Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor
Zimbabwe recently hosted the 9th edition of the Africa Green Waste and Energy Expo and Conference under the theme: “A Zero Carbon, Climate Resilient Future – Setting The Stage for Transformation.” This high-profile event organized by the Zimbabwe Sunshine Group has a non-profit environmental organization that has attracted participants from Africa and beyond. In this report, Sifelani Tsiko (ST), editor of Agric, Environment & Innovations, talks to Claris Mandoreba (CM), head of the Zimbabwe Sunshine Group, to share insights on the just-concluded conference.
ST: What was the main purpose of the African Green Waste and Energy Expo and Conference?
CM: This conference sought to address several issues. It sought to establish partnerships that define a clear roadmap and make recommendations to governments through regional bodies for inclusivity in the transition from a brown to a green and climate-neutral economy.
The main focus was on civic science, that is, homemade solutions that are deliberately discovered through research or accidentally by essential solutions. In doing so, delegates sought to share experiences and find common strategies to address issues they were facing. Through this conference, the participants also aimed to develop a strategy for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of excellence communities on greening issues.
Furthermore, the delegates aimed to set up partnerships that define a clear roadmap and make recommendations to governments through regional bodies for inclusivity in the transition from a brown to a green and climate-neutral economy. We also wanted to raise awareness of the Nationally Determined Contributions and Development Strategies with low emissions within the industry and associations.
Participants also wanted to ensure the purchase of sectors in the climate change agenda to achieve climate neutrality, as well as an inclusive technical support committee in Africa focusing on creating a framework for green work, national communication tools for green economies and social inclusivity. In addition to the above, the event aimed to create an excellent opportunity to network and to establish a sustainable network of partner and stakeholder organizations.
ST: How many delegates and participants were able to attract the conference, despite the Covid-19 restrictions that still apply?
CM: The virtual conference managed to attract about 87 delegates each day of the expo, which was an over-subscription based on the estimated expected number of 50 participants per day, taking into account the Covid-19 pandemic. induced collection restrictions. The virtual participants had more than 40, as some of the 22 countries had more than one participant.
Other delegates had no representation on the speaker’s list, but were still tuned in to the zoom meetings and Facebook live broadcasts. Apart from international delegates, local participants who could not be on the ground were introduced and they participated a lot during the discussions.
ST: How was the reaction to the virtual sessions streaming across the continent and other parts of the world?
CM: Most participants invited colleagues to join on various social media platforms, so the following was quite large because not much time was given to promote the event online.
ST: The forum is also seen as a springboard to present leading climate innovations of large enterprises, start-ups, cities and other stakeholders. What are some of the few innovations that stood out to you and other contestants during this year’s issue?
CM: Nigeria’s “Youths for apiculture initiative”, brought many praiseworthy ideas into the apiculture and was in fact awarded as the best non-profit organization involved in the event. Other participants from the Kingdom of Eswatini have been recognized for their activities to promote green tourism and to establish concrete links between tourism and the green economy, while striving to reduce emissions in all industries in Zimbabwe and Africa.
At home, Zimbabwe has also produced young and talented entrepreneurs who have tackled waste management on a different level. They now manufacture market goods with different uses as waste. Kenneth, a young man, 20 years old, sold more than 2,000 ornaments of waste materials to tourists and international customers.
ST: This year’s conference also sought to share and discuss solutions for carbon-free and circular economy for a sustainable and climate-resistant future. What are the challenges your members face in their day-to-day work?
CM: In the waste sector, it is very difficult to make the connection between sustainable waste management systems and contributions to climate change. We commend the Government of Zimbabwe for recognizing the Zimbabwe Sunshine Group as one of the key contributors to the development of a low-emission strategy and for recognizing the role that organizations like us play in reducing emissions in the waste sector. This involvement and recognition at such a level has opened up opportunities for us, but at lower levels of our work we still face challenges, such as simple acceptance as a provider of sustainable waste management solutions. Local government policy does not help our efforts because there are too many restrictions on the application of regulations on waste management. You will find that businesses are very reluctant to incorporate new systems to manage their waste and that they are generally unwilling to start new systems as they consider it a low priority.
ST: How can some of the challenges be addressed?
CM: At the policy implementation level, adapting these policies to local regulations across the country can help speed up the adoption of new waste management systems. Zimbabwe has ratified the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and within this convention waste management is listed as the key to reducing global emissions.
The alignment of local policies and legislation with the NDCs under this framework will accelerate the achievement of national targets in terms of reducing emissions in the waste sector. Opening up the private player sector and reducing barriers to entry in the industry will also help to develop more of the waste management sector.
We still do not have the resources to grow our operations on a full scale and to repeat them in all parts of the country. Young people are very dormant in this sector and the access of more vibrant youth can encourage more development in terms of outreach.
ST: The conference also hosted parallel sessions on different topics aimed at exploring the specific challenges and solutions from a sector focus perspective. In short, what are the main takeaways from the parallel sessions?
CM: The international trade sector has exported valuable resources for recycling outside Zimbabwean borders. For us as a country, this expo was an eye-opener for the government and stakeholders on the need to invest in value-added infrastructure to harness and benefit from the same resources.
The settlements created by this will ensure maximum benefits for the country, while also providing a ready-made market to sell the end products. As a region, we have the same common problems and will continue to do so until we realize that we do not have to rediscover the wheel every time there is a problem. Solutions that are cultivated elsewhere in the region and on the continent simply need to be investigated and repeated.
ST: What do you think was generally very prominent about the 9th edition of the Africa Green Waste and Energy Expo and Conference? How would you describe this conference in terms of outcomes and achievements?
CM: The expo was probably the most successful ever. This year was different because more people were interested in the actual outcomes and resolutions so they could start implementing the actions on the ground.
The conference also provided participants with ideas to increase their work and make more impact and increase refinement cycles. The network in this year’s expo was much more about quality than quantity, because we wanted to bring value to everyone.
ST: To what extent do you think the conference succeeded in addressing some issues as required by the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to reduce man-made greenhouse gases?
CM: The expo dialogue course has been mapped out of four main components that Zimbabwe is currently working on as part of the NDC review process [Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture, Forestry and other Land Use (AFOLU), Waste]. These sectors are the key to achieving the targets that Zimbabwe has promised by 2030 to reduce total emissions by 33 percent per capita. This process of NDCs is under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement and as the government intends to increase its ambition under these frameworks, it is essential that all people join hands to combat climate change by reducing emissions.
Action must be taken at institutional level and at every other level. The same can and should be done elsewhere on the continent. There was a procurement of other ministries responsible for the other important sector among NDCs.
A good example is the apparent link between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Trade Ministry with deep-seated issues related to climate change.
ST: What are your hopes for the Africa Waste and Energy Expo and Conference in the coming issues?
CM: In 2021 we are holding the 10th edition of the African Expo and Conference on Green Waste and Energy.
It is a symbol of the perseverance of the youth who brought this platform into the world in 2012 with the hope of raising awareness of waste and energy issues in Harare.
For this opportunity to attract participants from across Africa, it is a justification for the nobility of the idea of transforming Africa through such platforms where ‘brain and projection’ converge to venture into unknown waters, in a quest for the continent to develop. In the coming years, the expo for Africa will continue, but with contributions and participation from around the world, giving Africa the opportunity to learn and develop, but build on what has already been done in other parts of the world.