People working in fields near Sangha village, Dogon Country, Mali, West Africa @Shutterstock, Torsten Pursche
This article was initially published by EnergyCapital&Power and can be accessed here.
Sustainable development in Africa is a multifaceted challenge, characterised by many moving parts. Among them, the interconnection of water, energy, and food is a key factor that must not be disregarded; consider for a second the complex interplay of water, power, and nourishment. Water is required for both food production and electricity generation, while energy is needed for tasks such as pumping and treating water and cultivating and processing food. Finally, communities are left defenceless and unable to grow without adequate access to clean water, stable energy sources, and nutritious sustenance.
And yet, in numerous areas of the African continent, reliable and feasible access to water remains a considerable challenge: such a scarcity not only affects basic human needs as more than 8.5 million people, face dire water shortages across the region, but also has an impact on agriculture, and energy production. In fact, the World Bank estimates that energy production in Africa is up to 10 times more water-intensive than in other areas of the world. This means that the continent’s recurrent power crises can largely be attributed to their lack of water resources and inefficiencies in the management of existing supplies.
Addressing the complexities associated with the water, energy, and food is therefore a paramount action area of the global strive against the climate crisis, and it calls for innovative solutions, tailored to local contexts and able to respond to specific hazards.
As an instance, it is estimated that the growth in demand for food, water and energy by 2030 will be 35, 40, and 50 percent, respectively in Africa. This is due to an increasing population, urbanisation, and an additional three billion middle-class people by 2030. Such an increase in key Indicators must be backed up by tangible progresses in food production: and It Is precisely here that the Water-Energy-Food Nexus comes into play in all Its effectiveness. As a matter of fact, a range of solutions has emerged, specifically designed for farmers and agricultural companies.
These solutions revolve around the strategic integration of innovative technologies, such as PV shading for horticulture or agrivoltaic, precision irrigation and cold storage. By harnessing the potential of these advancements, farmers can revolutionise their operations and achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and success. The proposed solution has the potential to be a significant game-changer for unfertile, water-scarce a
reas such as the MENA region, which only accounts for 1.4% of the global freshwater availability; however, it’s also one of the world’s biggest food importers, and two-thirds of the countries have less than 5% of land availability for agricultural use. In 2020, the region’s share of the world’s acutely food-insecure population was 20%, which is incredibly high considering that only 6% of the global population lives in the area.
Nonetheless, even with the heightened awareness around the important links between the three sectors, there are still challenges and obstacles that prevent us from truly developing WEF nexus projects. These range from the traditional ‘silo mentality’, which is rampant in institutional and private organisations, to a lack of viable financing options that would allow us to scale up nexus projects, a lack of business models that can be easily replicated, and insufficient technical skills when supervising and managing integrated projects.
We are therefore facing a broad and complex horizon, which RES4Africa Foundation decided to examine in its two new studies Designing Innovative Solutions for the Water, Energy and Food Nexus and Financing the Water, Energy and Food Nexus, developed on behalf of the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme, co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and implemented by GIZ. The analyses were carried out In collaboration with AFRY, Engreen and RINA.
The publications analyse how business models for water, energy, and food in the MENA region and the Niger Basin region could look very different in the next few years, and how it should be fulfilled through a structured roadmap, which the reports groups into three areas of intervention. The first concerns the governance domain: the dedicated authorities should not only outline ambitious national regulations, but also integrate them with specific actions promoting the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. The African business sector is another cornerstone to be firmly strengthened. Making it transparent and safe would maximise investment opportunities for private companies. The last area of intervention is the renewable energy industry; with a mobilisation of resources to support WEF Nexus-related projects and strategies that are tailored to the specific environment and development needs of each nation, this can create synergies between the three sectors.
Increasing the adoption of WEF models could ultimately stimulate a powerful acceleration of Africa’s energy transition, as well as provide a guarantee of its quality and impact. By utilising business models and financial mechanisms that focus on the WEF nexus, countries can increase economic productive capacity and drive socio-economic welfare in support of their abilities to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. With the right strategies and tools, the water, energy, and food systems of Africa can be successfully harnessed to create a sustainable future for the continent and its people.
RES4Africa (Renewable Energy Solutions for Africa) is a Foundation that works in support of Africa’s just energy transition in order to achieve the SDG7, ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Further Resources from RES4Africa
- Research Article // Financing the Water Energy and Food Nexus
- Research Article // Designing innovative solutions for the Water, Energy and Food Nexus
- COP27 // RES4Africa Foundation and the RCREEE discussed approaches to uptake the Water-Energy-Food Nexus solutions in Africa during COP27
- Nexus Regional Dialogue MENA // RES4Africa Foundation, NRD Programme, and Gebal Egypt discussed approaches to advance Water-Energy-Food Nexus solutions in the MENA region, in the framework of a dedicated event
- Publication // Africa’s Future Counts: Renewables and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus