The interfacing and changes in these key driving forces, as used in the narratives in this chapter, are assumed to take the patterns reflected in Figure 1. The narratives presented in the subsequent sections are based on these patterns of change in the main driving forces.
In order to provide a holistic storyline, the regional and sub-regional narratives have been integrated for some issues while stand-alone sections have been reserved for issues more directly relevant to specific sub-regions. The four regional narratives focus on transboundary aspects and ecosystems at sub-regional and regional levels, and discuss the implications of policy choices for meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets by 2025. The analysis is undertaken in the context of the Opportunity Framework (see Introduction). The policy lessons from the scenarios are closely related to the future state of the environment as presented in Section 2: Environment State-and-Trends: 20-Year Retrospective.
Energy is essential for the effective functioning of human society; however, its production and use come with environmental costs. Energy plays a critical role in the development process, as a domestic necessity but also as a factor in production. The cost of energy directly affects prices of other goods and services, and the competitiveness of enterprises. The opportunities and challenges associated with this sector are discussed more fully in Chapter 2: Atmosphere. This section presents scenarios which focus on the different policy options in the energy sector and how this may impact on goals and the available resources.
The opportunities for creating a sustainable energy supply are closely related to investment in renewable energy, the development of appropriate energy technology, and the strengthening of existing energy resource monitoring programmes. The search for abundant and cheap energy could focus on rationalizing the territorial distribution of existing but unevenly allocated energy resources. Goals in the energy sector include:
- Developing cleaner energy sources;
- Improving access to reliable and affordable commercial energy supply;
- Improving the reliability, as well as lowering the cost, of energy supply to productive activities; and
- Reversing environmental degradation that is associated with the use of unclean fuels.
The main threat to achieving these goals is climate change and variability, and its impact on environment, health, food security and human settlements.
Market Forces scenario
Under the Market Forces scenario, manufacturing accounts for more of Africa’s economy and employment, and this results in an increase in air pollution. Additionally, under this scenario, there is an increase in available commercial energy resources. Improvements in energy infrastructure occur, including the development of pipelines and electricity grids, to ensure better supply to consumers. Per capita consumption of conventional energy resources increases as economic developments in the Market Forces scenario make inroads into widespread and severe poverty. This also results in a declining reliance on biomass.
(Source: UNEP 2006)
As Chapter 3: Land shows, the region is rich in mineral resources; however, there is considerable variation between the sub-regions, and energy production patterns reflect this. Coal production is concentrated in Southern Africa (mainly South Africa). Natural gas production, on the other hand, is overwhelmingly concentrated in Northern Africa (mainly Algeria and Egypt). Crude oil production takes place in all sub-regions except Eastern Africa. Nevertheless, the top crude oil producers are concentrated in Northern Africa (Algeria, Egypt, and Libya), Western Africa (Nigeria) and Southern Africa (Angola and South Africa). In several countries, oil has been a significant driver of economic growth. Against this backdrop, in the Market Forces scenario emphasis is placed on energy production, trading and transportation.
African carbon emissions from fossil fuel consumption (excluding natural gas flaring) have been growing rapidly, although from a very small base. However, as shown in Chapter 2: Atmosphere, contributions to carbon emissions are relatively small, with Africa contributing only about 3.6 percent of total emissions. In this scenario, with a growing focus on renewable energies including natural gas, hydropower and nuclear energy, emissions of carbon from coal fall from 42 percent of Africa’s emissions in 1997 to less than 33 percent in 2020.
Carbon emission levels generally mirror patterns of energy use; thus South Africa and Libya have among the highest emission levels, and Swaziland and Mauritania among the lowest. Under the Market Forces scenario, energy use increases more rapidly in some areas, as a result of higher levels of industrialization and increased domestic appliance use. However, the relatively high emissions from transportation decrease.
As shown in Chapter 6: Forests and Woodlands, wood fuel is the primary energy source in rural Africa. Improvements in energy infrastructure occur, including the development of pipelines and electricity grids, to ensure better supply to consumers. This high dependence has implications for pollution and deforestation, which in turn impacts on the sustainability of other environmental goods and services, including land resources. As shown in Chapter 2: Atmosphere, the high dependency on biomass contributes to indoor pollution, which has direct implications on the health of women and children, particularly those under five. Under the Market Forces scenario, the fuels available to and use patterns by the poorest communities do not change appreciably, and thus patterns of environmental and human health deterioration continue. Consequently, finding alternatives to wood fuel becomes a concern under the Market Forces scenario.
Africa is home to the world’s second-largest rain forest, in the Congo basin, and consequently plays an important global role as a carbon sink. Under the Market Forces scenario, this becomes the basis for increasing global interest in Africa.
As discussed in Chapter 8: Interlinkages: The Environment and Policy Web, gas flaring has considerable environmental and social costs. It not only contributes to GHG emissions but is a waste of potentially valuable energy sources. The gas is burned off rather than captured for use because of limited gas infrastructure. Under the Market Forces scenario, gas flaring gives way to gas utilization as a result of improved market conditions and improved opportunities for investment in advanced technology. The key policy lessons from the Market Forces scenario include: the need to minimize the impact of the global economy by adopting more interventionist mechanisms; the promotion of entrepreneurship at the local level through the adoption of financing mechanisms and providing subsidies that encourage the adoption of sustainable energy options; and diversifying the economy. Integrating the economies of AU member states is seen as an important intervention to support sustainable energy approaches.
Policy Reform scenario
In the Policy Reform scenario, concern mounts over the impact of increased noxious and GHG emissions due, in part, to heightened industrial development and growing consumption. While in the Market Forces scenario, demographic, economic and technical factors drive energy use, in the normative Policy Reform scenario climate change mitigation targets drive the trends of the energy sector.
Governments introduce environmental and social policies to improve environmental stewardship and social equity. At the regional level, AU members agree to adopt legislation that requires energy and environmental audits. Consequently, this becomes ones criterion for evaluating the performance of member states under the APRM. It also results in energy service providers improving efficiency and adopting demand-driven management projects, on behalf of clients mainly in the commercial, mining and industrial sectors, for a fee. The fee is based on the extent of reduction in energy consumption as indicated in the billing system. More consumers accept responsibility for environmental restoration, paying the private sector to undertake these activities. Payment is determined by the extent of environmental reparation. These initiatives have several important spin-offs, including job creation. This in turn makes a contribution towards the MDG target to halve by 2015 the proportion of people living on less than a dollar day and those suffering from hunger.
As a result of regional protocols introduced to control noxious and GHG emissions, tradable pollution permits are put in place to curb the emissions burden. An Africa-wide environmental and social scorecard system is introduced in industries, the mining sector and commercial firms to accelerate the drive to balance the three pillars of sustainable development. The scorecard provides credit points to industries and mining and commercial firms that undertake noteworthy environmental and social projects. The credit points are taken into account during the awarding of government contracts. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) take the scorecard issue further by educating and urging civil society to base their patronage of firms on accumulated credit points. In this context New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) publishes accumulated credit points every six months to facilitate access by the public. The public continues to show a keen interest in the scorecard by making regular phone calls to a dedicated hotline set up for this purpose.
Meanwhile a recommendation of a NEPAD task team, established to ensure the adoption of programmes and institutions in support of sustainable development targets, which identifies the achievement of sustainable energy systems as a major driver to economic development is adopted. The recommendation includes practical and implementable measures for the efficient use of energy, energy supply, the adoption and development of cleaner technologies, and the use of new and renewable sources of energy. These strategies are similar to those already being promoted to address increasing energy demand, from economic and population growth, such as use of a mix of fuels, technology improvement, the alteration of energy prices, and abatement measures.
Improved technologies for domestic use in rural areas are also an important focus; these include investing in the development of energy-efficient charcoal kilns, and in improved and environmentally sound stoves. In this scenario, all countries move towards using sustainable energy sources and systems – in particular those pertaining to new and renewable sources of energy, cleaner energy technologies and energy-efficient practices. Countries introduce legislation to discourage the supply of energy from unclean sources, including those that are carbon-intensive and contribute to the burden of global climate change. Given the unsustainable harvesting of trees for charcoal production, governments put in place incentives to turn marginal lands into plantations for use as fuelwood and for production of charcoal.
Simultaneously, legal measures that promote more efficient energy use and cleaner production, and discourage consumption are adopted. These measures encourage FDI and donor support for the development of home solar energy systems, wind turbines, geothermal energy, tidal wave energy, bio-energy and small hydropower schemes. To encourage investment and the development of cleaner technologies governments waive duties and taxes on new and renewable energy equipment and machinery.
Considering the fact that finance plays a major role in the adoption and roll-out of technologies, member states of the AU introduce innovative policies, after consulting financial institutions, to facilitate the granting of loans to projects on energy and environment.
At the request of the AU, governments enact regulations concerning the practice of bush burning for hunting game and also slash-and-burn agriculture. This contributes to improvements in air quality and a decrease in the emission of GHG. As a result farm owners begin to explore the opportunity of earning carbon credits under the World Bank’s Community Development Fund of the Prototype Carbon Fund. Some of the farmers apply directly to the Designated National Authorities in the various countries to register projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) with a view to monetizing their share of accrued carbon credits.
The policies that governments introduce under the Policy Reform scenario contribute to improvement in environmental accountability and reduction in poverty. To curb rising pollution from increasing industrial activity, governments enact environmental regulations. Government officials study the costs-and-benefits of the polluter pays principle as a tool to control pollution. Governments become proactive and focus on improving the performance of their own energy facilities. Sustainable energy technology transfer begins to show results, as home solar energy systems are increasingly being installed in the region.
Fortress World scenario
Under the Fortress World scenario, atmospheric quality does not improve. Environmental policies are inward looking, and focus predominately on improving the immediate opportunities available to the elite.
Under this scenario, there is little investment in alternative energy, and Africa continues to rely on biomass for its energy needs. Consequently, deforestation persists with run-on problems such as erosion and decreasing availability of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), which in turn impacts negatively on rural livelihoods. Negative health effects increase, due to the smoke generated in the use of wood fuel. Since the availability of medical facilities is restricted to elites, the average life span continues to decline. Meanwhile, the production of energy using established fuels is insufficient to satisfy rising demand and, in the absence of alternative fuel, the poorest communities rely more heavily on forest resources thus perpetuating the cycle of environmental degradation.
Under the Fortress World scenario, addressing global climate change is not a top priority. Deforestation continues unabated and there is little interest in the implications of this for global warming. Gas flaring continues to be practiced. Increasing climate variability has environmental and human well-being impacts. Decreasing rainfall places stress on already fragile subsistence agriculture that forms the basis of many rural livelihoods, increasing food insecurity and ill health. These areas are poorly resourced, and most people are unable to mitigate, adapt to or cope with climate change. For example in Uganda, in the absence of temperature-resistant coffee varieties, a temperature increase of 2º C can lead to the devastation of most of the coffee plantations, severely impacting the macro-economy of the country. Forest cover and agricultural activities continue to suffer due to adverse impacts of climate change, particularly in the areas outside the walls of the enclaves.
Demand for renewable energy technologies declines. Investment in energy-supply strategies based on equity and increasing rural opportunities, such as national electrification programmes, also declines. As poverty increases in the rural areas the disposable income of domestic consumers decreases, and this, along with decline of public sector energy budgets, results in the declining use of solar energy in rural electrification. Despite the fact that in Africa hydroelectric power is the only significant grid-connected renewable energy source, hydroelectricity’s share of total installed electric capacity declines as inadequate maintenance causes installations to become less efficient. Unexploited hydropower potential in the Congo, Nile and Zambezi basins is not developed.
Under the Fortress World scenario, the concentration of businesses and commercial concerns in the hands of the relatively small elite, who erect strong entry barriers against outsiders, continues to prevail. Frustration, despair and gloom continue to define the fate of the disadvantaged majority whose lives are characterized by a vicious cycle of poverty. Continued emissions, mainly from combustion of fossil fuels in internal combustion engines, exacerbate air pollution problems, especially in urban areas. Given the focus on the needs of a minority, investment in vehicles for public transportation and the lower end of the market is not a priority. Therefore, vehicle age increases and maintenance standards decline.
Great Transitions scenario
In this scenario, an increased emphasis is placed on the opportunities that scientific and other forms of knowledge and technology offer for improved environmental management. This includes ensuring that proper systems are developed for the collection, coordination and dissemination of data.
Increasing attention is paid to finding alternatives to carbon-intensive energy given its contribution to climate change and environmental pollution. The supply of new and renewable energy resources becomes the norm as consumers reduce patronage of goods and services produced using so-called dirty fuels and inefficient energy systems. Consumer action is based on improved awareness of negative environmental impacts, and a growing commitment to the ideals of sustainable development. This development takes place against the backdrop of governments mainstreaming the environment in all development policies and programmes. With the growing importance of the global media, consumers are wary of the increasing incidence of floods, drought, extreme weather conditions, malaria and other diseases, and the loss of coastal resorts and recreational facilities due to sea level rise. Meanwhile the insistence of the West on patronizing of goods from Africa which are manufactured by cleaner production and sustainable energy accelerates the drive towards the harnessing of new and renewable sources of energy.
The fact that energy systems underpin economic, social and cultural growth leads to investment in sustainable energy. Achieving equity and eradicating poverty are widely accepted goals. Consequently, sustainable energy strategies focus on the needs of rural communities and in particular poor people. Reducing dependence on biomass in rural areas is an important objective, and clear targets are established as the basis for monitoring progress in this area.
Meanwhile, advocacy and education by NGOs and government-led interventionist strategies in partnership with the donor community continue to bring good results. Throughout the region, cleaner production methods, lower consumption, and supply and demand management become commonplace. Financial institutions adopt green policies, including, for example, reducing interest rates on loans that are used to fund sustainable energy and environmental reparation activities. This triggers a deluge of applications for loans for such activities, which results in more investments flowing into this sector. The public shows support for efforts to provide sustainable energy by agreeing to pay premium prices for it. Existing bagasse-fired power stations undergo revamping to increase their installed capacity as more investments flow into the sugar-cane industry.
The effect of these actions leads to improvement in air quality, considerable reduction in transboundary air pollution, effective mitigation of GHG emissions and improvements in health. Premium electricity tariffs are reinvested in modernizing existing power plants. Workers join newly formed safety, health and environment associations in their places of work, while education authorities make energy and environment studies compulsory in schools and colleges. Energy and environmental management in industries, mining and commercial operations are made mandatory for AU member states under the auspices of a newly formed regional sustainable energy and environment accountability agency. The use of aerosol sprays that harm the ozone layer is discontinued due to availability and application of cheaper ozone-friendly substitutes. Incidences of acute and mild respiratory illness among workers and school children continue to decline resulting in less worker absenteeism, enhanced productivity and increased attendance at schools.
Natural resources accounting, in particular cost-benefit analysis of GHG and noxious gas mitigation measures, continues to inform GDP calculations among environmentally conscious AU member states. This increases GDP, facilitating budgetary allocations to areas of the economy previously deemed not quantifiable. A regional commission for economic analysis is established under NEPAD to support the inclusion of natural resources accounting. There are various regional and sub-regional initiatives focusing on building the capacity of additional AU members to undertake natural resources accounting. Additionally, these AU member states invest in peer learning from those already using these accounting techniques. Business leaders in collaboration with intergovernmental regional organizations establish a company to buy carbon credits from Africa-wide NEPAD projects. This results in the establishment of a secretariat at the Head Office in Addis Ababa to administer the exchange, with local offices in various AU member countries. Governments set up monitoring systems to ensure that investors comply with directives to transfer appropriate technologies on renewable energy systems and improvement in energy efficiency of goods and services. Additionally, operating obsolete and inefficient energy systems attracts surcharges.
Improvement in sustainable energy supply leads to significant reduction in transboundary pollution, improving health. There is continued commitment to promoting and developing new and renewable sources of energy. Globally, there are reports of energy shortages. Corporate Africa, concerned with the impact of energy shortages on their businesses, invests in new and renewable sources of energy. Furthermore, corporate Africa begins to use eco-friendly cars and patronize companies producing and marketing bio-fuels. The assembly of eco-friendly cars increases to meet the rising demand. The proactive harmonization of energy policies and legislation across African countries lead to cross-border energy trade, providing the best opportunity for sharing the region’s energy resources. This is noteworthy, considering the uneven endowment of energy resources across Africa.
Policy lessons for the Great Transitions scenario include encouraging and mobilizing public-private partnerships to uplift and empower poor people, creating an enabling environment to facilitate the development of sub-regional energy pools, integrating economies and promoting trade in energy, attracting private-sector investments in the energy and transport supply, and involving poor people in the decision-making process.
Policy lessons from the scenarios
Given the multiple impacts of unsustainable energy use at different spatial levels (local, national, regional and global) and for different sectors (industry, human settlements, health, agriculture biodiversity, especially forests, and climate) within in various time frames, this must become a key policy focus. The scenarios offer multiple lessons for addressing the energy issues.
As the impacts of unsustainable energy use are not restricted to the country where such practices occur but are felt globally, this is an area where transboundary cooperation is essential. Without successful global cooperation the measures adopted in one country are unlikely to have a significant impact. Africa needs to focus on the opportunities for such global cooperation, while at the same time taking action at the regional, sub-regional and national levels. In all scenarios, economic growth is a priority; however, the form of this growth will have important implications for atmospheric integrity. Adopting policies which promote the adoption of cleaner technologies is an important aspect of this. The scenarios offer various opportunities for this, including the use of market mechanisms, increased investment in R & D, and increasing engagement with the public.
- ECA, 2005. Economic Report on Africa 2005: Meeting the Challenges of Unemployment and Poverty in Africa. Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa.
- Gordon, B., Mackay, R. and Rehfuess, E., 2004. Inheriting the World: the Atlas of Children’s Environmental Health and the Environment. World Health Organization, Geneva.
- UNEP, 2002a. Africa Environment Outlook: Past, Present and Future Perspectives. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi.
- UNEP, 2002b. Global Environment Outlook 3. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi.
- UNEP, 2006. Africa Environment Outlook 2.
- UNSTAT/CDIAC, 2005. Millennium Indicators Database. United Nations Statistics Division. United Nations, New York.
This is a chapter from Africa Environment Outlook 2: Our Environment, Our Wealth (e-book).
Previous: Regional scenarios for Africa's future: freshwater | Table of Contents | Next: Regional scenarios for Africa's future: coastal and marine environments
Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the United Nations Environment Programme. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the United Nations Environment Programme should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.