The African continent is confronted by two key issues in its bid to achieve sustainable development: on one hand, to industrialize in order to strengthen its economy and generate jobs; on the other hand, to protect its environment, one of its main sources of wealth and common heritage of mankind. Unfortunately, these two objectives could contradict one another. In this case the last report of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on the opportunities that « green industrialization» provides for the continent could bring a lot of hope.
How can methods of production in Africa be transformed whilst creating infrastructure which can ensure the supply of water, energy and food products? This is the question that many countries on the continent are asking themselves.
In the estimation of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Africa’s delay in the industrialization process must no longer be considered as a shortcoming but as an asset. The Commission emphasized this notion in the 2016 edition of its economic report on the African continent. The Commission is in favour of a « green and inclusive growth » through ecological industrialization. Industrialization in the third millennium can no longer be allowed to experience the same mistakes as was the case in the XIX century. In response to this, the objective of many heads of State is: promote an economy which does not depend so much on carbon and industrialize without destroying the environment.
The authors of the UN report recommend that we move away from «dependence on fossil fuel » and resort to the use of the abundant renewable energy resources which are still hardly exploited.
The industrial sector represents only an average of 11% of GDP of African economies which are dependent on agriculture and are progressively leaning toward services and an intangible economy. In the absence of other models, industrialization is considered necessary by economists to transform these economies and their societies and to eradicate poverty…It is however not necessary to replicate the development model of western countries in order to attain socially beneficial growth. UNECA is thus advocating that we forge ahead in order to attain green industrialization. According to Fatima Denton, director of the special initiatives division of UNECA, « We cannot repeat the mistakes that the developed countries made during their industrialization process». The report advocates investment in decent environmental infrastructure and promotion of « sustainable» cities.
UNECA identifies four priorities for action: put an end to subsidies for activities that pollute, include environmental standards in the 2 national regulations, «green » public infrastructure and launch a process to detach economic growth from consumption of raw materials and fossil fuels.
The report emphasizes that for this reason, «public authorities would have to take the lead in outlining these action plans, with a leadership at the highest level and a clear, credible and coherent strategic framework ». It added that «there will be the need for major changes in policy, investment, allocation of resources and in the general incentive structure» «a radical change is required, not only in the vision and strategies presented by governments but also in the quality of partnerships proposed for the private sector, on a small as well as large scale. Measures must be taken systematically, transcending sectors, stakeholders and levels, in order that the key drivers of change can pave the way for low carbon growth.
The African continent can count on good models, some of which have already been replicated in Africa, as well as on sources of practical inspiration and direction. Green industrialization also needs «continuous investment in competencies, networks and knowledge based institutions, particularly in the areas of health, education, capacity to innovate, links with the world of business and information and communication technologies » emphasized the authors of the report.
There are inspiring examples, for example in Mozambique, the Roadmap For A Green Economy was based on the rational use and safeguard of the country’s natural capital. In Zambia, the Inclusive Green Growth Strategy also has this same global approach and is supported by public authorities. Namibia launched a reform programme on fuel subsidies; Kenya also did the same through the promotion of public transport. The principle of «greening » public infrastructure inspired a public works programme in South Africa since 2004 and the implementation of a municipal environmental protection programme in the city of Durban. In Tanzania and Zimbabwe, this strategy has translated into the « national centres of clean production »; in Uganda’s leather industry; in Ghana’s wood value chain; in the agro industry of Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria etc.
Lecturer/researcher Adam Abdou Hassan at the Rouen University and member of the Institute for teaching and research on peace in Africa (Thinking Africa), on The Conversation website, also highlighted the role of the implementation of projects such as hydroelectric plants the Inga III in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mphanda Nkuwa in Mozambique or Sambagalou in Senegal. He also cites Malawi which is promoting biofuels, Morocco and Rwanda which have invested in solar energy, Kenya which invested in geothermal energy and other examples. According to him, «the sketch of a ‘green industrialization’ can constitute a basis for ‘Africa’s rebirth’ and even provide the opportunity to consolidate an African ideological policy, federalism vision. The combination of projects – hydroelectric, roads, smart cities… demonstrates the first concrete achievement of the future federation ». A call which obviously deserves to be heeded to.