Green Africa for green opportunities

Africa can strategically recycle biodegradable wastes into renewable energy like biogas to not only reduce carbon emissions but increase green energy employment opportunities for African youth living in slums says Brian Malika

Eight years from now, in 2030 the timeline to accomplish the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals will conclude. However, the question still remains as to whether the world will be on the right trajectory towards reducing global emissions and dependency on fossil fuels as recommended by the Paris Agreement that has a goal of limiting global warming to at least 1.5 Degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

70 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa uses either charcoal, kerosene, or firewood as the primary fuel to cook, which contributes to the death of at least 4 million people annually as a result of household pollution (more than the amalgamation from Tuberculosis, Malaria, and HIV). This reality poses a challenge to Africa’s energy sector to rethink the best model that can accelerate the process of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Africa’s population growth is at 2.7 percent annually -the fastest growth rate in the world. This means more food will be required on the continent to feed the increasing population. This increases the urgency for alternative cooking fuels that are safer, affordable, and cleaner with zero carbon emissions to the environment to be introduced.

In order to attain better and more acceptable renewable cooking fuels, the design thinking approach that encourages organizations to perceive people who are directly affected by a problem as partners in creating solutions needs to be embraced. African communities that directly use fossil fuels should be accepted as lead social innovators when testing cleaner and affordable green energies.

With climate change magnifying the already dilapidated livelihoods facing indigenous communities,  The World Wide Fund (WWF)  has taken a human-centered approach by tapping from indigenous communities’ ancient knowledge on sustentation of forest habitats towards conservation efforts of endangered species/forests.

Equally, at the peak of migrating towards greener fuel,  users of charcoal, kerosene, wood, and other fossil fuels should be co-innovators within the design thinking process since they are the most affected by air pollution from fossil fuels through lived experiences and thus may have better ideas to strengthen green fuel production.

For instance, a youth group in Kibera ( Africa’s largest slum) is recycling biodegradable food wastes to make alternative biogas as an alternative source for domestic cooking with no net carbon dioxide expresses concerns that biogas production produces foul-smell during fermentation and this may irritate residents who are congested in a slum area and they suggest that planting odour eliminators like vinegar around biogas fermentation areas may purify the air naturally.

Equally, small-scale farmers who access loans to start biogas production find it difficult to repay the same on time since they only use biogas for domestic cooking purposes which does not earn them an income. Therefore, development partners can utilize this gap by offering grants for poor smallholder farmers to set up biogas.

Interestingly, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation projects that Africa’s youth population will double by 2050; implying that every year for the next decade, there will be up to  10-12 million young Africans who will transition into the employment sector that can only accommodate 3 million of them!

The disturbing news is that  Green energy fuel production not only reduces carbon emission but also is a proven model for creating productive employment. However, recent research shows that even though in 2019 11 million people got employment opportunities in renewable energy production, only   2 percent of them were  from Africa.  

In 2050, Africa’s population is set to double. 80 percent Africans will be living in cities with the majority of them in crowded slums.This is a distasteful reality. However, the continent can turn the tables by strategically recycling massive available biodegradable wastes into renewable energy like biogas. This will not only reduce carbon emissions but will also increase green energy employment opportunities for African youth living in slum areas.

As Wangari Maathai said, “The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem”.  It is therefore within our hands as Africans  to conform to this  wise saying by intentionally striving towards achieving a net carbon zero reality by 2050. By doing so, we can ensure that no one is exposed to unjustifiable extreme air pollution which is one of the leading causes of death on the continent.

Feature Photo by KP Bodenstein on Unsplash

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Green Africa for green opportunities

by Brian Malika Reading time: 3 min