Africa is heating up faster than the global average as a result of climate change, and this will remain a threat to the delicate ecosystems here for decades more to come. This means that Africa has a unique host of problems that require unique and innovative solutions, and therefore we have what is being dubbed as “the African bioeconomy”.
“Bioeconomy is a set of economic activities, an alternative to our present fossil-dependent model, in which renewable biological resources are sustainably produced to replace fossil fuels in various forms of consumption and production, to produce products (goods and services) for final and intermediate consumption,” said Oluwaseun James Oguntuase, a Nigerian researcher and expert on the development of African bioeconomy.
“Productivity in several African countries depend on natural resources, climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism, and climate-sensitive infrastructure such as houses, buildings, municipal services, and transportation networks.”
Reducing the reliance on fossil-based resources
While the notion of bioeconomy originally appeared in the twentieth century, it was not until the twenty-first century that it drew widespread attention from scientists and policymakers as a political-economic concept that advocates the substitution of fossil resources to tackle climate change.
The bioeconomy has also been identified as a way to meet the European Union’s (EU) climate change mitigation goals while also reducing reliance on fossil-based resources. It also holds great promise for addressing the climate-related issues linked with the usage of fossil fuels in the generation of heat, electricity, and transportation fuels.
“Likewise, the use of bioenergy, devising smart strategies and value-chain pathways to lock the chain’s greenhouse gases emissions, have been identified as a potential means of achieving the ambitious Paris climate target,” added Oguntuase. “Beyond climate change mitigation, there is a large potential for synergies between bioeconomy and climate change adaptation. Climate change is affecting all four dimensions of food security: food availability, food accessibility, food utilisation, and food systems stability, and bioeconomy offers opportunities for the agriculture sector to adapt.”
Stabilising food supplies
He also believes that the bioeconomy will help improve food security and aid human development by creating more efficient systems for agricultural production as this, in turn, will increase the production of more natural and healthy products. Specifically, the adoption of more genetically modified technologies may be a way to offset the detrimental impacts of climate change and stabilise and increase food supplies.
“Around 50% of harvest losses caused by environmental factors are down to drought, and it is expected that this proportion will continue to rise as a result of climate change,” Oguntuase said. “Drought stress tolerance of crops was a significant trigger for total yield in the last decades and its significance for yield is supposed to even increase in the future as a result of climate change.”
So far, South Africa is recognised as the only thriving bioeconomy on the continent, while countries such as Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Mozambique, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, and Tanzania have some bioeconomic activities taking place.