Can Africa’s manufacturing base contribute to ecoprenuership?

Peter Makwanya

ECOPRENUERSHIP is a term coined to represent the principles of entrepreneurship applied to create businesses that can solve environmental problems, while operating sustainably. With green living as the in-thing and the way to go, ecoprenuership placement within the framework and technological base can save Africa’s quest for green economy or low carbon emission status. However, emphasis is centred on Africa’s manufacturing base with regards to the quality of goods and services it produces.

Ecopreneurship can be viewed in the context of individuals adopting and adapting to more sustainable business practices, by making existing industries become greener. While the whole world is geared towards a gradual and smooth transition from unsustainable business practices to greener and technologically oriented ones, Africa should not be left behind.

All the developed and industrialised countries are moving from the core and proven business practices to cleaner and environmentally friendly ones but from Africa’s point of view with regards to its thin manufacturing base including the quality of goods it produces, what will it transit from? For the continent to graduate to a certain level of industrialisation and orientation, it needs to start from somewhere notable, which is not the case currently.

While each and every African country wants to claim manufacturing orientation or mechanism, it is the quality of goods and products that qualifies the continent for a stronger industrialised status. In this regard, Africans need to have comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge of their countries’ manufacturing or assembling base.

Do African countries manufacture and produce goods, products and services or act as assemble points of agricultural and mining equipment, among others. This array of finished goods assembled into finished products do not turn a certain country into a manufacturing one. From these findings, most of African countries are not manufacturers of heavy-duty and mechanised products but are just into assembling using already made parts.

An analysis of a few countries regarded as industrial power houses of Africa like South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, among others, reveals that they are manufacturers of light-weight goods with the exception of South Africa.

South Africa manufactures agro processing machinery, automotive, military hardware, electronics, textiles, citrus, oils (cooking and industrial), information and communication technology, clothing and footwear, among others. That is why South Africa is classified among the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries because it can neither be called a developing or a developed country because it is not poor or very rich.

One other thing about South Africa is that although it is into manufacturing, it is also highly into assembling of finished products. In terms of ecoprenuership, truly, South Africa has the potential to transit from unsustainable ways of manufacturing to clean and greener technological orientation.

Given its giant coal-based operations, South Africa needs more serious green energy investment pathways. Egypt, another Africa’s industrial powerhouse, produces petroleum products, textiles, water purification, chemical products and capital goods. Just like South Africa, Egypt cannot be described as poor or very rich but it is a well to do country.

Nigeria is another African country with great potential to be among the Brics countries but it is characterised by  ambivalences and contradictions than any other African country. Nigeria is the leading producer of crude oil but it experiences power cuts frequently. Nigeria imports more goods and products, even those that it produces.

One ironic element about South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria is that, these three Africa military powerhouses even manufacture high-powered military hardware such as armoured cars and military jets, among others. These innovations make these countries potential candidates for green energy transition and ecoprenuership because they have somewhere to start from.

African countries like Morocco and Algeria share moderate manufacturing expertise between them. Morocco is into citrus processing, horticultural products, phosphate products and it also exports solar energy to Europe. Algeria is into agro-chemicals, petro-chemicals, fertilisers, electronics, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, among others. Once again, these two countries can transit their manufacturing bases into green energy technologies and realise carbon-free economies.  Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mauritius, Senegal and Ghana, among others, have great ecoprenuership potential but they are light-weight manufacturers.

They are into tea processing, leather and leather products, tobacco processing, mining, textiles, agricultural products, among others. In this regard, if we want to talk about ecoprenuership and going green in Africa, let us not put all countries in one basket in the name of globalisation or SDGs.

Each country is unique in its context and the manner in which particular countries should transit need to be determined by their contextual orientation.

Zimbabwe has lately foregrounded industrialisation through Education 5.0, trending at State universities, where universities are leading the way in coming up with industrial innovation hubs. Some State universities have started processing foodstuffs using locally available domestic and forest fruits. It ia also into the manufacture of agricultural and mechanisation products, agro-chemicals, mining equipment, among others in a bid to industrialise and produce goods locally, innovate and increase value addition.

As these innovation hubs produce goods and services, they are not doing this in isolation, but with the environment and climate change in mind. This is also in line with Agenda 2063, the “Africa we want”. The aim is to industrialise, innovate and not only create jobs but green jobs and save the planet from carbon emissions.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: [email protected]

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