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December 1, 2023

Africa as a Circular Economy Pioneer

In an interview with Florian Doussot, a circular economy enhancer at Orange, one of the world's largest telecommunications companies, Doussot shared the challenges and opportunities of implementing a circular economy in the telecommunications industry.

The African Context: A Model for Circular Economy

According to Doussot, the African continent has a unique perspective on circular economy that could serve as a model for the rest of the world. He notes that African people have long extended the life cycle of products by repairing and reusing them, and that this mindset is essential for a successful circular economy. Doussot states:

"Some surprising things I learned from the ground in the African continent... African people are extending the life cycle of products, they are able to repair as much as they can. They are looking for opportunities to keep material in use. And this is very, very important because to me, Africa is some kind of mother for circular economy."

Floria Doussot -
Global Program Manager Finance & Sustainability at Orange

Collaboration is Key

Doussot emphasizes that collaboration between all stakeholders in the telecommunications industry is necessary for a successful transition to a circular economy. He believes that a "win-win" situation must be created that benefits both operators and suppliers. He states:

"If you want it to be a long term one, you need to have a win-win situation... we need to transform... we cannot continue to dig in the planet, recover the raw material for almost for free, and to build things and throw it away. Now, it's not possible anymore. So from supplier perspective, there is a massive challenge to reduce this manufacturing trend. And to increase the reuse process, the supply chain reverse logistics, to be able to refer your product to give more services, like the refurbishment services, the warranty and so on."

Quick Wins and Long-Term Transformation

Doussot believes that there are both quick wins and long-term transformational strategies that can be implemented to promote a circular economy. He suggests that consumers can make a difference by keeping their equipment for as long as possible and going for refurbished products instead of new ones. He states:

"As a quick win I shall say, go for refurb. You have lots of players today that are providing reliable refurbished equipment, okay, it's quite new, but you have good players... It's cheaper. So it's good for your business. And it's less carbon, so it's good also for the planet."

Mindset Shift is Needed

Finally, Doussot emphasizes that a shift in mindset is necessary for a successful transition to a circular economy. He notes that a few years ago, sustainability was seen as a "nice-to-have" rather than a necessity, but that this has changed due to the current global challenges. He states:

"If you don't have this trigger in mind, if you don't consider that the challenges we have, in fact in front of us is a matter of survival. I think that's the wrong direction... This is about the civil society. What kind of world do we want for the next two years to come? Do we have? We want to have plenty of goods, plenty of cars with a planet that is dying? Or do we want to change the way we are acting?"

Doussot's insights highlight the urgency and importance of transitioning to a circular economy in the telecommunications industry. Collaboration, quick wins, and a shift in mindset are necessary for a successful transformation that benefits both the industry and the planet.

The Takeaways

  • 1.

    The circular economy is important for the planet and for businesses. It requires a shift from a linear economic model to a circular one, which involves reducing waste and enhancing the value of materials.

  • 2.

    There are challenges to implementing the circular economy, such as the need for collaboration between stakeholders in the value chain and for regulatory support.

  • 3.

    The telecommunication industry can benefit from circular economy practices by reusing, refurbishing, and reselling infrastructure equipment.

  • 4.

    Buying secondhand and refurbishing equipment can be a quick win for reducing carbon footprint and saving money.

  • 5.

    African communities have a history of extending the life cycle of products and can serve as a model for circular economy practices.

  • 6.

    The circular economy is a matter of survival and purpose-driven, and everyone can make a difference by extending the life cycle of products and reducing waste.

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