AFRICAN ECONOMY: CREATING VALUE FROM BIORESOURCES
The objective of this article is to highlight the importance of the Bio-economy and its potential impact on African countries. Bio-economy development
promote a more resource-efficient circular economy based increasingly on renewable energy, products, and materials produced through substantial
Use of ecosystem services from land and water. A greater focus on research and innovation can provide us with new products served from biomass innovation and new service required for realization of the bio-economy development which helps combat climatic change, reduce waste and create new jobs.
The African continent has enormous untapped natural resources;
the continent has 80 percent of the global total arable land. Agriculture is still an essential resource on which much of the region’s economic development and food security hinges. Africa Is also home to significant bio-diversity asset and ecosystem, including the Congo basin rainforest-the second largest tropical rainforest in the world.
In recent years, biofuels have emerged as a suitable alternative to
hydrocarbon fuel due to their foreseen potential of being a future energy resource. Biofuel development initiatives have been successfully implemented in countries like Brazil, USA, European Union, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
However, such programs have been stagnant in Africa due to various constraints, such as financial barriers, technical expertise, underutilized land management and lack of policy initiatives. Therefore, development of alternative energy fuels will have several advantages, such as alleviating the region’s dependence on fossil-based fuels. Encouraging and implementing cost-effective energy resources would mean more people can have access to electricity at a cheaper cost, and possibly birth new job opportunities within the bioresource economy.
Biofuels are considered favourable alternative source of energy because (i) they are produced from sustainable energy crops; (ii) they can play a vital role in strengthening Africa’s energy security; and (iii) improve infrastructural development programs in the continent.
Also, the development of the biofuel sector presents many opportunities nations in Africa due to its potential of boosting the energy sector, and reducing expense on oil imports. It can also boost the agricultural sectors and could improve local infrastructure and rural development. For instance, farmers can grow specific crops that are utilized in biofuel industries. Cassava is one prime crop that is easy to grow, harvest and store. It can be utilised wholistically, as a food source, while its by-waste can also serve as biomass feeds.
The establishment of the biofuel sector will benefit
the continent enormously by facilitating
Creation of biofuels industries will assist rural communities to use
the fuel for household electrification, powering farming machinery and transportation.
Development of biofuel initiative will stabilize the continent’s energy supply and diversify its fuel options and reduce the burden on oil importing countries.
Some industrialized nations do not occupy enough land for cultivation of biofuel feedstock. Therefore, African farmers can benefit by supplying raw materials to these countries.
Construction of biofuel industries will provide many employment
opportunities to African people and boost the continent’s economy
Larger countries, such as Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa, are
amongst the leading carbon emitters on the continent. Therefore,
commercialization of biofuels technology will assist in the mitigation of carbon emissions.
The intensification of biofuels became imperative because of dwindling fossil fuels coupled, environmental degradation, and worldwide interest in the establishment of environmentally benign, carbon neutral and sustainable form of energy biofuels. Thus, the global production of biofuels has increased significantly over the past few years, from 20 billion Litres in 2001 to more than 110 billion litres in 2011. During this period, the production of bioethanol and biodiesel consisting of 81% and 19% respectively, of this vale. It is important to note that a huge percentage of biofuel produced globally are generated from highly industrialized nations, such as the United States of America, Brazil, European Union, Australia, and Japan, in efforts to reduce their carbon footprints. However, in impoverished and undeveloped region like Africa, biofuel is a catalyst for infrastructural development
projects, reducing high international oil prices, boosting the continent’s energy sector, and the creation of employment opportunities.
The economic factors involved in biofuel production include the capital costs, raw materials, plant capacity, maintenance costs and process technology. It has been shown in several studies of biofuel production that the cost of raw materials is considerably high, i.e., it comprises 75%-80% of the total operating expenses. In the case of biodiesel production, the oils in vegetable seeds need to be extracted, refined, and then used in the transesterification process. Whereas, the lignocellulose agricultural materials used for bioethanol production must undergo a vigorous
pretreatment process to ensure that the fermentable sugars are released. Other factors to consider include labor, storage, and transportation costs. A feedstock cost of US $0.539/L was estimated for biodiesel production when using refined soy oil, and a cost of US $0.97/L for bioethanol production from sugarcane bagasse. It has also been observed that the costs of biofuels vary from each region due to contributing factors, such as the type of feedstock used and production scale.
Currently, the cost of large-scale production of biofuel is high in
Industrialized nations. For instance, biofuel costs are considered to be three times greater than that of hydrocarbon fuels. On the contrary, in underdeveloped regions, such as the Sub-Saharan
In conclusion, this article examined the opportunities of implementing biofuels, and biomass initiatives in the region. Biofuels could offer lots of relief to most oil-importing countries in African through the blending of imported hydrocarbon fuels with biofuels. However, many governments have been slow to introduce biofuel development initiatives in their countries due to several bottlenecks, such as lack of biofuel policies, lack of technical expertise, and financial constraints.
Nonetheless, with the growing global interest in biofuel
programs, Africa needs to strategically position itself by assessing
international development in biofuel initiatives, acquire superior technical expertise, framework-which can be attained through collaboration with leading biofuel-producing nations. Also, biofuel initiatives will serve as catalysts for
economic growth, infrastructure development and social welfare development in Africa.
Compiled by Opadoyin Olusegun Gbenga