While NEPAD’s bioenergy policy is geared towards the increased use of renewable energy and the development of mega energy infrastructure for the African continent, Africa cannot afford development models where growth is not synonymous with economic inclusivity.

Dr Sergio Trindade, president of SE²T International, is internationally regarded as an expert on sustainable development and biofuels. (Photo: Anton Jordaan)

Dr Sergio Trindade, president of SE²T International, is internationally regarded as an expert on sustainable development and biofuels. (Photo: Anton Jordaan)

This was the message from NEPAD’s chief executive officer, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, at day one of the International Symposium on Alcohol Fuels taking place at the Spier Wine Estate outside Stellenbosch. Over the next two days some of the world’s top experts in the biofuel industry will discuss the role that alcohol fuels can play in enhancing sustainable rural development and agricultural production.

In his welcome address conference-organiser Prof Emile van Zyl said the energy crisis requires interaction from all levels of society, with the different role players surrendering their agendas to the higher task of a more energy-efficient society built upon renewable energy. Prof Van Zyl heads the Department of Microbiology at Stellenbosch University and holds the Senior Chair of Energy Research in Biofuels, funded by the Department of Science and Technology.

In his opening address, Dr Mayaki said Africa is regarded as key to global food security by 2050 because of its vast areas or arable land. Yet it is also the most food insecure region in the world: “NEPAD’s path and mission is geared towards the increased use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and mega energy infrastructure for the African continent. But this cannot be done without taking into account critical factors such as food security and poverty reduction; rural transformation and an increase in agricultural productivity; and special focus on women and children.”

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD and its new National Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) (Photo: Anton Jordaan)

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD and its new National Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) (Photo: Anton Jordaan)

The question is therefore not whether Africa should embrace bioenergy or not, but rather about transforming our ways of developing and using that energy: “Without taking those critical factors into account we are doomed to failure,” he warned.

One of the world’s foremost experts in sustainable development and biofuels, Dr Sergio Trindade of SE²T International, said poor nations and communities are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change. “We humans are not wired to respond to long term crisis. So how then do we face this long term threat and how do we respond? Technology alone won’t do it. Each one of us needs to change our mind sets and wire our brains differently and think long term to face a brave new world.”

This could mean different ways of organising the way we live and work, driverless driving, and a mosaic of fuels generated from a broad array of sources, he added.

On Tuesday (26 March) Prof Carlos Cruz, scientific director at the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), will discuss some of the research and development challenges related to productivity and sustainability of bioenergy in Brazil, while Dr James McMillan from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States will report on the status of cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels development in the US.

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