African Bioenergy Background
Why is Bioenergy a good option for Sub-Saharan Africa?
- An established bioenergy industry can reduce a country’s dependence on expensive exported fossil fuels and improve domestic energy security; at the same time as providing it with an in-demand good for export to the international market.
- It also creates tangible job opportunities for the communities it involves; with the opportunity for many Africans to be involved in the labour-intensive cultivation of appropriate feedstocks.
- Sub-Saharan Africa’s sub-tropical climate is perfect for growing most biofuel feedstocks, with the continent’s abundant arable land also providing a solution to the land-shortages that have proven so problematic across the developed world.
- In short, if developed correctly, a well-functioning bioenergy industry can leverage African economic growth on an international level, at the same time as improving the economic and social well-being of its inhabitants. This is a unique opportunity.
Why is Europe important?
- By operating in Brussels, PANGEA has a unique vantage point over the EU’s most important legislative developments, which have been the primary catalyst for the rapid growth in bioenergy’s international importance.
- Following on from the 2003 Biofuels Directive – which set unbinding indicative targets of 2% renewable fuels in transport by 2005 and 5.75% in 2010 – the EU introduced binding alternative fuels targets in their 2009 Renewable Energy directive, with renewable energy to have a 10% share in transport fuel by 2020.
- This created an unprecedented demand for cheap and affordable biofuels, which Sub-Saharan countries are well-placed to fulfil.
- Equally importantly, there is much potential to use European expertise to impel the growth of Africa’s bioenergy industry: whether through energy specific development funds like the ACP-EU Energy Facility; high-level conferences such as the Africa-EU Energy Partnership; or the transference of cutting-edge technology developed across European industry.
- If this potential is to be realised, stringent sustainability provisions must be implemented to ensure that EU-African synergies remain equitable and beneficial to the communities they affect.
- Although the Renewable Energy Directive already contains environmental provisions, and several more comprehensive voluntary schemes already exist, more must be done to ensure social sustainability.
- PANGEA advocates a shift of focus to African land tenure systems, and their failure to protect local communities from being exploited during large-scale foreign investment. These should be improved, and the EU is well placed to lead the way.
- More efforts must all be made to create uniform and binding legislation for social sustainability; with provisions to protect African citizens and maintain food and energy security. This will be the key to unlocking the continent’s biofuel sector potential.