Africa Championing a Low Carbon Development Trajectory

Photo: GCEC
Mr. Lopes will, as a commissioner, take forward the work of the New Climate Economy (NCE), which is the GCEC's flagship project to help economic decision-makers seize available opportunities to achieve growth and climate objectives together.
28 June 2016

Pretoria, South Africa - 24 June 2016/ECA - The Economic Commission for Africa is championing a new African order says UN Resident Coordinator (a.i.) in South Africa, Tobias Takavarasha.

Speaking during the launch of the Economic Report on Africa (ERA) 2016 under the theme Greening Africa's Industrialization, Takavarasha said the report was a catalyst for driving a new African order and the Africa we want. "ECA is championing Africa's industrialization using a clean, inclusive and sustainable pathway. As a latecomer, the continent is able to define and design its own pathway based on its own realities and learning from history and the experiences of other regions to leapfrog traditional, carbon-intensive methods of growth and champion a low-carbon development trajectory" he said.

Takavarasha said industrialization was at the heart of Africa's structural transformation agenda with significant opportunities to transform the agricultural sector for value added agro processing. This he said, could reverse the trend of African countries spending an estimated USD30billion a year exporting processed foods.

Presenting the report at a seminar hosted by the University of Pretoria and the Centre of the Study of Governance Innovation, ECA Director, Microeconomic Policy Division, Adam Elhiraika said greening Africa's industrialization was both beneficial and possible for Africa. "Green industrialization is the way to go for Africa - it's good for long term inclusive growth, it ensures ecosystem integrity, climate-resilient development and is a cost saving measure through the use of advanced technologies." He said.

Elhiraika said Africa needed a policy framework for green industrialization to create enabling environments characterized by coherent policies, partnerships and finances.

ERA 2016 highlights that Africa is poised for growth through green industrialization, with case studies of projects in several countries, among them Kenya and Malawi, showing how countries can develop through green industrialization. The report however, notes a lack of or inadequate infrastructure conducive for greening Africa's industrialization process but acknowldeges the willingness of African governments to transition from coal to greener pathways of development.

Commenting on the report, Mao Amis of Africa Centre for a Green Economy echoed the need for Africa's transition to green economy, arguing that it held better opportunities than the "business as usual" approach. "We are excited at the continent's transition into a green economy, but we need to mainstream and develop a green narrative for the continent and what it means to the different national contexts." He said.

Amis argued for the inclusion of the informal sector into the green agenda "At the core of this transition is the involvement of the informal sector, whose contribution to the formal economies is monumental in the case of South Africa, USD300Billion." He said.

Another discussant, Saul Levin, Executive Director, Trade and Industrial Policies cast doubt on the practicality of Africa pursuing a green industrialization agenda with no clear path of how to achieve it. He argued that every country that had industrialized used all forms of pathways including high-carbon coal. "I don't know any country that has industrialized using the model of green and renewable energies. This requires lots of investment and high skills - we are short of both in Africa" he said.

Levin said the concept of leapfrog industrialization was not clear enough and that "Structural transformation does not mean going green" Further, he argued that African economies were energy intensive, requiring constant supply of energy and wondered if renewables would meet such a demand. "The challenge is how do we industrialise without halting the continents development and already beleaguered industries and factories" Levin said.

The launch seminar was attended by representatives from civil society, UN agencies, University faculty staff and students among others.

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