Event report: Strengthening civil society voices to foster a just bioeconomy transition in East Africa
RSB, in partnership with BioInnovate Africa and Solidaridad, hosted a successful event focused on fostering partnerships for a just and sustainable bioeconomy in East Africa. This event underscored the critical importance of civil society and NGOs in shaping international sustainability standards, ensuring the inclusion of perspectives from the Global South.
The workshop featured a thought-provoking presentation by bioenergy research scientist Mary Njenga (PhD), who discussed the bioeconomy transition in bioenergy within sub-Saharan Africa. This set the stage for discussions on the concept of a ‘just transition’ and the current status of sustainable bioeconomy transformation in Africa.
Solidaridad also made a significant contribution by presenting their experiences in building sustainable and inclusive value chains in eastern and sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in collaboration with local farmers. Their insights highlighted the environmental considerations, the role of gender and social inclusivity, and the importance of market access in creating sustainable supply chains within the communities they work with.
A panel discussion followed the presentations, focusing on the vital role of NGOs in the bioeconomy sector in the region. The panellists stressed that over 600 million people in Africa lack access to sustainable energy, with only 17% of the population having access to clean cooking solutions. This perspective is a really important consideration in the ‘just transition’ conversation – as many potential beneficiaries of such a transition currently don’t have access to reliable energy (sustainable or not). Addressing these challenges, while centring sustainability and social justice, requires a concerted effort involving governments, NGOs, development partners, and the private sector to facilitate Africa’s transition towards a just and sustainable energy landscape. The panel unanimously agreed on the necessity of collective and collaborative efforts and partnerships among civil society organisations and NGOs to tackle the issue of sustainable energy access in Africa.
Participants also visited the Icipe premises, where practical projects supported by BioInnovate Africa showcased sustainable farming practices and solutions designed to boost productivity and enhance the sustainable bioeconomy in the region. Participants were impressed by the tangible impact of bioeconomy initiatives in action.
This event drew more than 40 participants from various civil society organisations in East Africa, demonstrating the increasing recognition of the importance of civil society voices in shaping the future of sustainability and just transition in the bioeconomy.
In this context, RSB membership is a powerful tool for civil society to actively participate in discussions concerning the vital concepts of just transition and the bioeconomy, to build skills and expertise, and to ensure social and environmental sustainability are at the centre of the bioeconomy transformation. This membership offers a unique opportunity to engage in dialogues about the transition to a just and sustainable bioeconomy, a fundamental focus of RSB’s mission – and by being a part of the RSB community, civil society organisations gain a voice in shaping international sustainability standards, ensuring that the perspectives and needs of the Global South are incorporated. Civil society representatives have a direct say in the development of policies and practices that will impact communities in East Africa and beyond.
RSB works hard to support the engagement of vital civil society voices within its governance and in capacity-building and dialogue globally, via the RSB Multi-Stakeholder Engagement Programme, which in 2023 has supported almost a dozen organisations to participate and engage with our global community.