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Breaking the Cycle: Embracing Sustainability as Africa’s Solution to Single-Use Plastic Menace. 

Single use-plastic products are one of the most common and convenient plastic products used by the African market. They are found most commonly in packaging and cutlery and are majorly produced through the use of petrochemicals. COVID-19 saw an increase in the use of single-use plastics on packaging because of a surge in online shopping and sanitation measures and the continued popularity of convenient shopping has prolonged this fact. Even with global frameworks against un-friendly environmental practices, the use of single-use plastics has posed a persevering environmental cost to African biodiversity, health, ecosystems and so forth. Because of this, various African states have implemented serious measures that are influenced by global expectations, emission goals and activism to help better manage the use of single-use plastics, for instance; Kenya enforces a strict ban on plastic bags, and an offender can pay up to $40,000. In light of this, businesses in African states are taking steps to integrate sustainability into their activities, though due to the vast application of single-use plastics, embracing sustainability can be a frustrating venture.

Businesses in Africa have challenged the use of single-use plastics by integrating sustainability into their activities. A major success of this initiative for example is that at a small cost, major supermarkets like Carrefour and Chandarana provide customers with re-usable bags for their purchases. Though solutions to the problem of single use-plastics are there, often, a number of these solutions adopt the use of multi-layered plastics which do last longer but to an extent are also correlated with the properties of (and are sometimes considered to be the same as) single-use plastics.

Stagnancy in sustainable modular innovation and the willpower to fully operationalize the innovations that already exist to combat single-use plastics are persistent barriers that prevent firms from completely enjoying their full potential. Businesses that find themselves struggling with this should seek out professional advisory services from experienced consultants because an expert perspective can boost innovation within the business that is best suited to seamlessly meet their respective sustainability goals without sacrificing their operational requirements.

To better serve their clients, consultants should work towards leveraging their networks to connect sustainable innovators with them. This will speed up efforts to streamline business sustainability pursuits with industry and regulatory norms. For instance, BanQu integrated blockchain technology to help its informal waste pickers record their work and build earnings and businesses that use the app manage their compliance with waste management regulations in South Africa and contribute to the circular economy.

READ: Embracing the circular economy to enhance sustainability


Finding opportunity in our neighbours – capitalizing on the ambitions of the AfCFTA.


In 2023, the African Union embraced the theme of “the acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation” to display its political commitment towards manifesting the Free Trade Area. This commitment is for a single African market for the free movement of goods, capital, and people across state boundaries to foster greater economic integration and sustainable development for African states. Though this initiative presents a hopeful future for a sustainable and economically inclusive Africa, it is easy to see the use of single-use plastics soar due to packaging needs, online shopping, and the general movement of people. If not managed effectively, these single-use plastics could become a significant feature of cross-border trade.

Although this can present itself as a threat to the progress made in the efforts of businesses in managing the use of single-use plastics, businesses can use this opportunity by making use of cross-border collaboration for sustainable solutions to single-use plastics. If an optimistic lens were to be aimed at this scenario, one can see that innovation will be stimulated and green products amongst the participators of the AfCFTA which could be geared towards the elimination of the use of harmful materials such as single-use plastics in the market will become mainstream. This is because governments will have to seek ways to avoid incompatible regulations regarding the use of materials such as single-use plastics to promote sustainable development and reduce the levels of pollution that may arise from the extensive use of single-use plastics at all stages of business activity.

Sustainability is multi-faceted so embracing this level of sustainability for businesses won’t be easy. It will need to involve extensive collaboration with specialized consultants that can provide businesses with guidance on what criteria to use to source their resources in a way that empowers suppliers within the continent that use minimum-to-no single-use plastics in the creation to delivery of their products. In doing so, businesses will be able to manage their brand in a way that actively aligns them with the goals of AfCFTA and attract impact investors.

Only through leveraging strengths and identifying opportunities in the gaping innovation gaps in various industries can African firms hope to thrash the single-use plastic menace- taking intention off of the page and making it a reality through sustainable integration and continued development.