As a continent of mainly developing economies, Africa can least afford to lose percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to climate change. Where GDP is built on unsustainable growth, there could be adverse economic effects in the future, said the moderator Buchizya Mseteka, adding that this made mitigation and adaptation both an environmental and an economic imperative.
Agreeing that Africa should depend less on unsustainable, Hela Cheikhrouhoum commented that it was not just desirable but possible, pointing out that: “Green growth is viable as Africa is rich in renewables – wind, sun and rivers,” noted. “Of the Bank’s annual approvals, a growing proportion features renewable energy sources.”
“The SA Renewables Initiative has shown renewables can deliver an economic opportunity,” commented Simon Zadek. “Two years ago there was little interest from business or government because renewables were small-scale and creating few jobs.”
Now solar and wind power have been scaled up nearly 10-fold and green-growth dividends are being delivered through reductions in the brownouts and blackouts. The South African economy and its people suffered a lot from power cuts and shortages during 2008.
“The next step is negotiating lower-cost debt for renewable energy versus coal, otherwise a country moving large-scale to renewables could develop an exposure problem. So this policy issue must be resolved at a political level.”
Having missed the ICT revolution, governments don’t want to repeat the mistake by becoming consumers of other people’s goods – especially as they’re also becoming aware that renewables can offer job creation, said Sharmala Naidoo of the South African Renewables Initiative.
“To make this happen, we need political, institutional and cultural shifts – in South Africa, we’ve seen this,” she reported. “The political leadership is taking renewables out of the silo-style institutional culture and allowing inter-ministerial cooperation, as well as shifting from policy to embed it in individual practice areas.”
“People want green growth to deliver poverty elimination, jobs, economic growth and ownership and sustainability,” said Muyeye Chambwera. “As African countries see the likes of SA and Morocco benefiting from green growth, they will follow.”
Renewables are first needed in rural communities where grid extensions are a problem, also transforming life for the 600 million people who can’t access modern energy services, said Richenda van Leeuwen. This, too, is where they can be most cost-effective, both economically and environmentally, she added, especially with dropping technology prices and lower-consumption devices.
“Our solar villages in African rural areas and hydro-power project in Laos all show investors need to be convinced both by the environmental and socio-economic credentials of the project and by revenues,” noted Dr Jean-Yves Caneill.
“The private sector is still unfamiliar with assessing the technical and policy risks of renewables projects, so they tend to ask for high rewards in return,” agreed Amal-Lee Amin. “Using targeted public financing can help build a track record to attract private investors by familiarising them with the sector.”
Currently, a missing ingredient, Chambwera believes, is sufficient business skills allied to technology, especially in the energy sphere: “Making the sector attractive to business will turn potential into reality.”