Bending the Linear toward the Circular
The Challenge of Developing East Africa – Part 3
2 min read

The Challenge of Developing East Africa – Part 3

In meeting its emissions-reduction challenges, East Africa faces a less daunting challenge than many parts of the world

Outside of Rwanda, which is in my current Top 10 most relatively dynamic sociotechnomic countries in the world, Tanzania finishes 67th among the 143 nations I survey in my Tau Index, with the rest of the region below that.

Another critical issue today is to gauge the challenge facing each nation to improve its level of CO2 and related emissions, while continuing to develop economically. As with all of my rankings, I calculate a relative challenge rather than absolute, to provide a more accurate picture than traditional methods provide.

In meeting its emissions-reduction challenges, East Africa faces a less daunting challenge than many parts of the world, mostly because its manufacturing sector and traditional infrastructure is so underdeveloped. I've taken the 143 countries under survey and calculated a number that indicates the level of each nation's challenge, based on total emissions, emissions per capita, the political environment, and relative sociotechnomic development. I've color-coded the results for easy reference.

Color-Coded Challenges Provide a Guide
Rwanda is again the leader, sitting in the green zone (least difficult) of emissions challenges. Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi sit in the next zone, color-coded yellow. Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan are all in the red zone of very difficult challenges, while the DRC, likely because of its active mining sector yet underdeveloped overall economy, sits in the purple zone of the most difficult challenges in the world.

It's important to note that the color-coded challenges do not correlate well with income levels. In fact, the United States, still the world's wealthiest nation and the world's second-largest emissions producer, is also in the purple zone. China, the world's largest emissions producer, also sits in the purple zone, as do the third- and fourth-largest, India and Russia. The overall emissions challenge facing the world, in other words, is dire. East Africa is less dire overall than many regions.

I noted above that the overall challenge is to eliminate emissions while continuing to develop economically. To do so in East Africa requires a very serious program of electricity development. The region needs all of today's digital infrastructure – computers, datacenters, networking and the bandwidth it requires – to begin to catch up with the developed world and reach its vaunted potential.

The Numbers Needed to Achieve Progress
To do so, it needs electricity. This will be expensive in relative terms. For example, I've calculated that to bring the eight nations here up to 25% of the per capita electricity usage found in the middle range of the EU would require $132 billion, not counting permits and other paperwork, delays, inflation in cost of materials, or other contingencies.

This may not seem like a lot of money when compared to the way trillion-dollar deficits and initiatives are thrown around in conversations in the US and EU. But it represents a very large percentage of each nation's GDP to happen.

This percentage ranges from Kenya (18%) through Tanzania (29%), Ethiopia (38%), Rwanda (45%), Uganda (49%), DRC (65%), Burundi (82%) and South Sudan (167%). With Kenya and Tanzania skewing the overall numbers lower, this calculates to 33% of the region's overall economy. Clearly this is a huge challenge, particularly in the three countries with the highest relative requirements.

Such development must be done incrementally, project by project, of course. The costs also don't factor in the additional investments required to build out a traditional and digital infrastructure to use all the new electricity, or the economy to develop around it.

It's Not That Much
Yet, even a tripling of the $132 billion, for example, still represents only 0.5% of the global economy, to bring significant improvements to the lives of 5% of the world's people. Similar ratios exist in all of the developing world, whether in Africa, Asia, or the Americas.

If the leaders of the world could stop killing people for awhile and rid themselves of the notion that everything must be a zero-sum game, then there is hope to develop East Africa, and elsewhere.