by John M. Malin, Ph. D.
International Activities Administrator
American Chemical Society
The Role of the Chemical Industry in Ensuring Sustainable Development
Dr. M. Booth, a member of IUPAC's Committee
on Chemistry and Industry (COCI) outlined operations of the chemical
industry in Sub-Saharan Africa. He explained that from a global perspective
the chemical industry in Africa is small, operating mainly in South
Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, and Egypt.
The primary manufacturing sectors are explosives,
fertilizers, insecticides, petrochemicals, and polymers. Management
practice standards, e.g., the Responsible Care program, are applied
in the areas of health and safety, storage and distribution, transportation,
waste management and pollution control, community awareness and emergency
response, and product stewardship.
Dr. Booth noted that the firm AECI has recently
opened new explosives factories in two African countries. These new
enterprises have created new jobs for chemical professionals. It will
be important to educate and hire as many Africans as possible for
these new jobs, rather than to import personnel from elsewhere.
Dr. Booth suggested that ways need to be
developed to improve the image of chemistry through government,
industry, and societal activities. Government, he said, must provide
clear, unambiguous policies, implementable legislation and fair enforcement.
Industry must care for the health and safety of the workers, be mindful
of product stewardship, and be ready to communicate hazards. Consumers
must learn to read and understand cautionary labels, use chemicals
as directed and dispose of waste chemicals safely.
Special challenges for Africa lie in existing
international legal obligations and treaties, poor ambient environmental
quality, development of sustainable consumption and cleaner production
and finding eco-efficient uses of natural resources.
Existing international agreements regulating
movement of hazardous waste across international boundaries are a
challenge to African countries. No national legislation on the subject
exists in South Africa or in Africa generally. Moreover, additions
to the Montreal Protocol are making it increasingly difficult for
economically disadvantaged nations to conform. Difficulty is found
in implementing the Protocol on Informed Consent (PIC) Convention
on the use of pesticides, the Protocol on Pesticides (POP) Convention
norms regarding organic pesticides and standards for compliance to
global climate change rules. Africa is one of the most economically
vulnerable regions and therefore it is least able to deal with new
or established regulations. African industry needs to participate
more in the setting of international protocols.
Africa must move its orientation in environmental
practices from environmental protection to sustainable development.
This will require careful environmental stewardship, social development,
and economic growth. A priority goal will be to begin to eliminate
poverty through the fulfillment of basic household needs, such as
provision of safe water supplies. This problem can be addressed through
sustainable consumption, i.e., through minimization of waste and recycling
of chemical materials.
Dr. Booth noted that it is important to
share expertise and experience to develop uniquely African solutions
to support African industrial development. The challenges in Africa
will require replacement of obsolete chemical processes with new,
"green" technology. According to one estimate, there is
much room for growth since the African economy is on average only
about 20% technology driven.
Prof. L. Diop of Senegal reminded the participants
that Africa has plenty of natural resources, e.g., coal, minerals,
and diamonds. He noted that, even though the image of chemistry has
suffered because of pollutants coming from industry, and the field
inherits a lot of the blame for pollution resulting from the generation
of energy, the chemical industry is nevertheless at the very heart
of development. Prof. Diop suggested that Africa should concentrate
on small technology for local consumption as a way of building grass-roots
markets. Also, Africa should look as an example to the efforts made
by Asia in the 1960s. Greater cooperation is needed in setting up
joint regional research and production centers. The participants agreed
that it is as important in Africa as it is in other regions of the
world to publicize the positive aspects of chemistry.
Back to Summary
News and Notices - Symposia/
Conferences - IUPAC Organizations
Recommendations - Divisions
Committees - Publications
- Links - IUPAC Affiliates
Page last modified 15 December 1998.
Copyright © 1997, 98 International Union of Pure and Applied