Definitions matter: Including the socio-economic dimension as a critical component of SADC circular economy definitions




SADC, circular economy, definitions, socio-economic dimensions, grey literature, Global South


Globally, scholars agree that there is a lack of clarity on the notion of the circular economy (CE) and a lack of consensus on a foundational definition of the term. Some definitions place greater emphasis on the socio-economic dimension of the CE than others. In Africa, notions of the CE are still evolving. This paper highlights the salient aspects of texts defining or informing the CE in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In Africa, the transition to circularity is motivated by the need to stimulate job creation and income generation. At the same time, concern over mounting environmental impacts is increasing. Economic and population growth on the continent, continued urbanisation, and the resulting proliferation of municipal waste contribute to these economic, social and environmental challenges. African governments, business communities, civil society and academia need to collaborate on initiatives that build on circularity principles to advance sustainable development in pursuit of equitable and just societies. This exploratory semi-systematic literature review contributes not only to developing notions of the CE in Africa, but also to the dialogue on circularity in the Global South. In particular, it investigates the extent to which the socio-economic dimension is incorporated in notions of the CE. Moreover, it argues that a strong emphasis on this dimension is imperative in the conceptual development of circularity on the African continent. We argue for the future foregrounding of definitions of the CE that are consistent with social transformation as an aspiration in regional legislative and regulatory frameworks.


  • Contributes to conceptualisation of the CE in the Global South.
  • Indicates how SADC policy dictates the importance of the socio-economic dimension as a regional┬ápriority, and therefore signals the primacy of this aspect in the development of a contextual notion of CE.
  • Includes a review of grey literature related to the SADC region in the analysis of the notion of the CE.


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How to Cite

Grobler, L., Schenck, C., & Blaauw, D. (2022). Definitions matter: Including the socio-economic dimension as a critical component of SADC circular economy definitions. South African Journal of Science.



Waste as a Resource Review Article