Promote Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Opportunities in Africa

The research findings were presented at this week’s Aviation Africa summit in Abuja. The report, titled “Enabling a Sustainable Bioeconomy: Making a Difference through Landscape-Level Initiatives,” delves into the potential of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to drive an equitable energy transition in Africa, combat climate change, create employment opportunities, stimulate economic growth, improve rural livelihoods, and safeguard the environment.

SAF, which can be derived from a variety of sources such as used cooking oil, agricultural waste, and industrial byproducts, is authorized for blending of up to 50% with conventional jet fuel. It can be readily used in current aircraft without requiring any modifications to the planes, engines, or refueling infrastructure. SAF has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 80% when compared to fossil fuels, as stated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The research conducted by RSB identifies specific opportunities for SAF development and the bioeconomy in Ethiopia and South Africa:

  1. In Ethiopia, collaboration with key stakeholders from industry, civil society, and government served as the foundation for establishing a roadmap for SAF production. The research also identified brassica carinata (Ethiopian mustard) as a promising feedstock for biofuel production, addressing both food and energy demands.
  2. In South Africa, the study revealed significant potential in utilizing invasive alien plants for SAF production, simultaneously creating job opportunities. These invasive plants currently cover more than 10% of the country’s landmass (approximately 11.3 million tons) and consume up to 6% of the nation’s freshwater resources, a figure that could rise to 16% without eradication efforts. RSB has collaborated with local and global partners to devise a sustainable harvesting approach in alignment with its widely recognized sustainability standards.

Elena Schmidt, Executive Director of RSB, emphasized the study’s value in adopting a holistic approach to SAF and the broader bioeconomy. This approach involves integrating technical studies, engaging stakeholders, analyzing policies, and more within a single program, all built on a robust foundation of social and environmental sustainability. Schmidt highlighted that the study’s outcomes and recommendations provide confidence to policymakers, investors, and other key stakeholders in directing their efforts toward bioeconomy development. She expressed excitement about how this research in Ethiopia and South Africa could support sustainable and equitable transitions in emerging SAF- and bio-based economies.

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at Boeing, spoke during the Aviation Africa summit, stressing the potential of sustainable aviation fuels in reducing the aviation industry’s carbon emissions. He highlighted Boeing’s partnership with RSB in Africa as an example of collaboration to help the aviation sector achieve its net-zero emissions goal by 2050, while also considering the broader sustainability impact on the environment and society.


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