There is cynicism in the country. Disillusionment and discouragement seem to have replaced hope for many in the country.
For many, they cannot see the light at the end of the nation’s dark tunnel. Everything is dark and catastrophic for them. They are just pessimistic about anything to do with Nigeria and Nigeria! Tell them that Nigeria is a land of milk and honey, they will just throw it out like a madman’s rant! It’s that bad! For a discerning mind, however, there are endless opportunities in the land; opportunities that arise from various problems in search of solutions. Apparently, where there are problems, there will be opportunities.
The importance of the immense opportunities that have yet to be exploited in Nigeria became apparent to me a few weeks ago when I led a team of like-minded minds to produce a documentary on ‘From Linear Economy to Linear Economy’. Circular Economy: Turning Waste into Wealth ”to be presented in Dubai, United Arab Emirates later this year with a view to attracting stakeholders and investors to the science, technology and innovation community. The production of the documentary revealed how richly blessed Nigeria is. Despite the challenges on the ground, there is still a lot going on in terms of innovation and creative ingenuity. As many continue to belittle the nation, blaming it for real and imagined reasons, we encountered women during the production of the documentary, who, against all odds, are making a remarkable difference in the circular economy space. . They minimize waste by turning it into wealth!
The circular economy is a gold mine, not yet fully exploited. As it stands, we are still scratching it on the surface. This is an area that can be explored and leveraged using both low-end and high-end technologies. It’s an economy that the army of unemployed youth can explore. Interactions with some current players in the space reveal that it is not too capitalistic, because what is rejected is what is developed into a valuable product. Water hyacinth, using pure water nylon, bamboo, among others, are some of the wastes that the amazing Nigerians we have encountered turn into valuable commodities. What exactly is a circular economy? It is important to put it in perspective so that we have a better understanding of its viability.
A circular economy is an economic system that tackles global challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, waste and pollution. Most businesses in the linear economy take a natural resource and turn it into a product that is ultimately destined to be waste because of the way it was designed and manufactured. The circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, renting, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of the products is extended. In practice, this means minimizing waste. A thorough assessment of the explanation for a circular economy shows how it cuts across all spheres of life as long as there is waste. It is indeed an interesting economic space on which the nation needs to shine its spotlight.
It is indeed heartwarming that we already have Nigerians operating successfully in this space; people like Adejoke Lasisi who turns nylon and textile waste into wealth; Achenyo Idachaba which transforms the water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) which was recognized as an invasive weed for wealth; and Durian Nigeria, which trains women and children in a rural community to make jewelry and school bags, among other utility items.
I’m sure there are plenty more in this space who are doing great things. This commendable feat or initiative of turning waste into wealth is a symbol of hope. It’s a metaphor for possibilities. This is indeed an indication of how the fortunes of our country, Nigeria, can be reversed. The first step is to believe well enough in the country that we are blessed with abundant natural resources. Being blessed with natural resources is not enough, however, except that we become innovative with them. It is an innovation that will give us the desired advantage or competitive advantage. To make this possible, government interventions become imperative. The government must not only provide an enabling environment, but must also provide political guidance that will make the circular economy solidly viable, many adopting it and the nation pulling forex.
The National Center for Technology Management (NACETEM), an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, which provides essential knowledge support in the field of science, technology management and innovation for sustainable development has already started the ball rolling through the production of a documentary on some Nigerians turning waste into wealth with a view to giving them global recognition and attracting investors to the country. The other stakeholders must step up the game. No one will do it for us. For the cynics among us, the nation has what it takes to be great. All hands must be on the bridge to revive our economy by redirecting our efforts towards a non-oil economy. The current administration is trying in this direction, but Rome was not built in a day. It may take time, but we will surely get there if we replace pessimism with optimism.
If despite the low-end technology available in Nigeria, the women highlighted in this article address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as the clean environment, poverty reduction, gender mainstreaming, providing decent jobs and living, among other things through recycling, with strong – end technology, a new, completely circular economy capable of transforming the economy of Nigeria and other developing economies can be created. Garbage can stink and have a foul odor, but it’s very valuable. It’s time to repackage waste for optimal value through digitization. It’s time to turn waste into wealth. It’s time to embrace a circular economy and minimize waste by maximizing its potential for economic and humanitarian benefits.
Oluyi is a personal development advocate and head of the public relations unit at the National Center for Technology Management, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.