African countries have the chance to develop a sustainable economy

16 September 2019 4 min. read
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Countries across Africa find themselves in a position to trace sustainable economic development paths, in light of their new economic impetus and a supportive international environment. In a new report, FTI Consulting recommends a focus on efficient energy consumption as a means to this end.

The new report comes in a context of Africa’s growth story, which coincides with the increasingly pertinent climate change paradigm. The continent is home to the youngest and fastest growing population in the world, nudging experts to suggest that the right growth plan could afford it a central position in the global economy.

A young and robust workforce, combined with a market that is ripe for investment are indicators that promise tremendous economic growth going forth. The biggest concern, according to FTI Consulting, is that economic growth on such a scale almost inevitably produces high emission rates.

Access to electricity - Selected regions and countries

On the other hand, the scenario can be painted positively as a fresh slate for African countries to develop their economies in accordance with international trends. The benefits of such a clean slate have already manifested themselves in the digital sphere, with many businesses in the region grounding their models in technological innovation.

The same can now be achieved with respect to sustainable development according to FTI Consulting, particularly in the current circumstances. A number of African economies are signatories to the Paris Agreement, and are therefore bound to devise national climate plans and update them every five years.

However, the Paris Agreement contains provisions for countries that are in the same position as African countries, caught in a dichotomy between the desire for economic growth and sensitivity to climate considerations. Countries that have the heaviest emissions are required to contribute the highest funds to the agreement.

Electric power consumption per capita, 1990 vs 2010

These resources are then allocated to countries that are looking for sustainable economic development, in order to meet the additional costs that come up when developing environmentally friendly models. FTI Consulting considers this a tremendous opportunity for Africa. 

African countries now have the opportunity to take advantage of increased financial support and forge a new growth path. Given the region’s vulnerability to climate change, African countries must consider how they can grow their energy access and economies while combatting climate change.

One area where this is particularly relevant is Africa’s energy sector. To gear up for ecomomic growth, several African countries are currently investing in their energy infrastructure, ranging from technologically advanced power grids to energy generation facilities.

FTI Growth Emissions Matrix

Some of these countries have been developing renewable energy generation plants, ranging from solar to hydroelectricity, to wind. FTI Consulting reports that African countries currently have the lowest energy consumption levels across the globe. This is likely to change, and more investment in renewable energy will help make this increase less strenuous on the environment.

This is one of the best ways forward, according to the consulting firm. ‘While uptake of renewables other than hydroelectric power has been slow so far, there is a real opportunity for acceleration in this area, particularly as older coal fired power plants come to the end of their life and their generation capacity needs to be replaced’ states the report.