DSI launches initiatives to accelerate the development of South Africa's circular economy

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A new Circular Economy Demonstration Fund, supported by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and implemented by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a DSI entity, is one of four initiatives launched on Wednesday, 10 May.

The circular economy is an important source of inclusive economic growth, and the 2019 White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) was one of the first South African policy documents to identify its long-term potential.

The White Paper describes the circular economy as moving away from the current "take, make and dispose" approach to a focus on restoration and regeneration. It sees the circular economy, underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources and system-wide innovation, as able to "redefine products and services to reduce waste and negative impacts".

Addressing the launch event, Dr Mmboneni Muofhe, the DSI's Deputy Director-General: Socio-Economic Innovation Partnerships, said the value of fostering a circular economy in developing nations could not be emphasised too strongly.

"A circular economy can help to reduce reliance on increasingly scarce resources, increase disposable income for individuals, enhance utility and convenience, and improve living conditions and health," said Dr Muofhe.

The DSI is directly driving two of the four initiatives, one of which is the development of a circular economy STI strategy for South Africa. Dr Henry Roman, the Department's Director: Environmental Services and Technologies, said that the country‐specific strategy would guide public and private sector investment in circular economy STI.

The DSI has also established an intergovernmental committee on STI for the circular economy, that will oversee the strategy development.

The fourth initiative, Circular Innovation South Africa, will promote STI activities related to the circular economy locally, as well as activating the circular economy STI strategy.

CSIR principal researcher and manager of the Circular Economy Demonstration Fund, Prof. Linda Godfrey, said the new platform was intended to demonstrate proven circular economy interventions that had not yet achieved scale or impact in South Africa. The fund's first call for proposals will go out in June 2023, for projects starting in January 2024.

"Many developing and developed countries have made commitments to transitioning to a circular economy, given the importance of resource security in a country's development path. For this reason, we are also engaging local universities to support capacity development and the training of a whole new generation of young professionals who understand the importance of a just circular economy transition for South Africa's future," said Prof. Godfrey.

The DSI and CSIR are completing reports on circular economy opportunities in the water and energy sectors, and the climate mitigation potential of transitioning to a more circular South African economy. This will help the country weigh up the opportunities and risks related to the way it uses its resources.

This article was first published on 12 May by South Africa Department of Science and Innovation.

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