Developing knowledge-based bioeconomies in sub-Saharan Africa: how can Sweden help?

Economies in sub-Saharan Africa are hampered by low productivity, high vulnerability to climate change and poor market infrastructure. A promising new response to these challenges is the development of knowledge-based bioeconomies, which could boost national and local economies, reduce poverty, and help achieve environmental sustainability by reducing the reliance on petrochemicals.

Our new policy brief discusses the potential knowledge-based bioeconomies, have for improving economic development of African countries, using the resources they have and their strengths at its best. The brief also elaborates on how Sweden can support the development of bioeconomy in Africa by enabling dialogues, building capacity, and providing backing for incubation and innovation.

The aim of bioeconomy is to make the most from agriculture, complementing food, feed and fibre production with a wider range of agro-industrials such as pharmaceuticals, green chemicals, industrial materials and energy. The two main features of knowledge-based bio economy are biotechnology tools and higher productivity with sustainability in mind. This facilitates more precise crop breeding and enables the development of crop varieties that are tolerant to droughts and pests, or have a higher nutrition status or qualities more suitable for processing. Furthermore, developing modern agro-processing could enable African agriculture to produce high-quality food and agro-industrial products. . The prospects of bioeconomy in Africa are very promising. The potential to diversify and add value to what’s grown in Africa is great. Linking regional and international value chains could be the first big step in this direction.

Sweden has a lot of knowledge and experience in bioeconomy. The brief identifies three ways of how Sweden can support the development of knowledge-based bioeconomy in sub-Saharan Africa:

 Key trade or network institutes can enable awareness rising, and create dialogue forums as well as networking possibilities. Furthermore, a bioeconomy specific network could be set up to facilitate partnerships.

Capacity building and joint knowledge development could be encouraged either through funding Research & Development initiatives or through e.g. supporting the development of national and regional bioeconomy strategies for African countries.

Sweden could help to incubate, innovate, and upscale businesses through business partnerships funded by e.g. small incubation grants from Sida, or through the private sector.