Alex Rose-Innes

Partnering with The Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), climate change experts agree that the future of the African continent rests on green industrialisation.

An economic report on Greening Africa’s Industrialization, published by the ECA, found that greening Africa is a precondition for sustainable and inclusive growth. It is believed that infusing green initiatives into value-chain activities could be the answer to economic stagnation.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)

At economic forums in Chad, Ethiopia, Morocco and New York in the United States, African experts had been expressing their support for green industrialisation. It is espoused that green initiatives would move Africa to the centre of the global economy and this opinion was underscored by Fatima Denton, director of the ECA’s Special Initiatives Division. The continent’s greening experts had used the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) adopted by world leaders as a roadmap.

In the report, those advocating a green future for Africa, stressed that it would be a hard sell to countries such as Angola and Nigeria where fossil fuels account for 90% of exports. Countries such as Sierra Leona, Liberia and Ghana had also discovered the financial benefits of fossil fuel drilling. These countries already expressed fear that limiting fossil fuel investments could severely damage their economies, which are buckling as a result of COVID-19.

However, the ECA economic report insisted that African countries should take advantage of new innovations, technologies and business models pertaining green and climate-change resistant resources.

Kandeh Yumkella, the former special representative of the global initiative, Sustainable Energy for All, offered a middle-of-the-road approach, recommending that Africa adopt an all-inclusive energy strategy, using fossil fuels and renewables.

Harvard University business professor, Michael E. Porter and his co-author, Claas van der Linde, in an article for the magazine Harvard Business Review, showed that around the world, countries had been slow to embrace green technology “because of the lingering belief that environmental regulations erode competitiveness.”

Salifou Issoufou and Nama Ouattara, economists with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) respectively, presented a paper based on their research, “Does Green Investment Raise Productivity?” to an audience which included some of Africa’s top policy makers in 2011. In it the researchers warned Africa to take a cautious approach in attempting large-scale investments in green technologies,

Kandeh Yumkella

At the time, the main problem with green investments was that investment in, for example, enviro-friendly agri equipment, needed large capital outlay to make the transition to greening endeavours. The argument that as the smallest contributor to global warming, Africa should not be forced to adopt greening policies

Since then, the green revolution had moved ahead at full speed and costs of innovative technologies and renewables had been considerably lessened. The crash of extractive commodity prices around the world had seen African governments being forced to explore opportunities in green industrialisation. For instance, renewable energy can now be produced at costs comparable to fossil fuel production.

Professor Mark Swilling of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at Stellenbosch University in SA, said the added value of renewables is their positive impact on the “triple bottom-line”- referring to a company’s profit, social responsibility activities and environmental responsibility. 

Africa’s capabilities for bridging the green gap would constitute a significant economic advantage for the region. It meant that those African countries implementing green initiatives could leapfrog intermediary stages of technology and directly access the latest available on the market. Africa can therefore be expected to take a giant developmental step while highly industrialised countries would have to refit older infrastructure which could incur huge costs.

Many African countries are planning or already implementing green projects. Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Ghana had already adopted climate resilient green economy strategies as part an ambitious plan to propel these countries into a greener future.

Overall, the issue of going green is not any longer considered a moral question but a socio-economic imperative. As climate change is wreaking havoc across the globe, humanity is forced to make amends.