“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.
Moving from talk to action – The Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA)
EBAFOSA is already committed to upscaling through innovative volunteerism. This volunteerism seeks the application of physical and non-physical resources at one’s disposal – especially professional skills, organizational and professional networks, and ongoing initiatives – to build mutual partnerships with complementary actors at policy and operational levels. That’s to enhance the respective business or organizational objectives, like expanding market share, transferring skills and technology, or operationalizing policies, but aligned to the shared EBAFOSA strategic objective. This strategic objective is to bridge policy and operational gaps to maximize the productivity of both clean energy and nature-based, EBA-driven agriculture to sustainably accelerate socioeconomic transformation and achieve the SDGs.
Through innovative volunteerism, EBAFOSA is maximizing agricultural productivity. These innovative volunteerism efforts are being applied at the EBAFOSA pillars: amalgamation; policy harmonization; standardization; innovative financing, and ICT as driver of partnerships. To date, a number of achievements can be recorded across Africa.
Amalgamation, where clean energy expansion is tagged directly to powering value addition of sustainably produced agro-products (rather than undertaking them in silos) is the EBAFOSA foundational pillar. For example in the northwestern part of Cameroon’s Jakiri municipality, EBAFOSA is catalyzing partnerships at policy and ground level towards directly linking off-grid small-hydro to power cassava and Irish potato processing into varied product lines, and linking these to markets and supply chains using ICT mobile apps.
This is not only offsetting carbon in energy generation and building ecosystems resilience, but creating income opportunities along the entire agro-value chain and ancillary chains of clean energy and ICT. A total of 10 youth groups engaging in ICT, clean energy and marketing have been creating green jobs for approximately 100 young people. Over 500 women now have access to value addition services and as a result have cut their PHLs to enhance income stability and the community food security.
On policy harmonization to maximize productivity, EBAFOSA is achieving this through ministerial-level collaboration across ministries of agriculture, environment, energy, industrialization and others that are forming interagency policy task forces. These policymakers are further joined by stakeholders from private sector and the development community to share knowledge and experiences in aligning policy – all achieved through innovative volunteerism.
The EBAFOSA Sierra Leone task force has started building on some ongoing policy initiatives across four complementary ministries. A key focus for the Sierra Leone task force is tax concession policy for agro-based industries in rural areas. These are set to incentivize investment in clean energy power plants dedicated to adding agro-value near farming areas, and the task force work is another example of what innovative volunteerism is doing at policy level.
On innovative financing, EBAFOSA is reducing key factors of climate risk (driven by climate change-induced crop failure) and financial risk (driven by repayment defaults) to catalyze affordable private-sector lending along the EBAFOSA value chain.
For example, in Kenya, EBAFOSA Kenya stakeholders are working with the Kenya county governments to leverage county climate change funds for additional private sector resources. In the pioneering Makueni County, the fund is setting aside 50 percent of the portfolio so it can securitize up to 10 times the amount in private banks. These securitized monies will be loaned through low interest microfinance institutions, as a priority to entrepreneurs engaged in actions that optimize the agro-value chain using EBA and clean energy. Therefore, they indirectly finance the upscaling of EBA-Driven Agriculture and clean energy agro-value addition to create multiple low carbon, higher order income and job opportunities.
On ICT as a driver, the EBAFOSA-driven ICT app called EdenSys is enabling farmers to use their mobile phones to access advisory services, to access inputs including clean energy, and to connect to markets where they can price and sell their products among other key actions.
Going forward, a dedicated service to finance products and services along the entire EBAFOSA chain called M-eBAFOSA is being developed and this will be a one-stop-shop financing module. It’s a doorway that links end users and clients interested in financing along the EBAFOSA chain, to the relevant product and service providers also within that chain, be it advisory services or technology for EBA/clean energy, EBAFOSA compliance standards, or finance providers.
These are samples of how EBAFOSA is upscaling the paradigm that will potentially create the next generation of icons across the continent. Innovative volunteerism provides an opportunity to engage more people to cash on this paradigm, and be on track to clinching the prize of next generation continental icons.
“When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him.” This Ashanti proverb provides a lesson for Africa’s next potential icons. The first generation of continental icons arose out of solving Africa’s main challenge at infancy – the struggle for self-determined rule. Their dedication and determination to liberate the continent from the shackles of colonialism is what elevated them to status of icons.
At present, Africa faces the urgent need to accelerate socioeconomic development sustainably and catch up with the rest of the globe in actualizing the SDGs and implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Innovative volunteerism towards maximizing productivity of the continent’s catalytic sectors of EBA Driven Agriculture and Clean Energy stands out as an opportunity to accelerate this development.
Learning from the first generation of icons, our dedicated and determined efforts in operationalizing innovative volunteerism make possible this generation’s ascent as “continental icons” of Africa’s future. This is our time as the current generation and Innovative Volunteerism through the framework of EBAFOSA provides the opportunity to do so.
By Dr. Richard Munang