Tobin Jones

Making Resilience Work in Africa

Imagine being able to live up to 30 years without food or water. Imagine living at temperatures as cold as absolute zero or as hot as above boiling. Imagine living at pressures six times that of the ocean’s deepest trenches, or as low as the vacuum of space. This is not fiction, but the accomplishments of the most resilient creature known to man called a tardigrade, or a sea bear. This creature can overcome such adversity because of a process called “cyclomorphosis” – which is simply the ability to adapt to seasonal changes and thrive in them.

The sea bear is not the only creature we can learn from. Bible readers will know as much that the Book of Proverbs 6:6-8 sends an equally stark reminder: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” The lesson we must learn here is one that is long overdue –building resilience matters. Adversities are part of life and being proactively ready to tackle them is a necessity of life.

Africans need to be in a constant quest of devising solutions to the challenges already in the continent and do so from an enterprising dimension. A typical example of an area that is both in demand and accessible to the majority in Africa’s informal sector, is devising solutions to post-harvest losses. Africa loses food worth an estimated $48 billion each year. Considering that in five years, Africa’s agro-market is estimated to be worth up to $150 billion annually, these losses represent a hemorrhage of opportunities that ordinary citizens can tap into, leveraging on already existing policy provisions. Developing and decentralising solar dryers to agro-producers to enable them to cut their post-harvest losses, offers a ready opportunity for ordinary Africans to exercise resilience by devising enterprising solutions to generate incomes for themselves and their communities.

Making resilience a norm in Africa

To build resilience, ordinary citizens need to take the need to diversify income sources seriously. Through an approach called innovative volunteerism, young people of diverse backgrounds are being structurally guided to leverage the climate action lens to deliver integrated solutions that cover Africa’s informal sector.

For example, they are fabricating affordable solar dryers and working with agro-value chain actors to ensure that these solar dryers are reaching the farmers that need them. Application of these dryers for value addition has been shown to cut post-harvest losses and increase revenues by up to 150%. These youth are also targeting the area of clean cooking by providing sustainable alternatives to charcoal and wood use. Africa’s charcoal use is estimated at 2.5 times more than the global average and is used by 80% of households, and contributing anywhere from $6 to $24 billion in economic opportunities. Through climate action solutions of waste recovery to fuel briquettes, they have developed fuel briquettes that are up to 2 times cheaper than charcoal, are smokeless, and have better and cleaner burners. The market growth rate for these briquettes is rising steadily and hit a high of 20% conversion in one month. These actors are an example of diversifying solutions to shore up income sources and build resilience and this is urgently needed in Africa.

Everyone must be triggered to devise a solution to solve an ongoing challenge in their community or society. This is how we craft our purpose. The purpose of life is to be useful, and our usefulness must be expressed through solutions that solve community problems. A clear purpose inspires purposeful passion which becomes the fuel to drive solutions towards an unborrowed vision. The time has come for everyone to develop an unborrowed vision tied to a very clear purpose of solutions fueled with a purposeful passion that combines their skills and talents to come up with solutions to turn challenges into opportunities that benefit Africa as a whole.

If Africa’s lack of resilience means anything to us, then we must make the remedy a personal responsibility. Individual citizens must stop abdicating the responsibility for development to the government alone. Ordinary citizens are the custodians and executors of development policy. It is out of the success of ordinary citizens that government policy and regulation can be adequately informed and recalibrated to provide a framework that will foster economic and social growth for ordinary Africans. Economies are built by the productivity of people and the decision to be a productive human being is personal. Embrace it.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the authors are associated.