Creating a sustainable closed-loop supply chain (circular economy) in Uganda with remanufacturing

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Mr. Turyasingura Medard

Turyasingura Medard is an HVAC Project Engineer at Thermal Solutions Limited. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Makerere University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering from Kyambogo University in 2019.


As an introduction, the article informs about the situation with the ever-increasing population and dwindling resources. Over 7.7 billion people are currently competing for the low supply of material resources available on Earth. The global population is expected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050 (World Population Prospects, 2019), producing high demand for material resources. This has driven many governments throughout the world, including Uganda’s, to establish many restrictions concerning trash generated by the industry to conserve natural resources and the environment as a whole.  Remanufacturing engineering has been recognized as an effective and promising strategy for preserving limited resources and energy while also minimizing major pollution generated by human manufacturing on Earth due to its numerous advantages.  The Ugandan government and private sectors, such as construction enterprises and industrial industries, have a large stock of mechanical equipment that is imported, resulting in a massive import deficit. Furthermore, a continuous supply of spare parts as input is required to permit the effective restoration of electro-mechanical equipment, which is also primarily imported. Adopting remanufacturing would aid in the utilization of obsolete equipment cores to support the spare parts business. As a result, the import deficit and logistical delays would be decreased, job opportunities would be created, and domestic government revenue would be boosted.

Keywords: Embodied energy, End-of-life strategies, Limited resources, Recycled, Remanufacturing systems


We live in a world with limited resources. Over 7.7 billion people are currently competing for the earth’s limited quantity of material resources. According to the medium-variant estimate, the global population might reach 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, creating a strong demand for materials and resources to support the rapidly rising population and stimulate higher living standards (World Population Prospects, 2019). Every year, 100 billion tonnes of materials enter the global economy. These materials are channeled through our economy, allowing us to maintain our way of life. However, only 8.6% of this vast sum is recycled back into the economy (Veldhoven et al., 2021). Additionally, industrial development has largely contributed to the depletion of the earth’s resources and energy while also polluting the environment. This has prompted many governments around the globe to enact regulations regarding waste generated by industries in a quest to protect natural resources and the environment at large. For example Uganda’s National Environment Act, 2019 among others, guides on the use of calculative resources. As a result, re-process engineering has advanced quickly and began to reduce and reuse traditional waste (end-of-life products). There have been three industrial end-of-life strategies available as shown in Figure 1. The reuse strategy involves reusing end-of-life products with little or no treatment before extending their life. The recycling strategy considers the end-of-life product as a source of primary materials, whereas the remanufacturing strategy considers the used product as the “core,” in which used parts may be reconditioned and used as new ones (Qingdi et al., 2011).  Given the product’s reusability limitations, which include pollution and energy consumption during melting, separation complexities, etc. in materials extraction processes during recycling, remanufacturing may be the best strategy. Remanufacturing preserves the embodied energy of virgin production, preserves the product’s retained “added value” for the manufacturer, which allows the resultant product to be sold “as new” or restored with updated features if necessary. Remanufacturing, therefore, is the process of transforming used products into new ones. It ensures that the quality of remanufactured products is equivalent to that of new ones. The approach is especially suited to electro-mechanical and mechanical devices. These have cores that, when recovered, there is a high value-addition relative to their market value and original cost (Matsumoto & Umeda, 2011)

Figure 1: The three industrial end-of-life strategies

The general objective of the study was to establish a sustainable closed-loop supply chain through remanufacturing in Uganda, contributing to the development of a circular economy. The specific objectives considered through the study included;

  1. To identify the key challenges and opportunities for implementing a closed-loop supply chain in Uganda.
  2. To develop a remanufacturing process that is environmentally friendly, economically viable, and socially responsible.
  3. To evaluate the economic, environmental, and social benefits of implementing a closed-loop supply chain through remanufacturing in Uganda.


In recent years, there has been an increasing concern about the environmental impact of industrial processes and products, leading to a shift towards more sustainable and circular business models. However, in many developing countries, such as Uganda, the adoption of sustainable practices is still in its infancy. This has resulted in significant environmental degradation, including pollution of land, air, and water bodies. The improper disposal of waste, particularly electronic waste (e-waste), has also become a significant problem, leading to health hazards for workers and nearby communities.

The current linear supply chain model in Uganda, where products are produced, used, and disposed of without much thought to resource recovery or reuse, exacerbates environmental degradation. This calls for the need to implement closed-loop supply chains (CLSCs) that promote resource efficiency, waste reduction, and the recycling of materials, among other benefits. Remanufacturing, a process of refurbishing used products to their original specifications, is one of the key strategies for implementing CLSCs. Remanufacturing has been shown to reduce the need for raw materials, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions while creating new economic opportunities.

Despite the potential benefits of remanufacturing and CLSCs, their adoption in Uganda has been limited due to various challenges, including lack of infrastructure, limited awareness, and the perception that used products are of low quality. Therefore, this study seeks to explore the challenges and opportunities for implementing a sustainable CLSC with remanufacturing in Uganda. The study aims to identify the factors that hinder or promote the adoption of remanufacturing, as well as assess the economic, social, and environmental impacts of such a system. Ultimately, the study seeks to provide insights into the strategies for promoting a sustainable circular economy in Uganda and other developing countries facing similar challenges.


The methodology used in this study aimed to develop a sustainable closed-loop supply chain in Uganda with remanufacturing. The study was conducted through a mixed-method approach. The first phase of the study involved a comprehensive literature review to identify the key concepts and frameworks related to closed-loop supply chains and remanufacturing. This phase also included an extensive review of Uganda’s existing policies and regulations related to waste management and recycling.

The study’s second phase involved qualitative data collection through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The purpose of this phase was to gather insights and perspectives from key stakeholders in the supply chain, including manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and waste management companies. A total of 15 participants were interviewed, and four focus group discussions were conducted, with each group comprising 6-8 participants.

The third phase of the study involved quantitative data collection through a survey questionnaire. The survey was designed to assess the current practices and challenges in the supply chain, as well as the attitudes and perceptions of stakeholders towards closed-loop supply chains and remanufacturing. A total of 100 respondents completed the survey, including manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and waste management companies.

The collected data were analyzed using a combination of descriptive and inferential statistics. The qualitative data were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis to identify the key themes and patterns in the data. The quantitative data were analyzed using SPSS software to generate descriptive statistics and inferential statistics such as regression analysis and ANOVA.

The findings from this study provide insights into the current practices and challenges in the supply chain and highlight the need for a sustainable closed-loop supply chain in Uganda with remanufacturing. The study contributes to the existing literature on closed-loop supply chains and remanufacturing in developing countries and provides practical recommendations for policymakers, practitioners, and academics.


This section discusses the results from the analysis explaining in detail the remanufacturing process, which has been touted as an effective way of conserving limited resources and energy while reducing pollution. It covers various elements of the process, including design, reverse supply chain, information flow, employee skills, and the remanufacturing operation. It also briefly mentions the regulatory framework for remanufacturing in Uganda.

4.1 Remanufacturing systems

Since the 1990s, remanufacturing engineering has been a popular topic as one option for the reprocessing system in sustainable production. Remanufacturing engineering has been regarded as an effective and promising technique for conserving limited resources and energy while also reducing serious pollution caused by human manufacturing on Earth. Caterpillar, one of the leading remanufacturers, returns items to their “new-like” condition at the end of their lives. This in turn leads to lowering ownership and operating expenses by offering customers like-new quality at a fraction of the cost of a new part. When a returned item arrives at a remanufacturing plant, it is disassembled down to the smallest component, thus losing its original identity. Each element is cleaned and tested against stringent engineering criteria to see if it can be effectively salvaged. Accepted worn-out components are subsequently turned into production-ready material using modern salvage processes that follow the same rigorous technical process as new Caterpillar machines. Caterpillar is already remanufacturing at least 150 million pounds of end-of-life iron annually. Concerning the year 2018 levels, Caterpillar has set its sustainability goals to increase its sales and revenues from remanufacturing by 25% in the year 2030 (Caterpillar, 2018).

According to (Barquet et al., 2013), the remanufacturing process consists of internal processes such as remanufacturing itself, and external processes such as core collection and delivery of the remanufactured product. In Seeking to fully understand the remanufacturing systems, this study has adopted the proposal by Barquet et al., (2013) with elements detailed below;

4.2 Design for remanufacturing

The first element is the remanufacturing design, which is part of the product development process and is in charge of the product’s design with an eye toward its end of life and how to facilitate its remanufacturing (e.g., facilitate disassembly). This element provides information for the reverse supply chain and remanufacturing operation; e.g., inspection, disassembly, and cleaning sequences. Decisions made during the product development process are critical, as it is commonly stated that up to 80% of environmental impacts are determined during this phase. This emphasizes the responsibility of product development teams to address issues related to product service life (Diaz et al., 2021).  This implies that for Uganda to embrace remanufacturing, the importance of designing products with the best end-of-life strategies for reuse after use, such as remanufacturing, should come first.

4.3 Reverse supply chain

This element addresses the acquisition/relationship with the core supplier as well as reverse logistics. Precisely, it is a series of steps required to collect the core. In support of remanufacturing, supply chains should always consider their increased involvement in activities that go beyond the product’s service life, extending its life cycle with a focus on cost savings through product reuse and the customer’s increased perception of value. After core collection, the next step is to inspect or test the product at the collection site, a receiving center, or the site where it will be reused. At this point, a decision is made about where the collected product will go, which presents various reuse options, such as remanufacturing.

4.4 Information flow in the remanufacturing system

Dealing with uncertainties surrounding product returns is the main function of information flow in the remanufacturing system. An effective system can be created and these uncertainties can be reduced by having an efficient information flow. Some products cannot be remanufactured. Information flow is therefore important in planning the repurpose activities. This avoids the transportation and reprocessing of products that have no chance of being recovered. This, in turn, requires knowledge about the product.

The remanufacturer must control the following information (in form of questions) to lessen these uncertainties and the effects they have on the remanufacturing system. Which products ought to be transported back to the remanufacturer? When will these items be delivered? Where are these products found? How many of these products can be remanufactured? The main actor of any remanufacturing system is the end client, who becomes the supplier at the end of the life of the product. All information flow should, therefore, be decentralized to the end client. 

4.5 Employees’ knowledge and skills in remanufacturing

The ability of the employees to perform remanufacturing tasks effectively is essential to the success of the entire system. Employees must be completely familiar with the remanufacturing system to handle each stage of the system correctly, including the initial point of contact with the supplier, acquisition, collection of cores (transport, storage), and the phases of the remanufacturing operation (inspection, disassembly, cleaning, etc.). Preferably, the remanufacturing company should provide training for its employees since it can do so following the operations’ unique requirements as well as the features and complexity of the final product.

4.6 The remanufacturing operation

The process of remanufacturing starts when the core is delivered to the remanufacturer’s facilities. There, it will go through several steps, including complete disassembly, cleaning of its parts, inspection, reconditioning of the parts that will be repurposed, replacement of non-manufacturable components, and assembly, producing a remanufactured product. The product is then tested to make sure its quality is comparable to a new product.

Figure 2: The main remanufacturing processes (Qingdi et al., 2011)

4.7 Remanufacturing –Uganda’s scenario

The current legislative and regulatory framework does not cover the disposal of used automobiles or the recycling of vehicle parts, components, and systems. However, the end of a vehicle’s life does not necessarily mean the end of its environmental impact. As a result, Uganda Government is developing a strategy to support the nation’s growing auto sector. Intending to import substitution and export promotion of automobiles and vehicle parts, the “Automotive Industry Policy” seeks to promote value addition to Uganda’s mineral and other natural resource bases. Stakeholder consultation on the review of the Automotive Industry Policy is underway (see Kiira Motors Corporation, 2020). While developing the Automotive Industry Policy, the promotion of remanufacturing should be considered critically as an important strategy to mitigate the increased consumption of vehicle spare parts.

In 2019, the number of newly registered motor vehicles and motorcycles was 145,455 (38,182 vehicles and 107273 motorcycles), an increase from 136,977 relative to 2018. On the imports bill for the year 20019, motor vehicles were ranked third contributing US$ 514.8 million (UBOS, 2020). Additionally, the Local Government, the government agencies such as UNRA, and KCCA, among others, and the private sector such as construction firms and manufacturing industries have a huge stock of mechanical equipment.  This necessitates a continuous supply of spare parts as inputs to facilitate the electro-mechanical equipment’s functional restoration, which is mostly imported. Moreover, they will be congested with old and inefficient vehicles in years to come. As these vehicles, motorcycles, and other electro-mechanical equipment get old and inefficient, they become a major challenge.  However, remanufacturing is an opportunity for the country because more than 50% of discarded/old equipment is functional. One strategy for decreasing the import trend of equipment and spare parts is to remanufacture these assets and restore their values and functionalities. Adopting remanufacturing would help in the utilization of the cores from old equipment to support the spare parts sector. This in turn would lead to reduced import deficit and logistical delay, creation of employment opportunities, and enhancing domestic government revenue.

There are several companies in Uganda already involved in remanufacturing particularly for vehicle and motorcycle parts mainly for spares and maintenance. These include Pro-Ride, Malva Bus Body Builder, Rubaga Bus Body Builders, Kamoga Body Builders, Master Coach Builders, Godfrey Namunye’s Body Modification Workshop, Jussy Coaches, and several others. Further promotion of remanufacturing as a national agenda can create opportunities for sustainable prosperity, reduce landfills, increase skilled employment, and secure sustainable economic growth, giving Uganda the potential to increase national development.


In conclusion, since the quality of the remanufactured products is not lower than that of the new ones, while it is only half as expensive, remanufacturing engineering will have tremendous potential for Uganda’s sustainable development. If adopted, remanufacturing engineering approach can address the structural deficiencies in waste management, especially electro-mechanical waste, and promote a circular economy. This has the potential of strengthening local manufacturing, creating jobs, reducing unemployment, supporting inclusive and sustainable local and regional economies, and reducing the environmental impacts of products. Finally, for remanufacturing to be fully embraced original equipment, manufacturers should always design for remanufacturing as a major strategy of the product development process. This calls for an actual feasibility study of Uganda’s case to understand the link between the design and remanufacture of the equipment used in this country.


To encourage sustainable production and conserve limited resources, remanufacturing has been identified as an effective strategy to reduce waste and extend the life of products. Remanufacturing transforms used products into new ones and preserves the embodied energy of virgin production while allowing manufacturers to sell the resultant product as new or with updated features. Caterpillar is a leading remanufacturer that returns items to their “new-like” condition at the end of their lives and has set sustainability goals to increase sales and revenues from remanufacturing by 25% in 2030. Remanufacturing systems consist of design for remanufacturing, reverse supply chain, remanufacturing processes, and delivery of the remanufactured product, all of which must be carefully considered to fully embrace remanufacturing as a sustainable production strategy.


Barquet, A. P., Rozenfeld, H., & Forcellini, F. A. (2013). An integrated approach to remanufacturing : a model of a remanufacturing system. 1–11.

Corporation Kiira Motors. (2020). Building the Indigenous Motor Vehicle Industry in Uganda: People, Product, Plant, Mobility Infrastructure + Policy. CEDAT HEPSSA Project Training, October.

Diaz, A., Schöggl, J., Reyes, T., & Baumgartner, R. J. (2021). Sustainable product development in a circular economy : Implications for products, actors, decision-making support and lifecycle information management. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 26, 1031–1045.

Matsumoto, M., & Umeda, Y. (2011). An analysis of remanufacturing practices in Japan. Journal of Remanufacturing, 1(1), 2.

Qingdi, K., Zhang, H., Liu, G., & Li, B. (2011). Glocalized Solutions for Sustainability in Manufacturing. Glocalized Solutions for Sustainability in Manufacturing, 437–438.

The National Environment Act, Volume CXI The Uganda Gazette No. 10 pages 1 (2019).

UBOS. (2020). Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (2020) Statistical Abstract: Import/Export Statistics.

Veldhove, S. VAN, HOFFMANN, A., & BRENDE, B. (2021). CIRCULARITY.


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