in modern or planned settlements tend to be equipped with better facilities for waste management and sewage treatment. 

The findings of the survey show that the provision of refuse collection services in urban areas was 42 per cent and the use of compost heaps was 48 per cent in rural areas.

To ensure a smooth implementation, experts suggest ownership from community level for people to avoid mixing wastes of different types that complicate a proper treatment, like plastic with organic waste and textile for example. "People need skills to sort waste before they are taken to landfills or for recycling. There are needs for government intervention to enhance awareness about waste sorting," said Paulin Buregeya, a waste management expert and chief executive of the Company for Protection of Environment and Development (COPED) engaged in waste collection in the city of Kigali.

For behaviour change, awareness campaigns in cities and rural areas for better waste separation at source are planned for. A circular economy module is expected to be embedded in education curricula from primary school to university levels, as well as vocational training courses. Furthermore, over $24.2 million will be spent on development of national regulation to facilitate waste characterisation and treatment.

The rapid increase in Rwanda’s population and industrialisation is expected to intensify pressures on environmental, social and ecological living that will eventually deplete natural resources. 

A circular construction design guide is incorporated in the action plan to provide guidance on how to construct with more sustainable materials and in a way that enables the circular economy at the end-of-life of the construction materials and components.

“The take, make, consume and throw away approach to development cannot guarantee sustainable growth or well-being of our population. Circular economy, on the other hand, is about making better use of our resources and the benefits are immense. Reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, halting biodiversity loss and shifting to genuine recycling promise a greener future for us all,” said Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s environment minister. “Rwanda’s commitment to circular economy is driven by our aspiration to foster socio-economic transformation, while also conserving and protecting our environment.”

Highlighting how Rwanda is applying circular economy approaches with examples, Minister Mujawamariya said that in waste management, Rwanda was one of the first countries in the world to ban plastic bags and single use plastics and the second in Africa to establish a state-of-the-art e-waste dismantling and recycling facility. The country revised its environment and climate change policy to incorporate the circular economy and set up a public-private platform to advance it, she added.

“While we are proud of the progress we have made, we still have a long way to go to ensure a just and inclusive transition to a circular economy. That is why Rwanda developed this first-ever National Circular Economy Action Plan and Roadmap,” Mujawamariya said.

But despite the progress made, companies wishing to go green and circular are still faced with a lack of suitable financial tools and funding to support their businesses. 

Africa’s future economic growth and the prosperity of its people are intimately linked to a successful transition to a green and resilient economy, African Development Bank’s Rwanda Country Manager Aissa Touré Sarr said. “Investment in companies and ecosystems working on circular economy solutions has an opportunity to drive whole-of-society transformation and innovations.”

Rwanda’s Circular Economy Action Plan and Roadmap was launched at the opening day of the World Circular Economy Forum 2022 organised by the African Circular Economy Alliance and hosted by Rwanda from December 6-8, 2022. The forum saw over 2000 business leaders, policymakers and experts from around the world.

The Africa Circular Economy Alliance was established in 2017 during the 23rd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held at Bonn, Germany by the governments of South Africa, Nigeria and Rwanda. It aimed at encouraging 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. 

Among the three countries, Rwanda is the only one that has developed a Circular Economy Action Plan and Roadmap.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.

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