Sixty-five more years to realize electricity for all in Africa – report

Sixty-five more years to realize electricity for all in Africa – report

By a Global Information Network correspondent

Sub-Saharan Africa will still wait for 65 more years to realize electricity for all, says a new report. The region lags behind in its ability to generate electricity, hampering growth and frustrating its ambitions to catch up with the rest of the world.

All of sub-Saharan Africa’s power generating capacity is less than South Korea’s, and a quarter of it is unproductive at any given moment because of the continent’s aging infrastructure. The World Bank estimates that blackouts alone cut the gross domestic products of sub-Saharan countries by 2.1 percent.

This dismaying picture was echoed in the annual report of the Africa Progress Panel, released in June headed by former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan. The report foresees electricity coming to all homes and businesses in Africa – by 2080.

Graca Machel, a member of the panel and the former wife of Nelson Mandela, said she was taken aback by the prospect of a 65-year wait for electricity. The report also estimated that an investment of USD 55 billion would be needed yearly to achieve universal access.

Presenting the report at the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town, titled “Power People Plant: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities,” Annan noted that some African countries are already leading the world in low-carbon climate-resilient development. “African countries do not have to lock into high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access by leapfrogging into new technologies,” he said.

However, he cautioned that Africa’s energy challenge was substantial. “Over 600 million people still do not have access to modern energy. It is shocking that Sub-Saharan Africa’s electricity consumption is less than that of Spain and on current trends it will take until 2080 to catch up.”

Modern energy also means clean cooking facilities that don’t pollute household air, he went on. “An estimated 600,000 Africans die each year as a result of household air pollution, half of them children under the age of five. On current trends, universal access to nonpolluting cooking will not happen until the middle of the 22nd century.”

Africa has enormous potential for cleaner energy – natural gas and hydro, solar, wind and geothermal power – and should seek ways to move past the damaging energy systems that have brought the world to the brink of catastrophe. The waste of scarce resources in Africa’s energy systems remains stark and disturbing.

Current highly centralised energy systems often benefit the rich and bypass the poor and are underpowered, inefficient and unequal. Energy-sector bottlenecks and power shortages cost the region 2-4 per cent of GDP annually, undermining sustainable economic growth, jobs and investment. They also reinforce poverty, especially for women and people in rural areas.

“It is indefensible that Africa’s poorest people are paying among the world’s highest prices for energy: a woman living in a village in northern Nigeria spends around 60 to 80 times per unit more for her energy than a resident of New York City or London,” he declared.

“Changing this is a huge investment opportunity. Millions of energy-poor, disconnected Africans, who earn less than US 2.50 a day, already constitute a USD 10-billion yearly energy market.”

The panel is an advocacy group which lobbies for sustainable development in Africa and which was originally established to monitor whether the world’s leaders were meeting their commitments to Africa.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Nairobi can generate energy from its garbage

Nairobi can generate energy from its garbage By Clifford Akumu

Nairobi County is sitting on 200 megawatts of untapped clean energy from garbage that it could plug the unabatedly high energy deficit, according to experts. They say energy from garbage can lead to significant economic transformation as envisaged in vision 2030.

“Clean renewable energy from garbage will meet the basic electricity needs of city households and act as a pedestal to the 24-hour economy of the county,” said Evans Ondieki, from the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.

Africa is struggling out of energy poverty with 621million people lacking access to grid energy, and 713 million lacking access to clean energy. Dr. Cosmas Ochieng Obote, director African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) said that cheap clean energy intervention would spearhead adaptation to climate change and sustainable development in the county.

“We have sufficient resources to meet the county’s energy needs, they are just untapped,” said Dr Obote. Like other cities in the world, solid waste management is an expensive venture gobbling up to 30 to 50 percent of revenues.

This is unsustainable according to experts and Kenyan cities and towns end up with endless heaps of garbage that become a health risk. According to a recent survey by UNEP, Nairobi which has a population of 4 million people generates 3,200 tons of waste daily. Only 850 tons reach Dandora dumpsite while the rest remain unaccounted for.

Ondieki challenged county governments to spearhead clean energy uptake stating that Kenya had ‘the best regulations and framework on energy that creates a fertile ground for clean energy access in counties’.

Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero had mooted the idea of tapping energy from the Dandora dump site to generate power. In an earlier report, Kidero indicated that the organic waste will be used in manufacturing fertilizer.

“We are devising ways of producing energy from waste while recycling plastics,” he was quoted saying. The Kenyan government estimates that the 2013 -2017 National Climate Change Action Plan for climate adaptation and mitigation will require a substantial investment of about US$ 12.76 billion.

20 Years of Innovation: Reflecting on Successes and Challenges of Biotech Crops

20 Years of Innovation: Reflecting on Successes and Challenges of Biotech Crops

By Craig Richard

In 1996, farmers planted the first commercial biotech crop. The global uptake of plant biotechnology by farmers since has made it the fastest-adopted technology in the history of agriculture. Farmers who have the choice to use the technology have chosen it on an unprecedented level because of its benefits.
However, today those farmers are no longer being provided the choice to utilize a broader suite of technologies on more crops in more places from a diverse set of technology providers. The regulatory hurdle is too high and completely disproportional to any risk presented by plant biotechnology. This needs to change if the world’s innovation is to be used by our farming communities for society’s greater good.
In 2008, the European Union’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) undertook a survey of all the research and development of biotech products taking place in both the public and private sectors worldwide. Then, the JRC predicted that 91 new biotech traits would come to market by 2015. These new products would bring advancements to the world’s farmers: protecting a wider set of crops from additional pests and diseases, resiliency against the impact of climate change, or providing additional nutritional value in staple crops throughout the developing world. The report also predicted that many of these new offerings would be developed and provided by public research institutions.
Fast forward to today. We are, unfortunately, very far off from meeting the JRC’s predictions — in 2014, there were only 16 new traits on the market, a mere 17 percent of the 91 expected products. These traits are still largely agronomic, in the major row crops, and provided by the private sector. What happened to the dozens of new traits that should have improved nutrition, food security and crop health?
A 2012 survey of the technology developers that have commercialized traits for farmers found that, on average, it costs $136 million over 13 years to develop a biotech crop and bring it to market. Although developers in both the public and private sector have become much more efficient at creating new traits, the cost and time involved in the regulatory process has increased by at least 50 percent over the last decade — and in many cases, even more — making the road to commercialization much longer. For example, a decade ago in China, it took about 12 months to approve a new biotech trait for import. Now, the process can take six years. Despite decades of safe use of plant biotechnology, the regulatory processes around the world have gotten so long and arduous that they are effectively stalling innovation from reaching farmers and consumers.
Unfortunately, this failure to deliver innovation hurts farmers and those in the developing world the most, where both yields and livelihoods are stagnant. Many humanitarian-focused biotechnology projects around the world have been slowed, if not completely stalled, by excessive regulatory costs; costs shouldered by governments, foundations, and development agencies. This is despite the fact that much of this technology — such as water efficient maize, Golden Rice and biofortified sorghum — would be provided without royalties or additional costs to the farming community.
Efforts by anti-science, non-governmental organizations and technology critics to demonize biotech crops on ideological grounds affect the world’s most vulnerable populations and, quite often, run counter to the organizational missions of these so-called “consumer rights” groups.
The author is the executive director for plant biotechnology at CropLife International
Craig Richard is the executive director for plant biotechnology at CropLife International.

African Journalists Play a Key Role in Continent’s Blue Economy

African Journalists Play a Key Role in Continent’s Blue Economy

I recently mobilized Kenyan journalists to attend a briefing in Nairobi on Blue Economy. The main aim of the meeting was to expose journalists to blue economy is and why Africa should embrace it for accelerated development in the continent.

A few phone calls later to our members revealed two scenarios; one – there were those who were hearing about the term blue economy for the first time (from me) even though this lot had even done stories on the concept; two – there were those who had neither heard of it and neither had they reported on it. Quickly, I realized that our members would heavily gain from the briefing on this subject.

For those new to this ideology, a short back ground would do.

The world has, for over four years, accelerated discussions on Blue Economy since “Rio+20”. This was the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 20-22, 2012.

The “Blue Economy” approach to sustainable growth usually recognizes different use and non-use values of oceans and other “blue” resources. It promotes the coordination of relevant activities and industries to enhance the overall value.

Although the scope of the Blue Economy may differ for different countries, many agree that the appropriate use and conservation of marine, inland aquatic and coastal resources can contribute to food security, job creation, and inclusive and sustainable economic growth, as well as to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The opportunity and challenge is how all activities and industries can be coordinated and resources managed so that the Blue Economy brings about the maximum benefits to society in an inclusive and sustainable manner.

Journalists therefore need to be on the lookout for the interconnectedness of the issues being addressed within the confines of the Blue Economy. One needs to be aware of the impact that each of these issues could have on each other and specifically on the livelihood of the people occupying these areas. Given the cross-boundary nature of blue economic issues, journalists should take time to study the relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and other international instruments that regulate resource use. This way, they will strengthen their reporting of the Blue Economy.

In Kenya, for example, the Kenya Coastal Development Program (KCDP) has, to say the least, been touching lives of the coastal people in the country. The program has since inception in 2011, focused on addressing issues of fisheries, natural resource management and sustainable livelihoods.

By delving into sustainable management of fisheries resources KCDP is responsible for the increased benefits from seaweed farming by supporting seaweed drying and linking the artisans to the market/private sector. Approximately USD 9,550 was realized for a small community in 2015. KCDP support of the gated basket trap has shown that fish captured in experimental gated traps are 31% longer and 55% heavier and fewer low value fish are captured thus maintaining coastal fisheries biodiversity.

The project has also supported livelihoods and food security and helped the locals to build their asset base through livelihood projects focused on livestock with an investment cost of USD 330,000.

And so in reporting issues of the Blue Economy, journalists need to be very vigilant on what is really being done vis-a-vis what the governments promise to do. Mere talk about blue economy as the word in vogue will help the cause of Africa.

Article by Aghan Daniel, Secretary of MESHA