A thesis project examined whether Africa is ready for a circular-economy concept
Lahti University of Applied Sciences student Albert Mäkelä investigated the opportunities and challenges of applying a circular-economy model in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana in his diploma thesis. The project, addressing the needs of Honkajoki Oy, forms part of the company’s international expansion efforts aimed at commencing export of a unique circular-economy model to new, developing markets abroad.
Mäkelä’s research is the only study of its general subject, since circular economy is very rare in southern parts of Africa. However, the work showed that Africa possesses great potential and an interesting environment for circular economy, because, for example, the need for locally produced energy increases apace with improvements in economic conditions.
‘In Asian and African countries, you can already see the effect of the improving economic situation of the middle classes on the growth of the food industry. Simultaneously, people are increasingly interested in locally produced energy and in energy self-sufficiency. That is why we considered it very important to find out how mature southern African countries are with regard to adopting circular economy, and which features of the target countries make them suitable for the various forms of circular economy,’ says Honkajoki Oy’s managing director, Kari Valkosalo.
Mäkelä used a SWOT analysis to assess the target countries’ readiness to adopt the circular-economy model. The results were highly similar across all three countries. The infrastructure, environment, and power structures of South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana differ only slightly, even though South Africa is the economic power in the region, with a considerably larger population and higher gross national product than the other two.
Key challenges with regard to adoption of the circular-economy model were found in attitudes toward sustainable development and in inadequacy of technical skills. The opportunities identified lie in nearly unlimited resources of renewable energy sources and the area’s low level of systematic recycling. There should be demand for the latter in both waste treatment and in creating entirely new ideas for reuse etc.
For Honkajoki, the findings are valuable. ‘The thesis confirmed our gut feeling related to the internationalisation of Honkajoki’s circular-economy concept: there clearly is demand for holistic circular-economy solutions such as Honkajoki’s model in southern Africa. It also helped us to understand that if we are to reach our goals, it is important to focus on training and guiding local decision-makers in the benefits of the circular-economy model and technology,’ adds Valkosalo.
For further information about Mäkelä’s thesis work, please contact Reetta Nevala, Head of Business Development at Honkajoki Oy, at email@example.com.