In Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), the concept of the circular economy (CE) is gaining traction as a promising tool to tackle the climate crisis, promote economic diversification, reduce waste, preserve resources, and create new business opportunities as well as quality employment. The region faces numerous environmental and socioeconomic challenges, including limited access to resources, exploitative labour conditions, and pollution due to insufficient waste management infrastructure. Taking a more circular economy approach has the potential to significantly alleviate these issues.

The SWITCH to Circular Economy (SWITCH-2-CE) programme supports ESA countries in their transition from a linear to a circular economy by creating an enabling environment for investment in circular business models and improving access to the necessary skills and finance. The programme consists of three components, implemented through a South-South partnership and peer-to-peer learning approach:

  • Business Enabling Environment & Investment Climate;

The action will enhance the enabling environment with awareness raising of national policies and policy dialogues on CE enhanced. Promote South-South Cooperation & Twinning shall intensify cooperation across countries within the region

  • Human & Skills Development

The action will build human capacity and job skill in priority value chains. With peer-to-peer learning, South-South and North-South cooperation, the programme will build on available capacities and enhance these as required. Countries in the region are at different stages of the circular economy transition. Lead countries include Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa. They offer significant lessons on best practice approaches to developing CE strategies and roadmaps, regulation and incentive structures for neighbours less advanced.

  • Matching Grant Facility for young Start-ups, SMEs and Joint Ventures;

Annual calls for sustainable and circular business plans target start-ups and SMEs working in priority value chains across the region. Further, the action will stimulate joint ventures through business consortia across borders.

Inspired by the “Five Big Bets for Circular Economy in Africa” report from 2021, the action programme will initially focus on the two value chains: Packaging & Plastic Waste; and Electronics & E-Waste.

The programme envisions the following outcomes for the region:

  • improved access to information in the ESA region;
  • increased awareness and knowledge of circular economy principles, with particular attention to gender sensitive approach;
  • public capacities strengthened for supporting circular economy models through extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes across the region;
  • topics related to circular economy are piloted into the regional Higher Education and TVET system;
  • improved availability of inclusive circular economy training modalities;
  • knowledge sharing, best practice learning materials;
  • increased availability of financial services;
  • increased availability of essential incubation and advisory services

The SWITCH-2-CE in ESA programme is about the PLANET, PEOPLE and PROSPERITY. It is equally about Climate Action and our children & grandchildren, who won’t have meaningful jobs and a sustainable future without the linear to circular transformation of our economies.

The action is upcoming and will start later in 2024.