Remarks by Minister Biruta at 2019 National Circular Economy Forum

Good morning. Mwaramutse!

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the National Circular Economy Forum. Today’s gathering is the first of what I hope will be many events to discuss and review what is already being done to advance the circular economy in Rwanda, and bring this new way of doing business into the mainstream.

For many years, Rwanda has been working to align our economic transformation with environmental protection and conservation. Too often, however, these are seen as conflicting objectives. Fortunately, we now understand that sustainable economic growth is only possible with a strong environmental foundation. As a result, the government has been incorporating green growth into our national development planning processes for almost a decade.

In 2011, a national Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy was introduced to guide Rwanda to become a developed, low carbon economy by the year 2050. Such a goal is only achievable if we have local industries producing in a way that is not only sustainable, but improves environmental outcomes for both people and the planet.

That is why the government has been investing in resource efficiency and cleaner production programmes and exploring the potential of the circular economy. For those who might be new to the concept, the circular economy is opposite to the current “linear” economy.
In the linear economy we extract resources, turn them into products and then throw them into landfill at the end of their life. In a circular economy all of the resources are re-used either by having long lasting products, repairing and sharing products, or recycling materials.

The circular economy has the potential to create jobs, increase economic growth and increase living standards. An estimated 3.4 million people are already employed in circular economy jobs such as repair, waste recycling, and the rental and leasing sectors across the EU, as well as huge numbers across Africa, with great potential for expansion.

In many places around the world, including in Rwanda, the circular economy operates as an informal economy. Our task now is to scale up existing circular economy initiatives and develop new ones as well. Some examples of ongoing initiatives include the e-waste dismantling and recycling facility in Bugesera, ride sharing apps, construction materials made from upcycled agriculture waste, plastic recycling, water reuse and refurbishing electronic equipment.

The banning of polythene packaging more than a decade ago and the recent move to phase out single use plastics is also a demonstration of promoting the circular economy. While some adjustment was required, the ban in 2008 created new circular business opportunities and we hope the same will be true as we transition to alternatives to single-use plastics.

Bringing the circular economy into the mainstream requires the government to provide the policy, taxation and legal frameworks to foster investment in the circular economy. We need to identify existing small scale, innovative initiatives and invest in them and connect local businesses to global leaders so they can access the best technology and the latest insights.

We must also engage academia and the research community to identify circular economy quick wins and priority areas based on the country’s needs and circumstances. And the reason we are gathered today, we need to work with businesses to encourage the adoption of circular economy principles - all the way from the product design phase to product as a service and return schemes.

Given the newness of circular economy concepts, it’s also important that governments and the private sector invest in training and upskilling programmes. That is one reason we are hosting today’s forum - to bring everyone onto the same page about the opportunities of the circular economy and chart a course to ensure its success in Rwanda.

It is also why the government recently established the Cleaner Production and Climate Innovation Centre. Hosted under NIRDA, it will be a one stop center of excellence which provides and promotes access to cutting edge and modern green technologies as well as business services for enhanced productivity, advancing the circular economy, and boosting climate resilience, competitiveness and environmental compliance.

To support such efforts, Rwanda has joined hands with South Africa and Nigeria to establish the African Circular Economy Alliance. Alongside UN Environment, the Global Environment Facility and the World Economic Forum, we look forward to working with you to build this continental partnership to advance the circular economy, not just in Rwanda but across Africa.

I wish to thank the partners who have supported in the organisation of today’s forum, including the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the World Bank, the National Industrial Research and Development Agency, Rwanda Environment Management Authority, the Rwanda Green Fund and the Private Sector Federation.

I also express my gratitude to our speakers and moderators, and thank you for giving your time to share your expertise and insights.

I am confident that today’s forum will be informative, interesting and useful as we work hand in hand to advance the circular economy in Rwanda.

Thank you for your kind attention.