Justly Closing the Loop in South Africa
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In the light of climate change, there is a need to shift away from South Africa’s resource intensive economy. Recently, more focus on making resource use more sustainable has been put to a circular economy; however the social dimension has not fully been explored in the context of transitioning to a circular economy. In a country with high and persisting inequalities, accounting for social aspects in a circular economy is of utmost importance. South Africa’s socio-economic and spatial inequalities are still deeply engrained in its society, in large parts informed by the legacy of Apartheid. Thus, this research looks at aspects that must be considered in a just transition to a circular economy. This is done with a literature review, workshops, and interviews with stakeholders across the country from various sectors carried out in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Various key aspects to account for in a just circular economy transition were identified. These include the country’s Apartheid history, and the consequences this still has today. Further relevant barriers are access to services and infrastructure, inlcuding energy, water, education, technology, and the current economic, political, and labour situation. Governance, policy, investment and funding, data and research, and psychological factors were identified as challenges. Some key recommendations on specific projects to tackle these challenges were identified. These include recommendations in nine key focus areas. The findings are contextualised using various frameworks, psychological and development theories. It is argued that current theoretical models may not sufficiently be able to account for deeply engrained inequalities or the social political and economic challenges South Africa is facing. Individuals' agency in a country shaped by systematic inequalities may be restrained due to lack of access to basic needs. This lack disadvantages the people insaid systems, resulting in the lack of agency or feeling thereof. To transition to a just circular economy various enabling factors and constraining factors were identified. Inequalities and structural challenges, political and economic considerations, resource limitations, lack of data and information and a resistance to change may hamber a transition. Increasing stakeholder engagement and collaboration, trasnparent and accountable leadership, and increased education, awarenss, innovation, and technology were identified as an opportunity to transition. Solutions must be tailored to the local context to account for country-specific challenges. Future research into various aspects, including greater engagement with low icnome communities to develop context specific solutions to socio-economic and ecological issues, are made.