Sustainability around the world: Spotlight on Nigeria
Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa. It’s also the most populous country in Africa, and the sixth most populous in the world. Population growth in Nigeria has been explosive: in 1950, the country’s population stood at 32 million. Today, it’s about 232 million, and most forecasts expect it to surpass 400 million by 2050. This level of population growth, coupled with rapid economic growth, has big implications for sustainability. To find out more, we spoke to Tomi, our Local In-Market Expert in Abuja. Here’s what she told us.
Environmental health-related risks are a concern in Nigeria
Nigeria has diverse environmental problems such as air pollution, water pollution, oil spillages, deforestation, desertification, erosion, and flooding. Last year, flooding affected 3.2 million people, with over 600 lives lost, 100,000 people displaced, and over 300 hectares of farmland destroyed. Nigeria attended COP27, highlighting these issues and the need for more finance to tackle the climate emergency. Nigeria’s minister for the environment told COP27 that Nigeria lacks the public finance required to fund energy transitions and climate action.
Sustainability can be seen as a nice-to-have
Despite experiencing the effects of climate change, in Nigeria it’s still the case that adopting a Net Zero strategy to curb carbon emissions is seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’. As we’re seeing in other countries, including the West, economic downturns or hardship inevitably means that less priority is placed on environmental commitments by both governments and businesses whose primary focus is economic growth, profit generation, and cost savings.
Oil and gas are big revenue earners for Nigeria
Nigeria is rich in both crude oil and gas reserves – fossil fuels often blamed for climate change. But the country is also blessed with renewable energy sources such as solar, hydropower, wind, and biomass. The challenge for Nigeria is to create a favourable business environment for investors to develop these areas in the future.
Currently, however, Nigeria’s national grid is not sufficient for the needs of the growing population and access to clean affordable energy remains a challenge for much of the country (including businesses and individuals). This means that diesel generators continue to play a significant role in the country’s energy mix.
Sustainable development is gradually gaining traction among Nigerian companies
Government regulations and financial incentives play a crucial role in aligning profitability with sustainable practices. However, challenges persist, such as the lack of strict enforcement, especially for foreign companies operating in Nigeria.
Oil companies are often criticised for their contributions to environmental degradation, particularly through land and air pollution. Coca Cola, as a major contributor to plastic waste, has also faced scrutiny. However, Coca Cola has also supported the green sector by investing in companies and startups focused on combating plastic pollution, showing the potential for companies in Nigeria to evolve and prioritise sustainable development.
Cultural beliefs shape perspectives on sustainability
As well as age, cultural beliefs also shape perspectives on sustainability. For example, in some communities, people fear the misuse of intimate waste products, leading to their burning rather than proper disposal. They fear these items would be used for evil spiritual purposes. Addressing cultural perceptions and providing education can help overcome such barriers to sustainable waste management practices.
Additionally, Nigeria’s infrastructure can also limit the extent to which people can embrace sustainability. For example, there is demand for ride-sharing initiatives, but Nigeria’s road infrastructure poses challenges in many communities.
Nigeria’s Climate Change Act
After COP26, Nigeria enacted the Climate Change Act. The Act provides a framework for achieving low greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable economic growth. Key features include:
- Creating a National Council on Climate Change, which will have policy-making powers on all climate change matters in Nigeria
- A carbon tax fund to finance sustainable initiatives
- A requirement for larger organisations to designate a Climate Change or Environmental Sustainability Officer responsible for annual reports – to encourage businesses to incorporate sustainability measures
Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan
In 2022, Nigeria’s government adopted its Energy Transition Plan (ETP), which sets out how it intends to achieve Net Zero by 2060. Amongst other objectives, the plan aims to lift 100 million people out of poverty by driving economic growth, connecting people to modern energy services, and managing potential job losses in Nigeria’s valuable oil sector because of global decarbonisation.
The ETP focuses on embracing technologies that maximise emission reduction, in sectors which currently generate significant carbon emissions. For example, in the oil and gas sector, the plan intends to mitigate climate change using technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), direct air capture, and hydrogen fuel.
Nigeria wants to commercialise its agricultural sector
Agriculture contributes significantly to global greenhouse emissions, and Nigeria’s rudimentary agricultural practices can cause environmental issues, as they have led to soil erosion, deteriorating rangeland, dwindling forests, and falling water tables. About 80% of Nigeria’s agricultural sector is made up of smallholders. For the Nigerian government, increased commercialisation of agriculture is a long-standing priority, including greater use of mechanisation. This brings with it both environmental benefits and risks – for example, one drawback of using certain chemicals in weed control is the damage they can potentially cause to other wildlife.
Reviving and embracing traditional practices such as composting could play a pivotal role in resolving Nigeria’s waste predicament. With its abundant organic waste resources, Nigeria can draw on the enduring wisdom of composting practices in rural communities.
There are multiple examples of sustainable innovation
For example, Jaebee Furniture, a circular enterprise, and Yetroselane Fashion House are notable Nigerian companies that have successfully integrated sustainability into their business models. Jaebee Furniture implemented a furniture swap scheme, promoting affordability and reducing waste. Yetroselane Fashion House uses zero waste design, crafting unique fashion pieces from offcuts that would have otherwise contributed to landfill pollution. These success stories demonstrate that sustainable practices can be financially viable while addressing social and environmental concerns.
Another inspiring initiative involves converting plastics into support beams for construction purposes. This innovative approach not only addresses waste management but also offers a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials. The company which does this is part of the umbrella of the Recyclers Association of Nigeria, and they contribute to solving the country’s infrastructure challenges through recycling.
The Recyclers Association of Nigeria, established in 2019, is an alliance comprising recyclers, manufacturers, government officials, and producers committed to environmental sustainability and recycling. Producers pay levies to fund waste collection efforts by private organisations, facilitated by the association. These funds support projects and subsidies, driving sustainability initiatives across Nigeria at grassroots level.
You can read Part 1 of our sustainability blog series – which focused on India – here.
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