Lagos State Roundtable on Circular Economy Closes with Commitment to Action
If there is one thing we can agree on, it is that 2020 has been a pretty dismal year. At no time in recent history has daily life been so disrupted and the direction of social and economic progress felt so uncertain. The rapid and destructive impact of Covid-19 has also served as a reminder of another, more complex impending global crisis caused by human economic activity, referred to in the broadest terms as “climate change”.
Times of crisis are however also moments of opportunity to build new visions and to shift direction. The Lagos State Roundtable on Circular Economy, held on December 2, 2020 was just one of those moments, where, owing to the leadership of the His Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State, Hon. Sam Egube, Commissioner, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget and Mrs Abiola Liadi, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, the vision of a Circular Lagos, founded upon principles of cross-sectoral partnership and coordination was articulated for the first time.
A Circular Lagos is one that is defined by focusing on policy, business opportunity and investment that eliminates waste in the value chain and builds and infrastructure to support this. It is an approach that emphasizes the importance of economic growth, job creation and social cohesion in tandem with environmentally sustainable business activity.
While the transition towards a Circular Lagos depends upon the participation of all members of society, two groups have a particularly important role to play: Youth and the informal sector. Both groups have suffered from the monumental social and economic impacts of Covid-19 but on the flipside are the linchpins of a circular transition, owing to the vital roles they play in innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in terms of mobilizing behaviour change and creating new types of value from waste.
The vision of a Circular Lagos is revolutionary insofar as it imagines new types of social and economic organization which benefit all members of society, however the transition towards a Circular Lagos will not happen overnight. It depends upon high levels of engagement among a broad range of stakeholders to define priorities and set goals around them. It depends upon setting realistic targets that enable change agents. It depends upon sharing data, information and resources. It depends upon policy, business and investor coordination that enables us to grow investments in innovation, education and infrastructure by clearly defining interests and distributing risk.
In spite of these conditionals, Lagos State Government and its coordinating partner, the Circular Economy Innovation Partnership assured the perfect ingredients to build and implement the vision of a Circular Lagos were all on-hand at the Lagos State Roundtable. Opening the proceedings was Eugene Itua, Executive Director of Natural Eco-Capital and Hon. Sam Egube, Commissioner, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget. Luminaries on the Circular Economy and Sustainability including Bola Adesola, Vice Chair, United Nations Global Compact Board, Bolaji Balogun, Co-Chair, Private Sector Advisory Group on the SDGs, Arie Plieger, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lagos, H.E. Jyri Pulkkinen, Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria segued to the keynote of His Excellency Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor Lagos State. The speeches served to outline the vision of and commitment to the development of a Circular Lagos. This was followed by a panel of CE sustainability innovators, where the question of how to achieve the vision was debated. Moderated by Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien, Chair of the Circular Economy Innovation Partnership, Bert Keesman, Special Envoy Holland Circular Hotspot, Kari Herlevi, Project Director, Finnish Innovation Fund, SITRA, Feyi Oseni, Environmental and Sustainability Manager, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Nonny Ugboma, Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Agharese Onaghise, Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Peter Madsen, Founding Partner White Castle Partners, Soren Kofoed, Director SafariTECH Ventures/Vroom Africa and Dr. Innocent Onah, C&G Growth Expert, NGR Country Dept, AfDB, Co-Coordinator, Nigeria Circular Economy Working Group, the group discussed priority areas for coordination and mechanisms to address investment and growth challenges. Thessa Bagu, CEO of Naijalink rounded up the discussions with a spirited Q&A.
Most importantly however, the Roundtable closed with a message from Hon. Sam Egube that was a commitment to action to build a roadmap towards a Circular Lagos, underlining the importance of continued engagement with all partners and of bringing in new stakeholders to build a Circular Lagos that is embedded in the State’s long-term development plan. Referring to the prestigious World Circular Economy Forum, which will be held in the Netherlands in 2021, Hon. Sam Egube pledged Lagos would be there to showcase its achievements, signaling its ambitious Circular Economy direction.