Biofuels in Africa - Opportunities, Prospects, and Challenges

Donald Mitchell
World Bank

Biofuels offer an opportunity to African countries to produce new cash crops for domestic use or export. High energy prices and large consumption mandates already agreed in many countries suggest that these opportunities will remain for an extended period of time. The impacts of expanded production of crops for biofuels will be felt in the entire rural sector as resources are shifted away from traditional crops and prices of all agricultural commodities rise. African biofuel’s producers are well placed to produce biofuels because of their relatively abundant land resources and preferential access to protected markets with higher-than-world-market prices for biofuels.  The rights of current land users must be protected and equitable methods of revenue sharing with local communities must be found if production is to be sustainable. Protecting the environment and biodiversity is also vital to the sustainability of biofuel’s production and this can be done by using best crop production and harvesting practices and establishing protected areas. Policies needed for biofuels depend on the scope and scale of the industry and countries should take a phased approach rather than approving all aspects of biofuels at one time. Institutional capacity will need to be developed and new regulations and procedures developed. Countries can benefit from the experience of countries in the region and elsewhere in designing their biofuels strategies. Multilateral institutions, donors, and the development community can contribute to the development of a sustainable biofuel’s industry in Africa by providing financial support, policy guidance, and the opportunity for shared learning among those involved in developing biofuel’s policies.

Publication date