GRFA: Biofuels boost sustainability, rural development in Africa

By Global Renewable Fuels Alliance | October 29, 2014

As the first African Sustainable Transport Forum gets under way in Nairobi, Kenya, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance called on forum attendees to adopt biofuels friendly policies and regulations that would kick-start the increased use of sustainable biofuels in Africa’s transport sector.

"This Forum is an opportunity that should be grasped by Africa to take a vital step towards more sustainable transportation options. The potential of sustainable biofuels should be at the center of these talks because they are the best sustainable transport option, both in environmental and economic terms," said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA.

Earlier this year the GRFA forecasted that 2014 global ethanol production would reach 90.38 billion liters and its use worldwide would reduce GHG emissions by over 106 million metric tons globally. (S&T)2 Consultants Inc., an internationally renowned energy and environmental consulting firm, in partnership with the GRFA produced data which showed that these GHG reductions are equal to removing over 21 million cars off the road annually.

"One-hundred-and-six million metric tons or 21 million cars in GHG reductions is massive, it’s the same as removing all the cars registering Malaysia off the road, but much more can be achieved if African leaders choose a path towards a more sustainable future for African transport," Baker said.

While biofuel production in Africa has remained relatively low when compared to other jurisdictions, it has grown year on year with ethanol production alone now forecasted to reach 260 million liters in 2014. The domestic use of this ethanol fuel could reduce Africa’s GHG emissions by 325,000 metric tons, equal to removing over 100,000 cars off the road.

"In addition to the important opportunity to reduce GHG emissions in transport, biofuels also offer African countries a fantastic opportunity to spark much-needed investment in agriculture, and, by creating jobs and boosting household incomes, poverty can be alleviated and food security improved,” said Baker.

“Sustainable biofuels are an important tool to help enable the revival of Africa’s rural communities, Africa’s political leaders need to promote them," Baker said.

Heiner Thofern, head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s Bioenergy and Food Security Project, has previously said that if "done properly and when appropriate, bio-energy development offers a chance to drive investment and jobs into areas that are literally starving for them." A 2011 study by the UNFAO showed that biofuel production can boost food and energy security and reduce poverty in developing countries at the same time.

African Sustainable Transport Forum attendees should note that Africa’s biofuels opportunity was identified in 2010 by the World Bank when it released "Biofuels in Africa: Opportunities, Prospects and Challenges." The report found that "a new economic opportunity for sub-Saharan Africa is looming large: biofuel production...Africa is uniquely positioned to produce these new cash crops for both domestic use and export. The region has abundant land resources and preferential access to protected markets with higher-than-world-market prices. The rapid growth in the demand for transport fuels in Africa and high fuel prices create domestic markets for biofuels....Sub-Saharan Africa has more than 1 billion hectares of land with potential for rain-fed crop production...of which less than one-quarter is being cultivated. Biofuels offer the prospects of a new cash crop for farmers, increased employment in rural areas, reduced fuel import costs, and foreign exchange earnings.”

"African Sustainable Transport Forum attendees should include increased biofuels use in their future transport plans,” Baker said.

“Africa has enormous potential for increased biofuels use and with the right policies could become a world leader in sustainable biofuels production that would bring significant environmental benefits and economic investment to the continent," Baker concluded.