Thursday, 11 June 2015

Power, People, Planet: Beyond Food

With the world aiming for a major climate change deal this year, the Africa Progress Report 2015 will show how Africa can turn climate challenges into opportunities by transforming its energy, agriculture and finance sectors.
Africa needs more energy now – and everyone must have access. Energy is vital for economic growth, job creation and reducing poverty.
Africa is likely to need fossil fuels for some time; no industrialized country has developed using clean energy alone. But if African countries seriously commit themselves now to renewable energy sources, such as hydro, geothermal and solar power, they could leapfrog to cleaner energy as they have to mobile telephony – bypassing dependence on high-carbon fuels.
This energy transition must be matched by an agricultural transformation that unlocks the potential of Africa’s smallholder farmers to drive the continent’s development – while enabling them to cope with the multiple threats from climate change.
These transformations in energy, agriculture and climate change adaptation will only happen if Africa receives more international financial support, mobilizes more domestic finance and strengthens its financial architecture. The Africa Progress Report 2015 will look at how African policymakers can maximize all sources of finance, including domestic savings and private capital.
There is plenty of evidence that the right climate change response could also build Africa’s prosperity. The Africa Progress Report 2015 will gather that evidence to make a powerful case for transforming Africa’s energy, agriculture and finance.

‘How Africa can power 500 million people with renewable energy’

map of africa-positivewww

The need for the African continent to fully exploit the renewable energy sources for power generation as once again hit the front burner, as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), declared that energy insecurity is a key challenge to growth and development in Africa.
The group in a 91- page presentation to sensitize journalists on public awareness on effects and opportunities in climate change, said over 500 million people lack reliable access to affordable electricity in sub- Saharan Africa and government should make efforts to exploit renewable energy sources in their quest for power generation.
“As African nations develop, climate change presents an opportunity to fill this energy gap without relying upon the fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases. For this to happen, public and private sector players will need to coordinate their efforts to develop clean-energy supplies.
“Viable options exist to power Africa using mini-grid and of-grid solar, wind, hydro, and biomass technologies. Projects that use solar panels or small-scale hydro power to provide schools and villages with power demonstrate what is possible, but the challenge is in scaling up these solutions to meet demands across the continent,” it stated.
Besides, the group identified lack of infrastructure, funding, and comprehensive vision as factors that hinder efforts to developing clean energy solutions.
“Successful efforts to improve energy effciency can happen on a larger scale (for example, installing new national power grids), or simply involve replacing light bulbs and appliances in homes,” it added.
It is pertinent to note that across Africa, most people rely on traditional fuels such as wood, biomass, or charcoal for cooking. Smoke from these stoves not only threatens public health, but also contributes to climate change as it contains the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.
Quoting from a World Bank study, UNESCO said feeling the energy-gap in Africa may cost up to $40 billion per year for a decade. On the other hand, it stated that reforming power utilities to run more efficiency could save up to $3.3 billion per year.
Biofuels are fuels made from living things or their waste products.
They include solid biomass such as wood or charcoal; biogas (methane produced from sewage); and liquids such as bio-ethanol and biodiesel, derived from crops such as maize, sugarcane, soybeans and jatropha.
While biofuels do emit some greenhouse gases when they burn, the plants from which they are created absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. So they appear to offer a means to provide power in a more climate-friendly way than fossil fuels.
Team Leader on Climate Change in the UNEP Regional Office for Africa, Emily Massawa, said: “Poverty eradication is Africa’s overriding priority, with people’s access to clean energy access at the centre of concern. Renewable power is found in abundance on the continent. Large areas of the African continent are ideal for solar and wind installations, and geothermal energy is already exploited in some areas.
Use of these renewable and indigenous resources mean the continent would be able to have more secure and clean energy supplies, that will also assist in breaking the cycle of high-carbon development that has led to the world being threatened by accelerating climate change.

Why agriculture and agribusiness can change Africa’s story


Plunging cocoa prices in the past few months have been a major worry for more than 700,000 farmers located in the lush green forests of Ghana who depend on this cash crop to feed themselves and provide education and health to their families. But the inadequate capacity of Ghana to add more value to a large quantity of its cocoa is even more a bigger issue.
Global demand for chocolate is expected to grow 25 percent by 2020, so cocoa prices will eventually recover. But cocoa farms must increase Ghana’s share of the final retail price of chocolate, which is only 5% at present. By increasing the country’s processing capacity, farmers in these countries can increase their incomes and create more critical jobs in the process.
Ghana’s cocoa example mirrors the overall condition of Africa’s export commodities. Africa still exports more raw agricultural produce with little or no value addition.
It has become increasingly obvious that while Africa is growing, it is not transforming. One well-known policy solution that has been offered to create more jobs is to scale up the manufacturing sector. And this includes making agricultural processing active.
To do this, Ghana like any other African nation will need the roads, energy, transport and markets to power the factories that process agricultural produce. With lower labour costs and easy access to raw materials, agro-industries in Africa offer an excellent opportunity for private investors too. It has the right markets for agro-industries to thrive and its regional market remains hugely untapped.
But there are several opportunities. Global food demand, for example, is set to double by 2050. Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness markets could reach US$1 trillion in 2030. For any economic transformation to happen, agriculture and agribusiness must grow and rightly combine to make value addition possible.
Africa loses billions of dollars for due to its inability to produce enough and process its agricultural commodities. The Africa Progress Panel chaired by Kofi Annan, in its 2014 report ‘Grain, Fish, Money’, estimates that Africa spends US$35 billion per year in food imports. Indeed, connecting farm production, processing and distribution could create numerous jobs and lift millions of Africans out of poverty.
We must think of linking farmers to the market through mobile technologies and give accurate and timely information to smallholder farmers to enable them reduce the threats weather extremes pose. While we have witnessed mobile technology revolutions across Africa, we need to reinvent our meteorological institutions to enable them predict the weather and disseminate accurate and relevant data to farmers in the village. Here, forging a good partnership with the private sector initiatives like Esoko – an agricultural information service operating in 10 African countries – is key.
Agribusiness must center on smallholder farmers. Agribusiness investments must not, therefore, ignore “land-grabbing”. Smallholders need the land and infrastructure to help feed themselves and others. Agriculture and agribusiness pursued in this manner could be the next frontier to change Africa’s growth and transformation story.
Photo credit: John Rae

Invest responsibly in Africa. Build a sustainable future for the next generation. – Africa Progress Panel

Invest responsibly in Africa. Build a sustainable future for the next generation. – Africa Progress Panel