Globally the population continues to grow at 1% while in Africa it is estimated that by 2050 the population will double. Further, half of the population in Africa is below 25 years and are at the onset of their careers. Africa is also one of the top ten fastest growing economies with East Africa growing at 5% annually. The implication of this is rapid urbanization leading to higher demands in all sectors. It is thus important for Kenya to link job creation, decent work and the green economy that is emerging and creating green jobs.
Green jobs as defined by the International Labour Organisation are decent jobs in any economic sector which contribute to preserving, restoring, and enhancing environmental quality by improving energy, raw materials, and water efficiency. This type of job should increase efficient consumption of energy and raw materials; it limits greenhouse gas emissions, minimizes waste and contamination; protects and restores ecosystems; and contributes to adaptation to climate change.
The current situation in Kenya
Prof. Izael Da Silva, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, and Innovation at Strathmore University, reminded us during a webinar held on 28 th July, 2020, that the world is currently in transition in decarbonization, decentralization of energy systems and digitalization of skills. As a nation, Kenya intends to have a green, circular and bio economy by 2030. Therefore, we need to prepare to thrive in this emerging green economy otherwise a crisis is looming if we transition with a minimal workforce. He went on to give the example of Brazil and how they strategically prepared for agri-business, aeronautical engineering and petroleum exploration in the 70’s. Today, Brazil is at the top in agri-business.
At Strathmore University, we are looking ahead at the needs of the future. We recently began two new programmes: A Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and a Master of Science in Sustainable Energy Transitions. “We intend to ensure that these courses are linked to the Sustainable Development Goals so that they are ready for the future. As a country, we need to train people at all levels and make them tech savvy so that they can solve future problems,” Prof. Da Silva concluded.
The link between green jobs and decent work
Unfortunately, great training does not always equate a decent job. It is therefore paramount that from the onset decency of work is not forgotten which is the norm in emerging areas. A decent job as defined by ILO pays fair income, guarantees a secure form of employment, a safe working environment and ensures equal opportunities including social protection and freedom of workers to express themselves. An ongoing research by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reveals that the overall effects of renewable energy transitions on creating employment and developing the economy while supporting vulnerable groups are positive, noted Dr. Ulrike Ler, the Head of Socioeconomics at the International
Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). However, we need to ensure we maintain high working standards, otherwise the advanced technology will upset both the workforce and the financiers which will affect in the long run staff motivation and funding, she added. Dr. Urlike Ler advises that a company’s renewable energy policy should include decent work. When you handle projects and partnerships, this policy will ensure that those involved are not exploited.
The gap in technology transfer
Other than ensuring decency of work, technology transfer is a key component in green job creation. By adapting the best technologies around the world, we shall be able to create more green jobs in Africa. One way of looking at technology transfer is to have people in the country with the skills to be able to work on equipment, technology, and plants that support the green economy and that they can install, use, maintain, repair and re-cycle. Sadly, this is not the case.
Dr. Francis Kangure, Institutional Performance, Improvement Unit, RTI International spoke of his experience in the renewable energy industry over the past 10 years. He has seen organisations import equipment, fly in experts to train users on the equipment and assume that technology transfer has taken place. When the technology breaks down, the experts are then flown back in to repair. This leads our engineers to become users or installers because they cannot repair or re-use or produce. This is the gap. As partners in the sector, we need to adopt a different strategy. A complete technology transfer involves training to use, to repair, to produce, to recycle and to modify.
The webinar, which was moderated by Ms. Sarah Odera, Ag. Director, Strathmore Energy Research Centre, brought to the forefront areas that need to be tackled to ensure that Kenya is not only a green, circular and a bio economy by 2030 but that all involved in the emerging area have decent jobs with sustainable skills.
To listen more on this insightful webinar and tap into the future possibilities, click this link.
This article was written by Anne Njeri Njoroge.