Africa’s awash with green business opportunities – UNEP study

The report's launch coincides with the 19th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), which brings together 54 African environment ministers in Addis Ababa.

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UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has unveiled a comprehensive study, the “Africa Environment Outlook for Business,” which emphasises the potential of Africa’s private sector to advance its green agenda, leading to boosted GDP, higher income per capita, creation of tens of millions of jobs, and fostering collaboration between governments, businesses, and local communities.

The report’s launch coincides with the 19th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), which brings together 54 African environment ministers in Addis Ababa. The report underscores the importance of a holistic approach for businesses anchored in profit, people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships.

UNEP Deputy Executive Director, Elizabeth Mrema, highlighted the report’s findings, stating that policymakers could create a supportive environment for investments that address the triple planetary crisis by establishing robust regulatory frameworks, investing in research, innovation, and education, promoting public-private partnerships, and encouraging collaboration across governments, businesses, and local communities.

The study showcases successful green ventures and provides data on growth potential across various sectors:

1. Agriculture and Private Sector Investments in Nature:

  • Transitioning to sustainable agriculture, embracing practices like organic farming, precision agriculture, and agroforestry.
  • Leveraging digital technologies in agribusiness, with a potential market worth $1 trillion.
  • Addressing soil erosion to unlock net benefits in nutrients valued at $62.4 billion annually.
  • Restoring nature with a potential business value of $10 trillion and creation of 395 million jobs by 2030.

2. The Blue Economy and Ecotourism:

  • Ensuring resilience of the blue economy, projected to generate $576 billion and 127 million jobs by 2063, amidst challenges like overfishing, pollution, and climate change.
  • Recognising the potential of marine and coastal tourism to contribute over $100 billion by 2030.
  1. Climate-Smart Opportunities for Net-Zero Transition:
  • Seizing Africa’s potential as a renewable energy trailblazer, utilising solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal resources.
  • Exploring ocean renewable energy resources, which could generate between 100% to 400% of current global energy demand.
  • Tapping into the energy efficiency sector with products and services like lighting systems, smart buildings, and efficient industrial processes.
  • Addressing an annual climate financing gap of $213.4 billion, offering opportunities for innovative investors to enhance Africa’s climate resilience.
  • Leveraging significant reserves of critical minerals for electric vehicles, solar PV cell technology, and wind turbines.

3. Lucrative Pathways for Circularity:

  • Promoting sanitation, tackling plastic waste, establishing recycling infrastructure, sustainable packaging, e-waste collection, and refurbishment.
  • Enhancing resource utilisation and reducing food waste through efficient supply chains in the agro-food industry.
  1. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA):
  • Tapping into opportunities in the fashion and textiles sector, valued at around $31 billion, focusing on sustainable material sourcing, recycling, and ethical manufacturing.
  • Capitalising on the African automotive market, particularly in vehicle recycling, battery recycling, shared mobility solutions, and circular supply chain management.

The study acknowledges the challenges faced by African economies, including limited investments, scalability, high transaction costs, transportation issues, and electricity access and affordability. Policymakers are urged to prioritise reducing upfront costs, promoting energy-efficient solutions, and innovative financing mechanisms.

Rose Mwebaza, UNEP Director and Regional Representative for Africa, emphasised the unique landscape of Africa’s economic potential, youthful demographic, and opportunities for green growth, decarbonisation, and digital transformation. The report aims to inspire African entrepreneurs and businesses to engage in green growth and contribute to sustainable development goals.