Like many things in Africa, challenges often times force many of the continent’s countries to push for solutions far faster that their Western counterparts. UN Environment has announced that many African countries are “on the right track to eradicate plastics.”
“Beat Plastic Pollution has mobilized the continent to come together and clean up plastics in land and water ecosystems.”
According to a UN Environment press release, they “and their partners are working closely with African governments to establish policies and create programs that are geared towards a plastic-free continent. The campaign Beat Plastic Pollution has mobilized the continent to come together and clean up plastics in land and water ecosystems. The campaign also encourages governments to adopt the initiative and come up with regulations to curb plastic pollution.”
This news stands in contradiction to the claim by the American Council of Science and Health (ACSH) that it is the developing world which is to blame for ocean plastic. While it is true India and China do contribute an outsized amount to plastic pollution in comparison to the rest of the world, Africa should not be lumped in at this point.
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Take for example, this report in Creamer Media’s Engineering News: “For the seventh year running, plastics recycling in South Africa has continued to grow, with more than 334 727 tons recycled back into raw material. This gives South Africa an input recycling rate of 43.7 % – well above that of Europe’s recycling rate that currently sits at 31.1 %.”
Of course one could claim this is just South Africa, but according to UN Environment that besides South Africa Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, Mauritania, Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and Eritrea as well as Botswana and Ethiopia are taking the lead in plastics eradication on the African continent.
In June, additional African countries such as Benin, Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire signed the pledge to eliminate plastic waste from their water ecosystems by joining the UN Environment’s Clean Seas initiative.
Africa has a good incentive to keep it’s water clean of plastics and other pollution. After all 38 out of the continent’s 54 countries are coastal. There is a tourism aspect to all of this as well fishing and even mineral wealth, which must be explored in a sustainable fashion. The African Union (AU) calls this the “blue economy.” In many ways Africa is pegging its economic future on it.
The drive towards sustainability in Africa appears to have given a serious impetus to cleaning up plastic use across the continent. Yet, most importantly stereotypes that have dogged the continent seem to have remained giving a false perception that Africa remains shrouded in disfunction, especially as far as pollution is concerned.
For those of us that have travelled to Africa know, the continent still remains far behind in other areas of sustainability, like energy or water purification. Many cities, while boasting an international district, have sewage problems unheard of in developed economies, but what we can admit and learn is that in other areas, governments and organizations seem ver adept at coordinating with multinationals to steer specific environmental projects forward.
These sorts of initiatives, like the progress achieved on plastics should ultimately serve as a worthy example to the developed world and inspiration to India and China to move in a far more effective manner.
- David is SDG-Market's Chief Marketing Officer. He is considered an expert in the Middle East and Sub-Sahara African regions as they relate to indigenous rights and geopolitics. In the past he acted as an advisor to OurCrowd's director of investment community as well as having consulted a variety of fintech and equity level crowdfunding platforms.
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