Practicing Ethiopia’s Green Strategy

Solid waste recycling ready for composting at a local factory in Ziway

By Bezawit Eshetu, Green Growth Adviser, EP

Ethiopia has been addressing the agenda of climate change since the early 1990s. Beyond ratifying numerous global and regional environmental agreements and conventions, Ethiopia has designed and embarked on its own ambitious national ‘Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy.’ 

But I wonder, how much of what’s on paper is in practice?

Eco-Industrial Parks boosting green manufacturing in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is focused on industrialization in selected priority sectors: agro-processing, leather, garments and cotton/textiles. With six industrial parks already operational and more in the pipeline, Ethiopia is becoming an African hub for light manufacturing. 

Most importantly, Ethiopia’s industrial parks are in fact ‘eco-industrial parks;’ they were designed and built to support green manufacturing practices through their state-of-the-art infrastructure that includes a wastewater treatment plant.

But though the facilities live up to Ethiopia’s promise of a green economy, more is needed to run them as such, to make ancillary functions available and realize Ethiopia’s Green Strategy overall.

What is Needed to Practice Ethiopian’s ‘Green Strategy’?

1. Behavior change is the single most important determinant that can make the most impact. If investors commit to green manufacturing, they will opt for efficient resource utilization (raw material, energy and water, procurement and the supply chain) and for greener production processes, which minimize the production of waste. In this regard, I firmly believe in the importance of organizing exposure visits to learn from success stories. This is the phase when the seeds of inspiration are planted, the fruits and outcomes are envisioned, and ownership and accountability are embraced.

This coupled with cost sharing schemes from development partners like EP absorbing the risk of the high initial investment cost for green manufacturing, makes exemplary initiatives possible in and outside the industry parks.

Consumers can also make a difference because profit is determined by growing consumers’ demand for sustainable products and services. Consumers’ choice is a language that can easily resonate with investors’ anticipated profit margins.

2. Ethiopia’s response to climate change has to be directed from its leaders. There is a need for clear mandate, policy direction and coordination from the government regarding the development, regulation and enforcement of environment compliance systems. The lack of this has meant that high-level strategies and policies are yet to be translated into specific operational manuals and standards that guide the most basic level of an activity. For instance, Ethiopia is yet to have a comprehensive policy, proclamation and standard on hazardous waste management, creating a gap in environment compliance   

3. Research and human resource development is needed to strengthen institutions, run and sustain eco-industrial parks, incubate ideas, create feasible innovative bankable projects for recycling and remanufacturing of waste into value-added by products (e.g. bricks can be made from industrial sludge), etc.

This calls for a strong university-industry linkage so that our industries can hire professionals with industry-specific skills, and our universities train professionals who are fit for the context.

4. Lastly, financial capacity will be important to sustain our eco-industrial parks as well as to finance supplementary functions. The Business Case for Eco-Industrial Parks Development in Ethiopia report commissioned by EP, provides useful pointers that can be adopted. 

All of the above shows that building a nation of green manufacturing is a multi-disciplinary, cross cutting effort. Stakeholders need to be learners, and innovative and persistent in the face of challenges and work collaboratively to bring the national commitment to fruition. After all, it is wiser for us to learn from the experience of other countries the cost in environment that is often attendant to economic growth.

Disclaimer: These are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Enterprise Partners or UKaid.