Could Green Be the Color of the Future for Africa?

Special Report – Business of Green – Leading Africans to Responsible Recycling – NYTimes.com

This interesting article should be seen as the way forward to many African economies. I think its quite odd that African industry should be expected to develop in the same way as European and American industry came of age during the Industrial Revolution. African economics need to find areas of the market that North America and Europe have either no desire or no substantial lead in those sectors and to exploit it to their advantage.

I’m sure the image of using Africa as the dumping ground for computer and electronics parts is not one that African tourism industries want to promote. But what if Africa became the worldwide leader in recycling electronics? The continent would be able to carve out a niche in the global market that is in high demand. Obviously, countries like South Africa and Nigeria have a leg up on the competition due to their substantial infrastructure, and they should put the pedal down and encourage more high potential growth industries to establish hubs in their country. Again the image of black Africans managing and working in a recycling plant that takes the West’s junk and turns it back around and ships it back might not be an image that is welcome. But it would provide jobs, would provide a endless stream of products, and has a solid long-term future. Can anyone imagine a world without electronics, or their rubbish? Someone will have to be willing to collect and destroy or recycle the parts, why not Africa?

The way out of poverty for the continent is each country to exploit markets that are currently considered small, but necessary. Matthew McConaughey’s movie Sahara, where the villans are running a disposal plant in Mali that can vaporize toxic/nuclear waste by harnessing solar power immediately springs to mind. The problem in the movie is that while storing the toxins as they wait for disposal there has been leakage into the underground water system. But the concept of a waste disposal system is ingenious. And while no one might necessarily set out to tell all the toxic waste producers in the world to ship them their barrels of sludge, think about how profitable a recycling/disposal plant like that would be. Factor in the shipping costs, the taxes payed on the profits, the high-tech/green jobs that would be created and you would have an industry that could be highly profitable for the private corporation and the country. Granted the investment in such technology would not be local, and the highly trained scientists might not be originally local, but that shouldn’t be a reason for dismissing the concept. Importing overseas talent would be a temporary measure as the nation’s government can then make an investment (through the tax proceeds of the new industry) in their country’s technical institutions to produce the scientists and technical hands to replace the expatriates that start out working at the plant. 

Thomas Friedman is one of the loudest voices pushing for a green revolution, and if he is to be believed ‘green’ industry is the next big thing. Hydroelectric power from the Congo, solar power from the Sahara, recycling plants in South Africa could be all part of an industry that could be led by those on the African continent. Creating that monopoly on green industry could inspire a new century of growth that would see the continent become an equal of the industrial north. The symbiotic relationship that could be created would be sustainable for both north and south economies, and just as important, for the planet.