Africa is poised to take the lead on sustainable development practices, says Cannelle Maricaux, Francophone African entrepreneur – Business Insider Africa

Africa is poised to take the lead on sustainable development practices, says Cannelle Maricaux, Francophone African entrepreneur – Business Insider Africa yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7

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The populations and economies of leading countries and trading blocs are currently experiencing a slowdown, or even a decrease, in growth. However, this stagnation isn’t universal.
Africa’s population has grown from around 140 million in 1900 to 1.4 billion now – and the UN predicts 2.5 billion people, or 25% of the global population, will be African by 2050. Similarly, its GDP is projected to rise from its current $2 trillion to a staggering $29 trillion in 2050, led by nations like Botswana, Libya, Niger, Chad, and Rwanda. Although challenging, the continent is in a unique position to not only experience significant growth but also to do it sustainably.

Cannelle Maricaux is a Belgian-Senegalese investment specialist, financial advisor, and CEO of Koolute Investments. With an upbringing that spanned East and West Africa and a decade in the Middle East and Europe, she knows the vast possibilities presented by this growth but is all too aware of some of the problems ahead.
“Africa is at a crucial stage right now and is set to experience unprecedented population and economic growth,” Cannelle explains. “The potential is huge, but there are issues that need to be overcome if we are to transform economies and grow sustainably. However, on this latter issue, I think Africa is in a unique position”.

Africa is perfectly placed to lead the sustainable future

Cannelle continues, “African countries have a considerable advantage in that they can learn from developed economic counterparts and avoid carbon-intensive growth paths. For example, locally adapted sustainable design, construction, practices, and materials coupled with renewables and innovation represent a great opportunity for mitigation and resilience in Africa’s rapidly growing building stock. This can shape the future if implemented correctly.”

Africa has one of the world’s lowest per capita carbon emissions, with just one ton of CO2 emitted annually per person, in contrast to over 10 tons in North America. This, combined with a tradition of sustainable building techniques across the continent, means new buildings can embrace modern, eco-friendly solutions while preserving Africa’s rich cultural heritage.

This will be particularly important as the region will face the brunt of climate change. Cannelle says, “Quality, sustainable housing is an important way of ensuring vulnerable populations are more resilient to the effects of the climate crisis. Particularly as the frequency of natural disasters has tripled in the past 30 years, with Sub-Saharan Africa home to nearly three-quarters – 393 million – of the global number of children living in countries affected by emergencies.”
Fortunately, the continent has several significant advantages as it moves forward. A good example is the potential for renewable energy. Cannelle points out, “Africa has 39% of the world’s renewable energy potential, more than any other continent.” Such is the potential for solar power from areas around the Sahara, for example, there are already multiple projects building electricity cables to Europe.

Africa also benefits from abundant natural riches, a youthful workforce, and growing global partnerships. Governments, NGOs, and international organizations are working with African countries to improve knowledge and increase green technology investment and usage.

Challenges remain, but the solutions already exist
Cannelle explains, “We are in a good place to lead sustainable development, but several issues must be overcome. Across Africa, urbanization is changing demographics and entire regions as populations explode. Unfortunately, this has also led to a severe housing crisis. The African Development Bank estimates 3.3 million affordable houses are needed each year, and this target isn’t being met.”

Another issue is that the houses that are being built often rely on imported materials and fossil fuel-based power. This has resulted in significant emissions. While the potential for vast amounts of renewable energy is growing on the continent, only 2% of global renewable spending was spent in Africa over the last decade.

“There are several things we can do,” Cannelle says. “There are a growing number of green building initiatives that embrace energy efficient designs and renewable energy integration while adapting to local contexts, such as traditional techniques and climate needs.”

This approach will be combined with more sustainable communities, aided by innovative technology, education, and increased public and private partnerships.

The future is looking increasingly Africa-centric, and despite ongoing challenges, the continent is in a perfect position to get initiatives in place and lead the world in sustainable design. For this to work, there must be a focus on urban and community development.

“Africa’s remarkable transformation toward a more sustainable way of living is already underway. Amidst these changes, Africa’s urban planning endeavours become more critical than ever”, Cannelle concludes.

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