As a latecomer to industrialization, Africa is in a position to be 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, says the United Nations’ Resident Coordinator in South Africa, Tobias Takavarasha.
Speaking during the launch of the Economic Report on Africa (ERA) 2016, Mr. Takavarasha said that the report was a catalyst for driving a new African order and the Africa that people wanted, which was being championed by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
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 acknowledges the willingness of African governments to transition from coal to greener pathways of development.
Pointing out that industrialization was at the heart of Africa's structural transformation agenda, Mr. Takavarasha said, “ECA is championing Africa's industrialization using a clean, inclusive and sustainable pathway.” He addedthat with significant opportunities to transform the agricultural sector with value added agro processing, Africa could reverse the trend of countries on the continent spending an estimated US$30 billion a year exporting processed foods.”
For his part the Director Microeconomic Policy Division at ECA, 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."
However, 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 to industrialize without halting the continents development and its already beleaguered industries and factories" Levin said.