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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Achieving Green Economy in Africa: What are the Options?

By Dr. Benard Muok
As the world journeys to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the question remains: how prepared is Africa to achieve SDGs? Will it be a missed target like the MDGs? Is Africa on the path of green economy?
Why Green Economy?
Green growth is described as a path of economic growth that uses natural resources in a sustainable manner. Green economy can be defined as one that results in “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (UNEP 2010).
Pupils at Lesiredai Primary School in Isiolo County display solar products.TRF/James Ochweri
In its simplest expression, a green economy is low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive development approach. In a green economy, growth in income and employment are driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Critical to attaining objectives of this approach to development, is to creating conditions for public and private investments to incorporate broader environmental and social criteria. In addition, the main indicators of economic performance, such as growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be adjusted to account for pollution, resource depletion, declining ecosystem services and the distributional consequences of natural capital loss to the poor.
A major challenge is reconciling the competing economic development aspirations of rich and poor countries in a world economy that is facing increasing negative impacts ofclimate change, energy insecurity and ecological scarcity.
The world population continues to rise rapidly, by around 75 million people per year. Soon enough there will be 8 billion by the 2020s, and perhaps 9 billion by the early 2040s. These billions of people are looking for their foothold in the world economy.
The poor are struggling to find basic food, safe water, health care, and shelter for survival. Those just above the poverty line are looking for improved prosperity. Those in the high-income brackets hope that technological advances will offer them and their families even higher levels of well-being.
However as we celebrate the progress made in economic growth, it is also important to understand that such growth is based on economic trajectory that relies heavily on fossil fuel and other natural resources yet for a species that depend on the beneficence of nature, or on what the scientists call “environmental services,” we are doing a poor job in protecting our natural capital.
A green economy can meet this challenge by offering a development path that reduces dependence on fossil fuel, promotes resource and energy efficiency and lessens environmental degradation. As economic growth and investments become less dependent on liquidating environmental assets and sacrificing environmental quality, both rich and poor countries can attain more sustainable economic development.
The concept of a green economy does not replace sustainable development; but there is a growing recognition that achieving sustainability rests almost entirely on getting the economy right. Decades of creating new wealth through a “brown economy” model based on fossil fuels have not substantially addressed social marginalisation, environmental degradation and resource depletion. In order to achieve green growth, Africa must avoid carbon lock-in. For decades Africa development has been hugely based on the abundant natural capital base of the continent.
During the past two decades, Africa has embarked on a process of economic transformation. In almost every county and region, white papers have been developed to transform middle level economy as their new vision. For example in Kenya there is Vison 2030, Vision 2025 in Tanzania and Vision 2063 of the African Union.
It is argued that industrial economies have been locked into fossil fuel-based energy systems through a process of technological and institutional co-evolution driven driven by path-dependent increasing returns to scale. It is asserted that this condition, termed carbon lock-in, creates persistent market and policy failures that can inhibit the diffusion of carbon-saving technologies despite their apparent environmental and economic advantages.
The notion of a Techno-Institutional Complex captures the idea that lock-in occurs through combined interactions among technological systems and governing institutions. While carbon lock-in provides a conceptual basis for understanding macro-level barriers to the diffusion of carbon-saving technologies, it also generates questions for standard economic modelling approaches that abstract away technological and institutional evolution in their elaboration.
Studies indicate that after coal and gas power, lock-in of personal, oil-based passenger transport (gasoline and diesel cars) is the most troublesome globally. Policy-makers, especially at the urban scale, need to avoid planning sprawling, car-based infrastructure.
Policy-makers at all levels can adopt stringent fuel economy or CO2-intensity standards for new vehicles. However, there is a major governance deficit in natural resources management around the world. This deficit is largest in countries that depend heavily on natural resources for development and growth.
There is need to address specific needs, opportunities and challenges of the private sector with respect to green growth. Promoting entrepreneurship, addressing the investment constraints faced by women and young entrepreneurs and supporting micro, small and medium enterprises can scale up adoption of green growth policies.
Dr. Benard Muok is the Director of Centre for Research Innovation and Technology at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST). Email bmuok@yahoo.com 

Article is available in edition 17 of Joto Afrika Newsletter. Download a copy here
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