If something is sustainable, this means that you can keep doing it or using it at the same rate in the future. In the context of economics, sustainable growth means growing the economy without leading to harmful future consequences. It may seem easier to grow in the short term by farming intensely on land or selling raw materials. However, for economies to continue to grow many generations into the future, governments should consider growing sustainably.
These are some areas of African economies that could be made more sustainable.
The quality of farmland can decrease over time. If you grow the same crops on the land very intensely, you may increase your produce in the short term but it drains the soil of nutrients. These nutrients can be found in fertilisers. However, heavy use of some fertilisers is damaging to the soil in the long term. These are known as inorganic fertilisers which are not natural and created in factories through chemicals. When these chemicals build up in the soil, there can be an increase of toxic salts which damage future crop growth.
To encourage more sustainable agriculture, Kenyan charity Ace Africa has been educating farming communities. For example, these communities have been taught about organic compost which can be created from manure and natural waste products. These provide nutrients naturally without leading to toxic build-ups. It also improves the structure of the soil so it is better at absorbing water for healthy plant growth.
The charity has also educated communities on crop rotation. The same crop uses the same nutrients in the soil so growing the same crops means that those nutrients run out quickly. If you change the crop grown on the soil after each harvest, different nutrients are taken from the soil. This gives the land more time to rebuild the nutrients it lost when the last crop was grown. These practices ensure that the land is useable for a long time.
While some countries in Africa are very rich in primary resources like iron ores, diamonds and oil, these do run out. Selling all these resources today on the world market may lead to a short-term boost in the economy and people making high profits today. However, once this runs out, future generations cannot benefit from the same wealth and are left with an economy which has been dependent on raw material exports and has not grown in other sectors. First, the natural resources should be used to expand other sectors in the economy such as manufacturing, to add value to materials, and services. This ensures that the economy is diverse and no generation will ever be reliant on natural resources.
Second, some governments set up “sovereign-wealth funds.” This is some money that is kept for the future that has been made from selling resources today. For example, Ghana’s Heritage Fund receives 9% of the money made from selling oil. Botswana’s Pula Fund was created in 1994 to save money from its diamond revenues and is worth $5.3bn today. Governments may be tempted to spend money to boost the economy today rather than the future but having some sovereign-wealth funds ensures the economy benefits for many years.
FOSSIL FUEL PRODUCTION
Beyond just the sale of primary resources, countries should also consider increasing the use of renewable energy resources. Not only will fossil fuels like coal and gas run out, so we should not use them all now, but using fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. With temperatures rising across the world, this leads to more extreme weather conditions such as droughts which damage future harvests. Therefore, it would be beneficial if investment was made into alternative renewable energy resources such as solar and wind energy which is less polluting.
Growing sustainably may seem difficult as it means slower economic growth today. However, for the sake of future generations, it is important to consider sustainability and grow in a responsible way.