In season six of Happy Porch Radio, we are talking about the circular economy across the African continent.
Today, we are excited to be joined by Chris Whyte, the co-founder of the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN) where he currently serves as an executive team member. His work examines the developing circular economy applications across Africa, with a particular focus on transitioning to a circular economy where waste is a resource.
In our conversation with Chris, we delve into the massive potential for development that the circular economy provides across the African continent and how ACEN is working to implement and support existing circular economies.
Tuning in you’ll hear examples of their work including the development of compressive blocks that provide an innovative solution to housing in Africa by using plastic waste while also having a massively reduced carbon footprint compared to cement. Chris explains the impact that Eurocentric models and aspirations have had on African infrastructure, including an entrenched cement industry across the continent.
Later we discuss the role that education plays in bringing about broader adoption of circular economic models and why different African countries require different solutions and applications.
We close off the show by hearing Chris’s advice on how Happy Porch Radio can unpack the circular economy in Africa going forward without Eurocentric prejudice.
For all this and much more, join us today!
Chris Whyte is a Director and Executive Team Member of the African Circular Economy Network as well as the Chapter Lead for South Africa.
The vision of the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN) is to build a restorative African economy that generates well-being and prosperity inclusive of all its people through new forms of economic production and consumption which maintain and regenerate its environmental resources.
“Things last a lot longer here, things tend to circulate within our economy already. If you're looking at second-hand clothes, we get second hand, third hand, and fourth hand.” — Chris Whyte
Tune in to find out:
Our hosts reflect on how season six will differ from season five.
Introducing today’s guest Chris Whyte.
Chris explains how the African continent fits into the global context of circularity.
Examples of the circular economy in Africa, from refurbished computers to shared transport.
How the circular economy provides massive scope for development across Africa.
The lessons that African countries can learn from developed countries.
Why it’s important to understand circularity opportunities across multiple sectors.
The common misconception that circularity is another buzzword for recycling.
Case studies and examples of circular economies manifesting organically in Africa.
The benefits and uses of compressive blocks.
Why Africa should be avoiding Eurocentric models of infrastructure.
How a Eurocentric focus and aspiration can negatively affect circular economy opportunities.
How the cement industry has become entrenched across Africa.
How standards, regulations, and entrenched industries are preventing the use of compressive blocks.
The role that education plays in bringing about the more widespread use of compressive blocks.
How the African Circular Economy Network was formed by a group of key individuals in Cape Town.
How ACEN is growing its membership and reach.
How circular economies manifest differently across the African continent.
The broad application of circularity principles.
Chris shares his advice for how Happy Porch Radio can unpack the circular economy in Africa going forward without Eurocentric prejudice.
And much more!
“Certification, compliance, legislation, material specification, procurement. These are all issues that we’ve taken on from a Eurocentric perspective to drive our systems development and they don’t work. They are obstructive to innovation and change.” — Chris Whyte
Links mentioned in this episode:
[0:00:05.8] BOK: Hello and welcome to Happy Porch Radio, season six. In this season, Emily and I are exploring the circular economy across Africa. To help set the scene we are joined today by Chris Whyte. Chris is a director and executive team member of the African Circular Economy Network, as well as chapter lead for South Africa. The vision for the African Circular Economy Network is to build a restorative African economy that generates well being, prosperity, inclusive of all its people through new forms of economic production and consumption, which maintains and regenerates its environmental resources.
I’ve really enjoyed that conversation, Emily, I think it helped us kind of set the context a little bit and kind of on the start to explore some of the differences between what we talked about in season five and the circular economy across Africa.
[0:00:53.5] ES: Yeah, I agree. It felt like the smallest of scratches on the surface of this huge topic that we’re kind of embarking on but it was a nice first step in kind of starting to paint that picture of the circular economy across Africa. My favorite thing I think that Chris focuses on is that question of the impact and the outcome being much more important than the process and that really resonated with me as a great opportunity for innovation and new technologies, new ideas within the circular economy.
[0:01:29.5] BOK: Yeah, absolutely. I just say, we barely scratched the scratching of the surface but it’s really cool and I think it sets us up for a really fascinating season. Coming at this compared to season five where we were talking about some pretty high-powered technology, one of the throw away comments that Chris made that would have stuck with me towards the end is when he said, it’s not about just selling European tech in Africa, it’s about understanding the context and enabling and us understanding the genuine opportunities and challenges across the incredibly diverse and very large continent of Africa and I think he gave us a little taster of that.
Without any further ado, let’s meet Chris.
[0:02:14.5] CW: Hi, my name is Chris Whyte. I’m part of the executive team and co-founder of the African Circular Economy Network and my focus is really looking at developing circular economy applications across Africa, particularly looking at transitioning to a circular economy where waste is a resource. I’m looking forward to the chat.
[0:02:33.2] BOK: Awesome, welcome to the show. Really excited about, this is the first episode in a whole brand-new season which for us is going to be, I think, really fascinating. The reason we invited you Chris, along for this kick start to the season is to kind of help us try and understand a little bit of context as most of those listeners from previous seasons are in North America and in Europe. I think it would help to kind of set the scene for this season.
Let’s start, if that’s okay, if you can just help us try and fit into, in terms of global circularity, where does African continent fit into that?
[0:03:13.5] CW: More about understanding what circularity is and I’m hoping the listeners understand circularity and maybe we can unpack that at a later stage. Circularity is the big buzzword at the moment, whether you come from my sort of roots and heritage, I’ve gone from sustainability to green economy, to cradled grave and cradled cradle and restorative and regenerative, this is another buzzword and I’m hoping it’s going to stick for a while.
Circularity is something that is being pushed quite strongly from a policy directive, particularly in the developed countries. In Africa however, the circularity is more of something that we’ve embraced for a lot longer and not so much in terms of need or desire but rather, a need because we don’t have the resources of our more developed states.
Things last a lot longer here, things tend to circulate within our economy already. If you're looking at second hand clothes, we get second hand, third hand and fourth hand. Shoes get fixed constantly, we don’t just go to the shop and buy another one. Food does not get wasted as much as it does in Europe. People are hungry. Computers here will have a lifespan of 15, 20 years, they just keep getting fixed and upgraded and people don’t have the resources to buy a brand-new computer. They’ll buy a refurbished computer.
We tend to find that things stay in circularity in Africa and it goes right across the spectrum. If you look at transport, not everybody can afford a car so we have mass transport systems, perhaps not as advanced as there are in Europe but we work with our ends of the taxi brigade, there’s a lot of shared riding that happens. People can’t buy big tools so we share tractors and so there’s a different mindset in terms of circular economy in Africa. I think we’re pretty much predisposed as leaders in circular economy from my perspective.
[0:05:08.4] BOK: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and you talked to it very much, as about need like you say in those real benefit to particularly in those circumstances, to thinking about, “Okay, well, let’s keep things going for longer, let’s reuse them.” I’m interested, before we come back to maybe talking about the rule base and then maybe some more specifics on that, I’m interested in your thoughts about, does that – how does that need – how does a circular economy affect that need going forward? Is it a case of, this is something that will just continue to kind of be sort of native to living in African continent or is there was that circular economy can kind of feedback and change some of that?
[0:05:46.3] CW: Absolutely, I think the circular economy is the future and not just for Africa but for the world. The opportunity I believe in terms of circular economy, provides massive scope in terms of development for the African economy.
We’ve seen the fragility of global supply chains, whether you look at COVID or whether you look at just the simple fact you could have a ship stuck in the Suez Canal. That has a massive knock-on effect on global supply chains. Africa has really been a resource-based exporter for far too long with not enough beneficiation and value ad locally, and we want to see that change.
Circularity in terms of what we’re learning with what’s happening in the states and Europe and elsewhere is that there are lessons that we can take at a much larger scale. Whilst Africa has been following a sort of a circular path, the opportunity really is to engage this in a much deeper manner, is to understand the opportunities in circularity across multiple sectors.
We tend to find that circular economy is still largely, a lot of people think it’s just another buzzword for recycling. We try and look at it from a perspective of understanding the impacts and the outcomes as opposed to actual sort of academic outcome of what circular economy is.
When you look at where we can benefit, it’s not just in our basic resources, it’s also understanding opportunities in energy, infrastructure, health, education, nutrition, manufacturing tourism, there are so many different ways that we can embrace circularity in a much bigger way.
Look at engaging the good examples that have come out of Africa and scale those to develop a more regenerative and restorative and sustainable approach for the African continent moving forward. There are lessons to be learned and I think that the opportunity in terms of driving long-term sustainable economic development using the principles of circularity holds huge promise for the continental Africa.
[0:07:49.4] ES: Thank you Chris, I’m really interested in this idea that there are already circular practices, kind of naturally built in to the economy and many parts of Africa out of necessity and there’s kind of that process of you saying of like, joining the dots between the things that are already happening and the potential for more to happen in terms of circularity. Do you have an example maybe of like a project or case study where you’ve seen that sort of thing develop in that way?
[0:08:24.7] CW: I think there’s a lot of case studies through the work that we’ve been doing in terms of circular economy in Africa, we’ve identified a number of these. Often, it’s a case of looking at the available resources and using those in a manner where we have a market gap or market need.
Infrastructure is a brilliant example, not many African countries have this sort of industrial capacity of the likes of South Africa. When you're looking at things like housing and construction, remember, we still have tens of millions of people living in earthen structures in Africa but everybody aspires to having a brick house.
Yet, circularity allows us the opportunity to look at available materials. One of those through one of the projects we’ve won multiple global awards for is the use of compressed earth block technology. Using a lot of handheld or diesel-driven systems to use available clay-based soils to produce very low carbon building systems that are stronger, cheaper and better than concrete and clay with a fraction of the carbon footprint.
That is an opportunity that has massive scope in terms of African development where we have tens of millions in terms of backlog from a housing perspective. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to avoid going down the Euro-centric model of “We want a concrete house or we want a clay brick house.”
Because often, in terms of African conditions, the issue is that they’re often not suitable for our local climatic conditions. We have extremes of heat and cold in Africa and often, the thermal properties of your building and structure are way more important than the look and feel of that.
If you’ve got something like a compressed earth block home that has 10 times thermal efficiency of hollow concrete blocks, it means that you spend less resources and time in terms of heating and cooling that house over the life of that house.
We’ve got to look at it with regards to understanding that the house might not be the only cost but then one’s got to upkeep the house, maintain the house, heat the house, cool the house. Those are some sort of applications but also, we look at concrete forms or concrete molded applications.
Bricks, blocks, paving stones, curb stones, those can be manufactured from a blend of grit, sand, crushed glass and instead of using concrete or cement, one can use plastic as a binder and we want to produce alternative infrastructure components.
There’s a number of opportunities around that. Island states are a perfect example, I keep saying, “What do I do with all these plastics? It keeps washing up in our beaches.” It's’ quite simple. You got a lot of tourist that do nothing but drink and sit in the beach so crush up the glass, use that as an aggregate, mix it with the plastic and produce cost aversion protection systems like retaining blocks. Use what’s available. Never look at the problem, look at the opportunity.
[0:11:25.3] ES: Great examples, thank you. You said that at the end, these potential issues of, “We have this waste, what do we do with it?” it’s actually quite simple. In that kind of beautiful simplicity of some of these circular practices, where do the issues lie? How come everyone isn’t just crushing up plastic and using that waste?
[0:11:51.5] CW: There’s a huge dynamic in terms of that. I think we need to understand that as African, as we are, there’s a desire for Euro-centric focus and we see that in our own supply chains. We see that in our own desires for consumable goods for foreign tasty foods that we’re not used to and we’ve got to look at understanding that we’ve had 150 years of colonial development and we have systems and structures.
For example, the cement industry is it well-entrenched within Africa because the infrastructure requirements for Africa over the next few decades are absolutely none. We’ve been sensitized to clay bricks, to concrete to cement and yet, when you look at the development across Africa in terms of standards and regulations, we have standards for example for concrete blocks and clay bricks.
We don’t have standards for compressive blocks. From a compliance and certification perspective, we’ve now hamstrung ourselves because we’ve created a system where we are promoting unsustainable practices and you had, you got companies that have had years to entrench their position in the market with the fact that clay brick is better or concrete is better.
Even in terms of standards from an engineering perspective, we find it very difficult to store at the moment when we’re trying to bring in alternative building material into infrastructure developments, when the architects and the developers don’t understand the alternatives that don’t understand the benefits.
A lot of education that needs to come forth in terms of getting people to understand that these things work. I’ll bring you back to the example of the, what we call the ocean paver, which is the system of developing the crush glass and plastic and we have a testing system in terms of strength. Which basically uses a compression mold to look at the compression strength of a concrete product.
Our standards are based around a concrete standard. When we took our paving stone into a conventional bureau of standards approach to looking and testing the compression, what normally happens is you put this piece of concrete under two presses and push it at a high pressure until it shatters and ruptures.
When it shatters and raptures, somebody come through with a dust pan and brushing it, sweep up all of the remains and they say, “Right, it broke at that particular pressure.” ours didn’t break, it failed the test. To me, it’s rank stupidity because to me, it’s stronger but because it didn’t break, it failed the test because the test standard is around when does it break, it doesn’t break, it fails the test.
It’s those sorts of strange nuances, which are ludicrous but it’s also getting people to understand that there’s a lot of misinformation as well that people will say, “Well, it’s going to create micro plastics.” No, it’s not, what you’re doing is you are locking up these resources into something that is going to last for a long time, it’s not going to create micro plastics, it’s not going to leech into the environment, it’s not going to break. It’s getting people’s mindsets changed to new opportunities, new materials, new standards and get them to embrace those differences as opposed to trying to find reasons to challenge it.
Certification, compliance, legislation, material specification, procurement. These are all issues that we’ve taken on from a Euro-centric perspective to drive our systems development and they don’t work. They are obstructive to innovation and change.
[0:15:35.6] BOK: That example that you give and you used the word ludicrous, I think that sums it up nicely. What’s interesting there and I think a nice segue to the rule of the African Circular Economy Network case and we touched on so many different things there, particularly in education. Maybe you can just sort of talk a little bit about how ACEN, how that as a network, how you’re trying to tackle some of those problems?
[0:16:00.0] CW: Sure. We recognized a long time ago that there was a gap in the market and I think everyone saw that circular economy was coming through the ranks, this new buzzword and it was started by a number of key individuals who met up in Cape Town and founding member Peter Desmond, he was down there doing some masters work I think it was and met up with a number of my circular economy minded colleagues down in Cape Town.
They said, “This is nuts, there’s a lot of good people out there, we need to get together and start working together.” They started off this network and then very quickly transformed into a non-profit organization and the non-profit organization started developing that network, joining and connecting people in and creating those networks and sharing information and getting people to understand more what circular economy was.
As that’s grown, the niche work itself has have to evolve. It’s now evolved into a non-profit corporation because now it needs the right governance structures and systems in place in terms of being able to handle and manage projects with big corporate clients and with governments. That in itself has evolved recently so we’ve just launched ACEN Foundation, which is now how do we take a volunteer-based network and give it the legs it needs to implement systems and projects and find a way to being able to finance that. It’s evolving very quickly.
Again, it’s evolving from what we perceive as a need, as opposed to a desire. There is a massive need to develop a circular economy in Africa. The network currently has over hundred-chapter members in 31 African countries and effectively, what that means is when people are talking about circular economy in Africa, the African Circular Economy Network is kind of the go-to organization because we have those networks and we have been championing it for a lot longer than others, so we need to evolve that to be able to provide a greater benefit to members to be able to grow the network, you know, with any voluntary cabinet workers through.
As soon as the membership starts increasing, now you got to get a website together and you need offices and you need to answer people’s phone calls and emails and so the resources duplicate and multiply. You need resources to handle that. We are seeing that natural progression and growth in terms of the network and again, it’s a still from a focus perspective, very much a partnership based philosophy. We realize that we cannot be the center of the universe.
We cannot manage everything, so partnerships are important and ACEN has created a number of valuable partnerships not only nationally but globally. Nationally, we’re working with the likes of the Plastics Pact and we’re working with the GreenCape, World Wildlife Fund but internationally, we’re creating linkages with the likes of the World Economy Forum, the World Resources Forum, the World Circular Economy Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, ICLEI.
There are a number of different groupings that are coming together and we are seeing that there is strength in numbers and ACEN provides that key input in terms of the African development and the African message. We are growing that in terms of chapters, each chapter is a country, each chapter has a chapter lead, it has country representatives, it has country members. People can join truly as a friend of ACEN, so there are different membership opportunities.
It really is just to try and bring together people with a similar interest and we can share that information and grow the love basically.
[0:19:25.2] ES: The love for circular economy. As I learn more about this networking and you speak the kind of connections that you’re building, I’m interested to know in kind of your eyes that balance between those local chapters and the kind of local integration of circular economy across the African continent. This is the idea of the African message that you mentioned. Obviously, you’ve got 31 different African countries involved in this network so it’s going to be a huge diversity within that. Yeah, so I suppose that balance between the kind of diversity of that and also the unity of it.
[0:20:13.8] CW: Well, we see similarities across in Africa but what you got to remember is Africa is a pretty big place, very few people realize you know? When people mostly look at them located in a map and they think that Greenland is the size of Africa. The reality is that you can fit the whole of the United States, the whole of India and the whole of China plus a few other countries just to fill in the gaps. We got a massive land here and with that also comes huge differences in terms of resource availabilities.
Each country is different in terms of resources available, in terms of the characterization of the cultures, the focuses of each country, so there are a lot of differences as well. We have a lot of Francophone countries and Portuguese side and we’ve got German influence and there’s a big change in culture and there’s a huge tribal influence right across Africa, so things are different in every country and I think we need to understand that each of those chapters need to understand and grasp their own requirements in terms of circular economy development.
Some of the work we did recently through an Africa-EU collaboration was we looked at eight African countries specifically in detail looking at circular economy and then also put together a continental report on Africa based on that and so extrapolated understandings of circular economy and the focuses here are different. One country might be more focused on agriculture and tourism or forestry and another might be more on mining and energy.
Each of those are going to be different, so the chapters need to have their own focus areas and we see that with some of the work that we’ve done with Nigeria at the moment. The big focus at the moment is plastics because that’s what’s visible. They are saying, “We have a problem with plastics” and we understand that and we appreciate that and that is the low hanging fruit in terms of developing and tackling systems around plastic waste.
How do we connect the collectors with the processors with the markets? How do we understand policy and directives but at the same time, we need to look at it to understand the impact of plastics in terms of health, in terms of water, in terms of education. There is all sorts of different applications where one can look at it across sector approach but we need to not lose sight of the circular application, which is how do we then look at the tourism sector.
How do we then look at the energy sector? We’ve got to broaden the horizons but at the same time, focus on the real problems at hand because that is what people see and they does the parties, so we are focusing on certain things and each country is different. Africa, it doesn’t matter where you go, I think plastic waste is a huge issue but then let’s try and also remember that when you look at things like water quality, plastic is the visible component.
We have big issues with regard to agricultural pollution in water. The fecal contamination in water, oil pollution in water and those are the real problem charts. We got to look at circularity in terms of understanding all of those different elements and bring them together but at the same time, still be sympathetic to the direct and immediate needs of the people and the citizens in each country as well.
[0:23:22.3] BOK: That makes me think of something you said at the start as well and it’s more circularity more than recycling, which is often one of the assumptions for people coming to a conversation about the circular economy or about as you said, those general buzzwords to start with, “Oh, it’s recycling” and that also makes me think like that is as you say, that’s the sort of entry gateway drug or whatever, the entry point of visible issue of like plastic waste everywhere.
Let’s recycle, let’s do something with it. How are you trying to think about that? As you’re saying, at the same time we need to tackle these things but also we need to try and have this broader conversation. Is that it? How challenging is that?
[0:24:04.2] CW: It’s not really challenging. I think once people start to understand the multi-sectoral approach using circular economy principles, it starts to bring together those different ideas. Take it from example, energy is a huge issue in Africa. We have 650, 700 million people in Africa who don’t have access to electricity and yet, everyone is pushing this fact that we need to achieve our sustainable development goals.
We got the 17, you know I have mentioned sustainable development goals and a simple fact is more than half of those are not achievable without energy. When you look at things like food waste, it’s not the fact that they are wasting their food. It’s the fact that they don’t have electricity to look at agri-processing to add value to their product that now becomes a higher value. We don’t have access to cold chain. Transportation is problematic because the infrastructure is not there, we can’t get product to market.
It’s understanding the complexity of all of those different components but then also looking at the opportunities and there are some great examples out there. The most exciting to me really is things like agri-protein where were not looking at food waste issues and using the African soldier fly to produce larva that they devour the food waste and the food waste then turns into protein and the protein then becomes an animal feed and then there is a knock-on effect of that.
When you start to unpack it from a lifecycle perspective, when you see that we’re feeding our chickens fish meal at the moment, so yeah sometimes your chicken that you buy from the grocers tastes like fish. The chicken is not designed to eat fish. A chicken is designed to eat animal protein, it’s a bird that’s how it evolved. Once you start to see is that when they change the feed from these processed feeds that we look at from these supply chain perspective that we have now, which is broken, an animal protein like agri-protein changes the dynamic completely because it changes the growth of the animal.
It changes the texture of the meat, it also reduces animal mortalities. It reduces the requirement and the need for antibiotics and for other factors, which we don’t want in our food. If an animal is eating what it’s designed to eat, it has a natural protection system. You’re starting to see knock-on effects that are incredible and you can take that same example whether you’re looking at infrastructure or health or education or water availability or water security and unpack each one of those from a lifecycle analysis perspective to show that the circular economy principles will allow us to create something that’s more than just waste.
As I said, I’ve ran a non-profit organization for 12 years and they kept calling me the recycling guy and I used to get really annoyed because it’s about the impact and the outcome. It’s not about the recycling. People have got this very naïve view of recycling and I often do presentations where I show the picture of the two litter plastic milk bottle, which kids take in the kind of a certain way that it looks like it’s got floppy ears and trunk and so it looks like an elephant.
I said, “Well, you know is recycling irrelevant?” and it is. You know, because we have this mental perception of what recycling is and also even at government level and corporate level, they think recycling is about taking a plastic bottle and that goes into a system and it becomes a pellet and that becomes another plastic bottle. It’s way more advanced than that. When you start looking at the full value chain in terms of understanding waste, then we need to look at issues like energy.
Energy is a massive opportunity. We have 650 million people who don’t have electricity but are drowning in plastic waste and plastic waste has about 30% more energy incorporated into it than coal. We got countries in island states like Mauritius who are importing coal and then trying to get rid of their plastic waste. It’s like guys, you’re missing a point here. How do we take advantage of those opportunities and also understand that it is not always a complete circular approach.
I am not academic, I’m a project based guy. I believe in realistic solutions for realistic applications and your academics will say, “But it is not circular economy” and no but it’s a good step in the right direction. It is solving a problem and by providing energy and providing clean water, these are outcomes of circular economy practices that have a high impact. It’s changing the narrative. We got to change people’s mindsets in terms of stop thinking about recycling.
Recycling doesn’t work. It’s been shown globally that doesn’t work. It’s not economically viable, it’s not sustainable but that’s because people are thinking about it with that whole mindset so we need to change that narrative. We need to start looking at waste as a resource in terms of unlocking the many different components of the circular economy.
[0:28:39.9] BOK: Yeah, as we’re sort of beginning to unfortunately head towards the end of this conversation, we’ve touched on so many things and it is such a big topic but I wanted to ask you a question in terms of this season of Happy Porch Radio. Our intention is to try and get a little taste or explore some examples of the circular economy across Africa and if you were to help the listener to understand with that lens looking from the outside in mostly, what are the strongest areas?
What are the differences and the things that for example, from a European perspective where we can say that we want to understand genuinely this context and understand without any, I’m hesitating because I am trying not to put any subtext in my question but understanding without any assumptions or any intentions to feel from a developed country any superiority for example?
[0:29:33.8] CW: Well, I think we got to understand there’s a lot of constraints in terms of what is happening in Europe at the moment. There is the new green deal, there are a lot of new directives that are being put into place that limit the ability of European organizations to emit carbon, to use too much energy and the simple reality is that from a global supply chain perspective, it no longer makes sense anymore to transport iron ore from the middle of Africa thousands of miles across the sea in a big stinky oil ship all the way to Europe to then smelt it at massive temperatures and release CO2 emissions to produce a dodgy high-energy product.
The mindset is changing and it is about time, so we need to look at the opportunity in terms of creating the beneficiation in the areas where the resources are. Let us not start moving real commodities around, let’s look at beneficiation but again, I think in terms of your process going forward, we need to understand the opportunity in terms of unpacking this circular economy phenomena to your listeners and I would do that by looking at it from a sector perspective.
Each sector is different. People really battle to look at those overall, what is this circular economy and people have a very limited view so it’s another buzzword for recycling but how do we unpack something like the housing sector? Let’s not look at it from an impact, let’s rather look at it from the output and the opportunity. The problem in Africa for example is housing. We have the solutions to that. We have alternative systems, we have low carbon zero cement alternative technologies using waste products from flash and mine slag.
We have high thermally efficient available sub-soils using clay soils that can replace conventional building materials. We need to look at the opportunities right throughout that sector. The housing is the issue that causes economic instability, how do you change that? By looking at cheaper options using local materials that empower the locals to be able to use local materials. You have the food issues, how do we look at unpacking that with getting the knowledge and understanding of the case studies that we have in Africa where we can say, “Let’s look at things like the compost kitchen.”
Which there’s a great little initiative in South Africa to assist people to create compost. How do we look at unpacking these small systems that we have shown and proven in Africa and get them to scale? Get these things right across Africa but each of the different elements and the sectors, I think if you’re listeners can start to understand the sector approach towards circular economy, it then starts to bring back what they need to understand about the whole approach in terms of the circular principles.
Also understanding it does not provide a threat to Europe. I believe it provides a massive opportunity to Europe in terms of creating sustainable economies within Africa through their assistance and not necessarily by trying to sell European technology. You know, let’s look at being realistic at this. It is about trying to help Africa help itself. We have the ability, we have the opportunity. We need the partnerships and the ability to grow with that.
[0:32:33.8] BOK: Outstanding, thank you so much. I really appreciate you joining us today. That was, as you said, that’s a scratching of the surface and hopefully setting a little bit of the context with the rest of the season. I really appreciate that. Just finally, for anybody listening who wants to find out more about the work the African Circular Economy Network are doing, where should they go?
[0:32:52.1] CW: They could go online, they could please subscribe and have a look at www.acen.africa, that’s acen.africa and there’s a whole bunch of information on there and you can get in touch with us through there and that will give you a bit more information as to some of the stuff we all do.
[0:33:09.4] BOK: Wonderful, thank you and as always, we’ll put the links in the shownotes and the transcription of this episode on happyporchradio.com. Thank you so much Chris.
[0:33:18.2] CW: Marvelous, thank you so much guys. It was nice to chat.
[0:33:20.3] ES: Thank you Chris.
[0:33:21.4] CW: Thank you.
[0:33:26.2] ES: Thanks for listening to this episode of Happy Porch Radio. I hope you enjoyed it. You can hear more of our episodes at happyporchradio.com. You can also get in touch with us there, let us know what you think, let us know if you have any ideas or if you want to talk to us about something. We’d also love it if you can share this podcast, review, rate, tell your pals, tell your neighbors, tell everyone.
[0:33:47.7] BOK: Tell your dog.
[0:33:48.6] ES: Tell your dog, listen along with the whole family.
[0:33:52.0] BOK: My name is Barry and I founded happyporch.com and Happy Porch Fund and Support Podcast. At Happy Porch, we do technology and software development for purpose-led businesses and we are particularly excited about the role of digital as an enabler for the circular economy. If you’re working on solutions to the big problems we face today, problems like climate change and biodiversity loss and global and equality, then let’s connect. Visit happyporch.com and get in touch.
[0:34:18.5] ES: My name is Emily and I am a coach, a facilitator and a podcaster. My projects focus on personal development, innovation for a better world and connecting with nature. My latest podcasting adventure alongside Happy Porch Radio is exploring the world of carbon removal. Find out more about this and everything that I do at emilyswaddle.com or you can get in touch with me at email@example.com.