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Saliem Fakir

Saliem Fakir

Fakir is the head of the Living Planet Unit at the World Wildlife Fund South Africa. The unit's work is focused on identifying ways to manage a transition to a low-carbon economy.

Strategic economics in times of uncertainty

By: Saliem Fakir     19th October 2018 In his excellent three-volume work titled Wheels of Commerce, Fernand Braudel describes countries or city states as islands in a world economy. This is a reference to the interconnectedness of the world and our dependence on the  world economy. There are always places of gravity and attraction –... 

The industrialisation debate in SA – what are the lessons?

By: Saliem Fakir     21st September 2018 Manufacturing has been in slow decline in the past decade or so. The sector has always been treated as a useful link between mining and higher-value beneficiation. Light and heavy industrialisation were, and in some respects still are, at the core of South Africa's industrial base. Before the... 

Using Douglas North’s institutional economics to understand State capture

By: Saliem Fakir     24th August 2018 Douglas North remains an influential institutional economist and his work on institutional economics can help us understand economic development and long-run growth. North was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993 and died in 2015. He shared the award with William Fogel.   He was one of the founders of... 

SA’s bioeconomy should be multipronged

By: Saliem Fakir     3rd August 2018 The fact that South Africa does not have a White Paper or a holistic bio-economy strategy is the biggest of ironies, given that a vast variety of biological life and biodiversity can be found across the country. This is a sector with the highest labour intensity.   The aggregate value of the... 

Will the SDGs help us rewire the economy?

By: Saliem Fakir     29th June 2018 The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the new mantra, and everybody is trying to figure out the best way to leverage them; the question is whether to follow the same old path or to beat a new one.   If the underlying premises of an economic system are the same, what can SDGs really solve?... 

The Just Transition debate in South Africa

By: Saliem Fakir     18th May 2018 South Africa is the only country that explicitly includes in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) a mention of the Just Transition – this is as far as I know.   The issue of a just transition raised its head recently when the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa) and a... 

Tackling shipping sector’s carbon emissions

By: Saliem Fakir     27th April 2018 Shipping emissions is an area that has not fallen under the rubric of United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCCC). The shipping industry has, by and large, avoided scrutiny of its own contribution to climate change. Given that the shipping industry’s infrastructure will be exposed to the... 

What we must undo in post-Zuma era

By: Saliem Fakir     23rd March 2018 During Jacob Zuma’s Presidency, South African had to contend with racial parochialism, State inaptitude and a gloomy economy. Dystopia became the only legacy the former President would bequath the present and future generations. Gramsci once noted: 'The State was only an outer ditch behind which... 

Tackling inequality in South Africa – the great escape

By: Saliem Fakir     23rd February 2018 There have been clarion calls to clean up corruption in South Africa, but the greater challenge will be clawing back the effects of structural poverty. Influential voices from business have suddenly become activists in relation to corruption but seemingly not activist enough on inequality. Growth... 

Will Ramaphosa be a transformational leader or preserve the status quo?

By: Saliem Fakir     2nd February 2018 The election in December of Cyril Ramaphosa (CR) as African National Congress (ANC) president has brought a sigh of relief to many South Africans. There is both euphoria and trepidation. The sigh of relief is no indication that mass support for the ANC will be forthcoming any time soon. Jacob... 

Rigging the nuclear outcome?

By: Saliem Fakir     15th December 2017 At the time of writing, it appeared nuclear would be ramped through before the African National Congress elective conference, which starts on December 16. New Energy Minister David Mahlobo says we need nuclear. There have been a lot of platitudes about jobs and industrialisation, and that nuclear... 

Inside the green economy

By: Saliem Fakir     10th November 2017 It is often assumed that the green economy only relates to a specific type of technology or shifts in energy demand. The notion of the green economy has been in existence in South Africa for a long time. Conceptually, the green economy notion gained prominence in South Africa after 2007 and many... 

New era of disruption

By: Saliem Fakir     20th October 2017 Perhaps the recent multiple attacks of extreme weather – hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria – do not only tell us that fierce weather is the new normal, but changes in weather, together with other global shifts and crises, are forcing us to acknowledge that we are moving into an era of greater... 

Taking the green out of economy

By: Saliem Fakir     22nd September 2017 There is only one economy, not two. The challenge all societies face today is leaving behind the legacy of an old system. How do we embark on a systems change – a shift from System A to System B? Fundamentally, it is a shift in production and consumption systems. How do we interlink the two to... 

Enviro rights entail more than just the environment

By: Saliem Fakir     18th August 2017 It is important to review where we have come from over the past 20 years and how much has been achieved in that time. South Africa's Constitution makes provision for environmental protection in its Bill of Rights. This follows a long history of environmental issues not having been treated with... 

Decolonising the green economy

By: Saliem Fakir     4th August 2017 On June 13, a good agent provocateur, former National Planning Commission member Mike Muller, proposed in a panel discussion at a Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) conference on sustainable growth and industrialisation that we should decolonise the idea of the green economy. Muller... 

Is science losing its authority? 

By: Saliem Fakir     16th June 2017 Scientists have, for a long time, been held in high esteem. Yet scientist struggle to effectively mediate evidenced-based outcomes in highly politicised and contested public policy issues, such as those concerning climate science or whether cellphone cause cancer. The Internet is flattening... 

New vision needed for conservation

By: Saliem Fakir     26th May 2017 A friend of mine, Mark Halle, argues that the world of conservation is going nowhere and that a new vision is needed to take it out of its maelstrom. I agree and often solutions are not found in defensive postures but in the offensive realm. Three things will determine the future of conservation... 

Political entrepreneurship in the energy sector

By: Saliem Fakir     5th May 2017 The expediency for rent-seeking that comes with large capital infrastructure projects is always lurking behind the scenes. The extent to which long fingers can grab as much as possible is largely dependent on procurement design and the ability to complete projects on budget. The more the cost... 

What can we tell of Eskom’s future from the Denton report?

By: Saliem Fakir     3rd March 2017 The debate on the independent power producer (IPP) programme can serve as a useful distraction, and power utility Eskom is exploiting it to the full. The problem is not the IPPs, and they never will be. IPPs are a scapegoat to obfuscate the many long-term multiple challenges Eskom faces, which it... 

Going beyond the Limits to Growth debate

By: Saliem Fakir     10th February 2017 The Limits to Growth (LTG) thesis was developed in the 1970s by a group of experts collectively called the Club of Rome. They used a computer (at that time, they did not have sufficient data or the computing power that we have today) model to link exponential population growth, income/gross... 

Why the future need not be so bleak

By: Saliem Fakir     27th January 2017 Sometimes environmental dystopia can obscure progress. As the global climate negotiation process moves along, it is interesting to see how the climate change and fossil fuel debate is beginning to reshape our world. Change may happen faster and more disruptively than we may think. Here is a... 

Climate change in the Donald Trump era

By: Saliem Fakir     9th December 2016 Donald Trump's Presidency will, no doubt, have a significant impact on the progress on collective action on the climate change front. The US President-elect has promised to rip apart any semblance that climate change is real. It is said that, in Morocco, the incumbent US climate negotiating team,... 

Decolonisation of science – what is it?

By: Saliem Fakir     11th November 2016 A group of University of Cape Town students organised a panel discussion on the decolonisation of science, which is also another way of saying that science should be Africanised. The YouTube version of the debate went viral, arousing consternation in some quarters and mocking and ridicule in... 

Why technological transitions happen

By: Saliem Fakir     14th October 2016 Sustainability theorists have generally provided broad and abstract descriptors of technoeconomic transitions, as they are focused on drivers that shift the adoption of new technologies, displacing old ONE. They leave to the imagination the real mechanism and the workings of the political... 

The future is bright for renewables

By: Saliem Fakir     2nd September 2016 It is hard for people to appreciate the history of renewables if they were not there from the beginning. Renewables started way before the large roll-out we have seen since 2012. Back then, it was a sort of hobby among enthusiasts, academics and experts. In fact, in the late 1970s, South Africa... 

Can Europe survive without Britain?

By: Saliem Fakir     5th August 2016 The European project has been long in the making, starting with the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which involved France, Germany, England and others and formally came into being in 1951 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Luminaries of the pan-European idea, such... 

What next for environmentalism?

By: Saliem Fakir     1st July 2016 This question – What's next for environmentalism? – arose from a reflection piece (which is available on the WWF-SA website) that I wrote for the Ecomodernist Manifesto (EM), which was launched in the US last year. The EM was written by 18 experts associated with the Breakthrough Institute, in... 

Realities of modern energy planning

By: Saliem Fakir     3rd June 2016 Energy technologies involve two realities that influence the way we do our planning: certainty and uncertainty. There is certainty in tried and tested stuff, and this relates to our experience and knowledge of mature technologies. These technologies give us confidence in several regards:... 

We need to create a twenty-first century economy

By: Saliem Fakir     6th May 2016 We are in an interrugnam, as Marxists would say. We are stuck in a nineteenth- or twentieth-century-type economic model that sits in the way of doing things in South Africa and contrasts with a twenty-first century technology shift and an alternative way to think about modern economies. The... 

Do we really need nuclear programme?

8th April 2016 The debate about whether or not we need nuclear power is raging among energy experts and policymakers. Sometimes it feels like it is a done deal and then it is not. Bidders have been asked to submit requests for information (RfI) as government pushes ahead with its plans to try to fix in the... 

Reconceiving South Africa’s water challenge

By: Saliem Fakir     4th March 2016 There is water and there is no water. A physical resource may be abundant but it is scarce – through waste, poor pricing, inefficient allocation or the inability of human systems to keep up with the latest technologies. A resource may be scarce but it is abundant because more can be done with... 

Time for tough decisions as rand weakness persists

By: Saliem Fakir     5th February 2016 Many years back, the rand plummeted, reaching its lowest level against the dollar – close to R25 to the US currency. This was around 2001 and  prompted the then President Thabo Mbeki to launch a commission of inquiry into the collapse of the rand. Although the commission attributed the currency's... 

What now after COP 21?

By: Saliem Fakir     22nd January 2016 The year 2015 will go down in history as the hottest on record. Bizarre weather continues to play itself out in front of our eyes. In the US, intense tornadoes, snow storms in Texas and floods in the north of the United Kingdom point to weather patterns going haywire. Down here, we are having one... 

Carbon tax – be careful of future trade measures

By: Saliem Fakir     4th December 2015 The National Treasury has released a draft Carbon Tax Bill and has invited interested parties to submit comments by the middle of this month. There are design and implementation issues with the tax; however, what is important is not so much the tax but whether an implicit carbon price or tax... 

The hybrid generation system is here to stay

By: Saliem Fakir     6th November 2015 Schumpeter once wrote: "There is certainly no point in trying to conserve obsolescent industries indefinitely; but there is a point in trying to avoid their coming down with a crash and in attempting to turn a rout into an orderly retreat." This is not about renewables per se, as renewables will... 

COP 21 and South Africa’s position

By: Saliem Fakir     9th October 2015 South Africa is fourteenth out of the 20 or so worst emitters of greenhouse gases. Today or historically, we account for between 1% and 2% of global emissions. Even though this may be considered small, South Africa’s position as a developing but emerging economy means our leadership and moral... 

The capable State and inclusive economic growth

By: Saliem Fakir     4th September 2015 The African National Congress's (ANC's)  National General Council (NGC) discussion document was released a few weeks ago and makes for an interesting read. This article will focus on the economic transformation chapter. Those who have doubts that the ANC is behind the National Development Plan... 

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