Bioenergy and African transformation
CITATION: Lynd, L. R. et al. 2015. Bioenergy and African transformation. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 8(18): doi:10.1186/s13068-014-0188-5.
The original publication is available at http://www.biotechnologyforbiofuels.com/content/8/1/18
Among the world’s continents, Africa has the highest incidence of food insecurity and poverty and the highest rates of population growth. Yet Africa also has the most arable land, the lowest crop yields, and by far the most plentiful land resources relative to energy demand. It is thus of interest to examine the potential of expanded modern bioenergy production in Africa. Here we consider bioenergy as an enabler for development, and provide an overview of modern bioenergy technologies with a comment on application in an Africa context. Experience with bioenergy in Africa offers evidence of social benefits and also some important lessons. In Brazil, social development, agricultural development and food security, and bioenergy development have been synergistic rather than antagonistic. Realizing similar success in African countries will require clear vision, good governance, and adaptation of technologies, knowledge, and business models to myriad local circumstances. Strategies for integrated production of food crops, livestock, and bioenergy are potentially attractive and offer an alternative to an agricultural model featuring specialized land use. If done thoughtfully, there is considerable evidence that food security and economic development in Africa can be addressed more effectively with modern bioenergy than without it. Modern bioenergy can be an agent of African transformation, with potential social benefits accruing to multiple sectors and extending well beyond energy supply per se. Potential negative impacts also cut across sectors. Thus, institutionally inclusive multi-sector legislative structures will be more effective at maximizing the social benefits of bioenergy compared to institutionally exclusive, single-sector structures.