By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka – Africa should adapt clean energy if it is to remain competitive in the global world and achieve the much espoused regional integration being propagated by the African Union.
Madagascar President Hery Rajaonarimampianina noted that the effects of climate change on the African economies has been severe hence the need for countries including the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to adapt to solar, biomass and geothermal, among other types of clean energy.
Remaining competitive on the global market for Africa remains cardinal if the economies are to grow through increased intra trade as well as meeting the increasing demand for its products in Europe.
President Rajaonarimampianina, who was in Zambia for a state visit last week, regretted Africa’s inability to rise to the occasion and improve its potential to tap into the vast natural and mineral resources, making it one of the poorest continents.
“There is need for the continent to rise to the occasion and compete and meet the needs of the international market where there is great demand for products and services from the African countries whose potential remains underutilized,” he said.
While Africa has maximised the utilisation of hydro potential and was tapping power from such sources, Rajaonarimampianina stressed that climatic change effects have reversed a lot of gains made by the continent, hence the need to resort to clean and alternative energy sources including solar power to bolster growth of various affected economies.
Instead, Africa, he noted, had become a dumping ground for various products and services which come through imports, a trend he said should be revisited if the continent was to realize full benefits from its potential.
“We must forecast possible measures to be incorporated into our development plans where climate change is seen as a variable. Alongside this and having talked about energy, we are encouraging our countries to pioneer the development of renewable energy.
“Of course, we have already developed hydropower, but we also have to develop other sources of energy including solar, wind or biomass in our different regions.” he added.
While Africa needs electricity to improve among other sectors, education and health sectors, it must be a commitment for all to also preserve the planet by protecting it, he said.
He noted that Africa and regional economic blocs like Comesa were faced with numerous challenges, including those related to security but that there was need to overcome such problems and ensure peace and security was maintained.
“African countries need to help each other in seeking to attain peace while terrorism should be condemned as it is haunting the region and affected the much espoused intra-regional trade among countries seeking to do away with tariff and non-tariff barriers, while at the same time respecting the standards that need to be put in place although they could vary according to particular countries but are not far from international standards,” he said.
Rajaonarimampianina, who is the chairman of Comesa, said the 19-member economic grouping should endeavour to remain relevant on the competitive market and turn the region into a haven of development because of the ample resources it is endowed with.
“We are turning to our region knowing that it is full of immense resources and that it has great potential that we must exploit for the good of our people first and of course for the good of our respective countries,” the Malagasy leader added.
He bemoaned, however, that despite the potential Comesa and the African continent which is endowed with abundant resources, there was need for all countries to work together and stop importing goods from outside the continent at the expense of the continent’s potential to be self-reliant, he said.
“Africa is in a paradox today, because it is still importing much of its needs from Europe, Asia and the United States, yet it is capable of being self-reliant, contrary to the aspirations of the African Union.
“This is a great challenge in Africa for which the African Union mandated us to achieve economic integration at regional as well as continental levels.
“Together we must take responsibility for the future and the development of our respective peoples, and only when we are together are we able to participate in the development of our continent.
He reiterated Comesa’s role in redressing infrastructure, energy and agriculture, which are key drivers of economic growth on the region saying there was need to develop strategies that would the region progress in the affected areas.
However, Comesa secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya said while Comesa faced various challenges including climate change, tariff and non-tariff barriers, member states were making tremendous strides to attain regional integration through industrialisation in all its member states.
“Yes, we indeed face various problems ranging from energy, agriculture among others because of climate change variables but we have made tremendous strides to redress these concerns and so far we are encouraging our members to take deliberate measures to grow their economies and reduce imports of goods that we are capable of producing ourselves,” he said.