The role of Higher Education in the transition to a Circular Economy

The role of Higher Education in the transition to a Circular Economy

Join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the African Leadership University in exploring the key role higher education plays in the transition to a circular economy in African African cities

Are you working in or with an African University or Higher Education Institution? Join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the African Leadership University to discuss how, together, we can harness the power of higher education to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in African cities. Across the globe, universities and higher education institutions are embracing the circular economy and helping to lead and influence the necessary global transition. This is being seen in not only what they teach or the research being undertaken but how they manage their campuses and the role students are playing in driving forward this agenda. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been working with a global higher education network for the past 10 years and has now partnered with the African Leadership University to help support the key role higher education can play in African cities. This interactive session will engage participants on how to harness the power of higher education in achieving a circular economy and sustainable cities across the African continent. Participants in this session will hear insights from across the world on the role the sector is playing in this transition and from the African Leadership University on their plans to embed a circular economy throughout each student’s journey.

There will be an opportunity to share what’s happening at other higher education institutions across the continent and for participants to help shape and develop a circular economy higher education network for Africa. Through a 2yr MAVA funded project, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the African Leadership University will work together to explore the higher education circular economy ambitions in Africa, understand the available learning opportunities, deliver a series of learning /programmes and build a network for the sector.


Host: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Cowes, United Kingdom

Reniera O’Donnell

Reniera is the Higher Education Lead, working with Universities and Higher Education Institutions as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Learning Team. Reniera’s work focuses on growing the Foundation’s University network and leveraging the value of taking a whole campus approach across teaching, research, student-led activities, and campus management to support the transition to a circular economy. Reniera’s work also seeks to understand and maximise the influential role universities play within their local context and seek ways to better integrate higher education activity across the Foundations key programme areas such as Cities and Governments and the Systemic Initiatives.

Rudi Ackerman

Rudi Ackerman is a lecturer and researcher at the African Leadership University, Rwanda campus. He completed a Masters in Development Theory & Policy from the University of the Witwatersrand, focusing on the intersection between agriculture and capital. His current research projects and publications are focused on regenerative agriculture, the circular- and informal economy and small business development – all approached with a passion for epistemic decolonisation. An entrepreneur at heart, he also co-founded and mentors several social enterprises such as a mental-health focused coffee shop (Trea Garden) and an urban food garden company (Circul-Ate), among others.

Session Summary

The Ellen McCarthur foundation hosted a session covering the role of education in the circular economy. It was co-hosted with representatives from the African Leadership University (ALU), who the Ellen McCarthur foundation has supported in moving towards a circular economy.

The Ellen McCarthur Foundation’s (EMF) mission is to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy. The EMF views higher education as an important sector which can have a significant role in transitioning to a circular economy. Reneira O’Donnell opened the session giving the case of the importance and role education in driving the circular economy. She explained how the EMF facilitates higher education institution in their transition towards the circular economy, from teaching, to campus management, research, leadership and influence and student-lead activities.

Rose Kobusinge welcomed African collaborators from the higher education sector to join their network and engate with African Circular Economy Learning Programme The Ellen McCarthur Foundation has supported the ALU, which is a university based in Rwanda and Mauritius, which is centered around applied learning. At the ALU, educators view it as essential to embed circular practices into culture and curriculum because African development has an opportunity to avoid the same mistakes as other developed countries and do things differently. He shared with us some of the practices implemented at ALU which align it to the circular economy including a student run circular venture known as Circul-Ate, which uses regenerative permaculture practices to circulate the campus’s food waste.

The session concluded with a breakout room where a member of a group chose a random object and taught their groups how they thought the object could be designed to become more circular