“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right”.
Never in Africa have these words uttered by Nelson Mandela, an African icon, rung as true as they do presently.
We are two years into the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDG) to achieve food security, combat poverty, create jobs, enhance equality and peace, enhance resource efficiency, combat climate change and protect the environment as critical priorities in Africa.
The writing is on the wall. And just as colonial oppression drove our founding fathers to launch the independence struggle, today the urgent need to accelerate the continent’s socioeconomic transformation beckons us all, as citizens of the current generation, to action. The time to do the right thing and act is now and in so doing, the next generation of continental icons will emerge.
Unlocking the enigma of Africa’s next icons
Three distinctions position clean energy and Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) Driven Agriculture as catalytic sectors in Africa.
First is economic inclusion. Agriculture is the most accessible economic sector that employs the majority of Africa’s work force, at an average of 64 percent across the continent. Maximizing the productivity of this sector means enhancing income and economic opportunities for the majority in the continent.
Secondly, Africa holds a comparative advantage in terms of resources, with 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land and a 300-million-strong middle class demanding more value added and differentiated agro-products and projected to grow a food market worth $150 billion in the next 13 years. This represents a significant domestic consumer market for growth of local value addition agro-industries. On energy, is the abundant renewable energy potential including hydro estimated at 1852TWh annually, 3 times the continent’s current demand, and the best solar resource in the entire planet. By leveraging these resources in complementarity, the region can establish global competitiveness, and create the much needed jobs.
Third, focus on policy and non-policy investment to maximize productivity of these sectors serves the leading socioeconomic development priorities of food security, enhanced income and job opportunities. To maximize this productivity, development in these sectors needs to be considered as complementary and not in silos as classically approached.
This amalgamation will potentially maximize productivity of agriculture by cutting post-harvest losses (PHL) largely driven by lack of value addition. It will incentivize use of EBA and clean energy to offset carbon and enhance ecosystems, thus further cutting crop losses due to climate change and those due to ecosystems degradation. Amalgamation will also maximize productivity of clean energy development by diversifying application beyond domestic use to include productive use in agro-processing and value addition.
For example in Kenya, estimates show that cumulatively, on-farm value addition using solar powered, efficient micro-irrigation is saving farmers over $10,000 annually in operating costs relative to using conventional fossil fuel powered, non-efficient farrow systems. As a result farmers are generating up to $30,000 per acre annually. What is needed for impact across the continent are policy and non-policy incentives and investments to upscale this paradigm. It is in this upscaling that the long-awaited solutions to sustainably accelerate socioeconomic transformation will emerge. And in the process, create the next generation of continental icons.