How to get Nigeria’s ‘green new deal’ – Part 2
First, in agriculture, Abimbola Ogunwusi, one of Nigeria’s leading forestry experts, has argued that the bamboo industry is a good way to generate energy and alternatives to deforestation. Plantations developing this crop provide an alternative to plundering forests and oil resources. Kit Ling Chin at the Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products in Malaysia, together with his colleagues, also identifies bamboo as having “great potential for use as a feedstock for biofuel production.”
They point out that “biogas can be employed as a fuel for engines, gas turbines, cells, boilers, and industrial heaters, and as a feedstock for chemical manufacture.” This cleaner form of energy is needed to promote a “high-income economy.” Like Ogunwusi, Chin and colleagues identify residues from sawmills as an additional source of bioenergy. Dr Jubril Atanda, a scholar based at Cyprus International University, has explored bamboo’s use as a substitute construction material in Nigeria.
He argues that bamboo development not only reduces pollution but can help control erosion by creating water barriers. Second, in alternative energy, a number of individuals and projects illustrate how Nigeria could build a domestically-anchored, solar-powered future. One foundation for such an industry is Nigeria’s Economic Sustainability Plan passed in July 2020. NSEP has supported off-grid renewable energy with $619 million in funding to install new solar panels on homes cut off from the grid. This plan was designed to stimulate locally-anchored (within Nigeria) manufacturing. Nigeria has teamed with foreign suppliers like Lumos, a Dutch-based firm, which sells self-contained solar facilities, enabling locals to put solar panels on their roofs. Foundations like the Global Innovation Fund, invest in special projects to help the poor. This has included funds to support microgrids in Africa and off-grid systems in Kenya. The National Board for Technology Incubation is designed to support and grow small businesses, innovation and entrepreneurs throughout Nigeria. The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, together with the Sokoto Energy Research Centre, also had a project to produce solar panels in Nigeria. The World Bank and EU have supported electrical modernisation, if not greening of energy, in funds totalling about 1.65 billion Euro.
These “top-down” initiatives need to reach local actors and communities at the base of society. An important bridge between such multinational actors and local communities is the community-minded entrepreneur. Awele Uwagwu, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, has joined with his Nigerian-based partner, Leke Oyefeso, to establish a start-up firm called Idagba, founded in the summer of 2020. This project aims to promote solar energy and establish a hub for solar in the whole of Nigeria. Engineers like Emmanuel O. B. Ogedengbe, a Nigerian involved in the Energhx Consulting company, has also been involved in various projects that have tried to develop alternative energy in Nigeria tied to solar cells, local vertical-axis wind turbines, and biopower tied to food waste, paper sludge or animal waste. Ogedengbe is part of various engineering networks in Canada and has links to both Nigerian and Canadian academics.
Involving such key persons is one place to start, but we need to link such persons to networks where we already have community networks and organisational resources. In the Taraba State, the Foundation for Peace, Hope and Conflict Management has many contacts who could contribute to the participatory pilot project described here. The Foundation’s work with reconciliation among ethnic and tribal religious groups has created a base of contacts and experience to advance the transformative project we need. We now explain how we can transform such activity into a comprehensive program for change.
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Building Cooperative Community Innovation Networks
The key to achieving change can come from what we call “Cooperative Community Innovation Networks”. These networks are a primary mechanism for meeting local needs by accessing national resources (as in Nigeria’s huge domestic market) or global ones (through partnerships with foreign-based scholars, engineers and firms). Our proposals relate to what Laura Pereira and colleagues at the Stockholm Resilience Centre refer to as “transformative spaces.” These “allow and enable dialogue, reflection and reflexive learning, while reframing issues in ways that allow solutions—or at the very least, attempts to experiment and transform—to be co-created and co-realised.” These spaces “operate as stepping stones for Social-Ecological System transformations that are attentive to the specifics of the context in which the space is being convened.” We complement this idea by focusing on how to create hubs for accumulating various forms of media, economic and political power tied to design, innovation, and production and consumption, to build wealth and social justice. Here are the key components of CCIN.
First, a key set of innovators are accessed who have local and foreign-based capacities to develop the new product, e.g. solar-powered systems. In some cases, a key bridge to technical knowledge can come from skills exchanges between universities in Nigeria and others in the Global North or even a cooperative federation of African engineers promoting alternative energy .
Second, various constituencies tied to environmental, labour, business, engineering, religious, and university constituencies and capacities form a working group. The working group is based on the joint cooperative gains that come from creating jobs, reducing the carbon footprint, and advancing domestically-based wealth. This means that over time, foreign-based knowledge and services in support of innovation are gradually replaced by domestically-based equivalents.
This kind of “import substitution” process is what led the Chinese and South Koreans to develop their own high-speed trains using designs and technology initially acquired from foreign suppliers outside their countries. The promise of a large domestic market must be leveraged over time to build Nigeria’s own capacities and production. Universities also have diverse capacities to support systemic ecological transformation.
Oluwatunmise Paimo, a Nigerian scholar currently affiliated with Stockholm University who has taught at Crescent University in Ogun State, argues that during the Covid-19 crisis Christians and Muslim societies cooperated extensively in prayer initiatives towards an end to the ongoing pandemic. She also argues that any change project must involve traditional leaders and worshipers, as they represent key supporters to developmental projects.
Third, a working group representing diverse constituencies together with community organisers and activists must organise and federate local and institutional purchasers and consumers who become the end users of alternative energy solutions. The community, linking needs-based interests and local groups, becomes the bridge to the capacities found in both the market and state.
The purchasing power of local government, institutional and organised consumers can be used to create businesses without the intermediary involvement of large oil companies, transnational corporations, and others who limit community wealth. This purchasing power can be used to expand if not create cooperatives. The Cleveland Model in the United States and the Preston Model in the United Kingdom have illustrated how these processes can work very successfully. Other models, like the former Greater London Enterprise Board and Dutch Science Shops, illustrate how networks of engineers and university-based technical personnel can advance various local alternative energy schemes. Paimo says that local, state, and federal governments must each be involved and can be won over if projects provide benefits to local constituencies.
To be continued tomorrow
Dr Feldman is an associate Professor at Stockholm University and Rev. Dr Bature is the executive director of the Foundation for Peace, Hope and Conflict Management, Nigeria.(email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org)