Maria Michela Morese, PhD
Natural Resources Officer
Executive Secretary of the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP)
Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Bioeconomy challenges and opportunities in Africa through the lens of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought Africa to urgently address its energy access deficit. Without secure, reliable and quality access to power, the region’s health systems and related infrastructure cannot function, especially during a pandemic situation. Nonetheless, energy demand in Africa continues to grow and this presents challenges in mobilising the substantive and transformative investments needed, but it also offers opportunities for Africa to correct its vast energy deficit with green transformative business models. African countries have the opportunity to build back better with resilient energy systems that not only address energy access and climate change, but also spur economic growth and employment.
In this general context, the demand for agricultural and forestry products is rapidly increasing in Africa, due to growing demand for food, feed, fuel, fibre and biochemicals. As demand increases, so too do the pressures on this natural resource base and ecosystem services due to overexploitation and pollution.
Bioeconomy, in particular in Africa, may represent an opportunity to tackle many societal issues concurrently. This is especially important also in the context of climate change: the circular bioeconomy is viewed as one of the solutions for low carbon development, but climate change is concurrently increasing the pressures on natural resources and ecosystem services, possibly restricting the potential role of biomass as a solution. As with any system with a multitude of linkages, there are inevitably synergies and trade-offs between the components, and sustainability of biomass should be cross-sectoral to be able to effectively take into account cumulative impacts of multiple sectors, whilst also taking advantage of potential synergistic biomass uses across these sectors.
The EUBCE is the place where these matters are discussed by experts, academia and companies, and where innovative ideas and industrial initiatives are presented, also with a view to facilitate cooperation with regions outside the EU, including with Africa.