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Saliem Fakir

Saliem Fakir

Fakir is interim executive director of the African Climate Foundation – saliem@africanclimatefoundation.org

Organising for climate change: the ‘two cultures’ problem

By: Saliem Fakir     22nd October 2021 Ulrich Beck wrote: “One can possess wealth but one can be afflicted by risks; they are, so to speak, ascribed by civilisation . . . Risk society is a catastrophic society” (Risk Society: Towards A New Modernity). The physicist CP Snow once wrote a famous essay titled The Two Cultures, which... 

The need for grit – industrialism in Africa

By: Saliem Fakir     10th September 2021 Extractive industries offer no long-term solution for countries that continue to rely on their natural resources as levers for an economic boost; when a commodity boom end, the countries will slide back into debt and economic doldrums. There is need for diversification. As the Covid-19 pandemic... 

Of insurrection, malls and hunger

By: Saliem Fakir     27th August 2021 We have been made to believe the narrative that things were under control When, in July, looting and rioting broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, we were told that the country was in the throes of an insurrection. However, politicians, the police and the army tried to convince... 

Intersectional issues in renewables: the race debate in the energy sector

By: Saliem Fakir     16th July 2021 We must guard against the idea that green means socially responsible and equitable. Green and optimum social outcomes are not synonymous; therefore, a debate about intersectional issues relating to gender, race, inequality and justice is warranted. Green transitions can preserve the old system of... 

The private versus the public: living within the hierarchical system

By: Saliem Fakir     18th June 2021 Societies that are most vulnerable to economic piracy need countervailing forces to protect them from those who deliberately pursue actions intended to maximise their own gain at the expense of the welfare of us all. This point is often not considered by free marketeers, given that they are... 

Gas-exporting countries in Africa and the problem of a displacement equivalent

By: Saliem Fakir     14th May 2021 The public discourse around gas is intensifying. Climate activists have now made gas – which has been touted as being better than coal and a necessary transitional fuel –  the target of their next big effort against a fossil fuel. Predictions are that demand for gas will be healthy, but the pace... 

Climate finance and the political economy of finance

By: Saliem Fakir     9th April 2021 In his book, Feline Philosophy, which is about what cats can teach humans, John Gray points us to a few lessons. One of these is pertinent to what I discuss in this article: beware of anyone who offers to make you happy. Here, Gray warns that what others promise you as heaven on earth is unlikely... 

The tragedy of abundant resources

By: Saliem Fakir     12th March 2021 The coming into being of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) is giving momentum to an idea that has been very long in the making – a unified position around trade, whose importance will no doubt extend beyond trade. At the core of this idea is the shifting of economies in Africa from... 

The politics of knowledge production

By: Saliem Fakir     12th February 2021 It has been an interest of mine for a long time – this question concerning the production of knowledge systems. The part that I will not focus on is the epistemological process of knowledge production – this question of how we know what we know. Epistemological inquiries also cover the... 

Political economy of the just transitions in Africa 

By: Saliem Fakir     22nd January 2021 The term ‘just transition’ may seem a neologism, but in reality it is not so new. It originated from the depths of US labour movement struggles in response to the impacts of new environmental laws on the chemicals and other industries in the 1980s. Capital was complying with new environmental... 

The framing problem and judgment– how to be aware of how not to frame

By: Saliem Fakir     4th December 2020 For the human mind to cope with the world, it has to develop a set of frames of the world, or what can also be called heuristics. These sets of frames are not all innate; many are a product of social constructs and cultural transmission. Logical reasoning is an intuitive and innate property of... 

Liberty, environmentalism and corporate power

By: Saliem Fakir     6th November 2020 Individual utilitarianism is seen as primordial in conventional Western economic tradition. However, individualism does not always lead to better public outcomes. Extreme forms of individualism are not tolerated anywhere in the world, despite libertarian proponents holding that this is a better... 

Climate resilience: optimising strategies against uncertainty

By: Saliem Fakir     9th October 2020 Climate resilience in Africa can only be optimised if other forms of social protection work in concert. This means you may not achieve success, entirely, with the scaffold of climate resilience when all other scaffolds of income and social protection are broken. An average Dane need not worry... 

Industrial development in Africa – from theory to practice

By: Saliem Fakir     11th September 2020 I recently participated in a panel discussion on industrial development in Central and West Africa, organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The panellists, drawn from diverse backgrounds, shared notes, if you like, on progress in industrial development on the continent.... 

When facts matter and when they don’t

By: Saliem Fakir     7th August 2020 It is common wisdom that, if you have evidence, that evidence should speak for itself. But the history of knowledge and ‘factfulness’ shows that the causal relation between evidence and good decision-making is not a direct one. Prevailing social consensus on scientific or controversial issues can... 

Social engineering is not just a socialist thing

By: Saliem Fakir     10th July 2020 ‘Social engineering’ is seen in some circles as a swear phrase and associated with socialism – meaning surrendering individual sovereignty into State control. In a recent heated interview with Redi Tlhabi, Gareth Cliff attacked the notion of collective wellbeing, arguing that it’s all about... 

The Michael Moore view of the world

By: Saliem Fakir     12th June 2020 Michael Moore’s documentary, Planet of the Humans (a play on the Anthropocene age), following his namesake, Roger Moore, in the James Bond 007 movie, goes after the evil enemy, the Greens, and their obsession with renewables. Moore is widely regarded as a progressive filmmaker and critic of the... 

Economic lessons from Covid-19

By: Saliem Fakir     8th May 2020 The current pandemic is not a black swan. Those who have been warning about it call it a white swan. Human history is replete with episodes of terrifying pandemics or plagues. London, for instance, suffered multiple episodes of plagues within the space of one century – in 1563, 1603, 1625 and... 

Economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic

By: Saliem Fakir     10th April 2020 There is a lot to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic for climate change, both in terms of how systemic disruption in one part of the world can transmit to other parts of the world. Secondly, the magnitude of the reaction to Covid-19 just shows up the gap in response to climate risks – money can be... 

Why I don’t aspire to be a Twitterati

By: Saliem Fakir     27th March 2020 Somebody asked me the other day if I had a Twitter accounT. I have never fancied myself as a serious fan of Twitter. I am quite cautious about social media. I have a Facebook account but never drop in there that much.  I prefer LinkedIn – it is much more professional and the commentary in posts... 

Securing the electricity grid from attack

By: Saliem Fakir     21st February 2020 As the intensity of global geopolitics increases in what is fast becoming a multipolar world, different risks within an energy system have to be taken into account that were previously not envisaged. It may seem entirely far-fetched that South Africa’s electricity system can be the subject of a... 

Climate crisis – there is no safe place anymore

By: Saliem Fakir     31st January 2020 There is a certain irony that, while the Paris Agreement was being debated in Madrid and going through its slow motion of nonaction towards the end of 2019, apocalyptic scenes were playing themselves out in Australia. The Madrid round of global climate negotiations received polite treatment in... 

The circular economy movement and its place in South Africa

By: Saliem Fakir     13th December 2019 The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) hosted a circular economy colloquium in partnership with the European Union from November 19 to 20. The notion of a circular economy may seem like a fashionable new buzzword. In some respects, it has taken on the feel of the newest flavour of the... 

Climate finance must be a mainstream economic issue

By: Saliem Fakir     22nd November 2019 If climate change is a risk to economies, then it has to be placed in the mainstream of economic mainstream, rather than on the periphery. Economic debates are starting to move in the direction of mainstreaming climate change issues as part of broader economic policy, compared with what was the... 

Can AfCFTA help stimulate Africa’s industrialisation?

By: Saliem Fakir     1st November 2019 The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) was signed last year by the majority of the countries in Africa to create a common market and remove barriers that hinder growth and opportunity across such a vast continent. One of the areas being that could be boosted significantly is... 

Why SA should not install new nuclear capacity

By: Saliem Fakir     11th October 2019 Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has reopened the debate on whether or not South Africa requires nuclear power or not. He has suggested that, slowly but surely, a new plant should be commissioned by 2040 to replace the Koeberg nuclear power plant, which reaches the end of life... 

How science has lost its touch

By: Saliem Fakir     30th August 2019 These days, feelings matter more than facts, despite Hans Roslings’ plea for 'factfulness'. It is not the reasonableness of the argument or evidence presented that matters, but whether the facts or evidence conform to a specific bias or opinion about the world. Social media has been the main... 

Climate change and the future of food production in Africa

By: Saliem Fakir     2nd August 2019 The International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) is the highest scientific body on climate change  that provides perhaps the best scientific insight and overview on climate change, variability and vulnerability in the world. The IPCC reviews a considerable body of studies and draws on some of... 

Acclimatising physical infrastructure to extreme weather events

By: Saliem Fakir     21st June 2019 Acclimatising conventional infrastructure to extreme weather Climate change and extreme weather patterns are already a factor in infrastructure and shaping future models of the design, placement, building and upgrading of infrastructure. 

Conservation as cost

By: Saliem Fakir     7th June 2019 The conservation movement has been around for a long time. In its modern version, it can be traced to the curiosity of early explorers like Darwin, Russell, Humboldt and many others. That we think of it as an artifact of civilised life is due to the dominance humans as a species. In Africa, the... 

Independent power producers and Weet-Bix

By: Saliem Fakir     19th April 2019 There is a vociferous attack on independent power producers (IPPs) and renewables in South Africa, despite the energy crisis that the country is experiencing and the fact that the long-term prospects for State-owned electricity utility Eskom look rather bleak. Eskom is a choke point, just as... 

Reflection on proposed splitting of Eskom

By: Saliem Fakir     15th March 2019 The mere mention of the splitting of State-owned  electricity utility Eskom into three parts invikes the conclusion that it is a Trojan horse for privatisation. There may be some validity in this assumption, but it is not clear, given Eskom's current woes and its inability to pass costs fully to... 

Building sustainable economies through good governance of extractives industry

By: Saliem Fakir     1st March 2019 A pertinent question remains unanswered: Can mining economies lead to sustainable economies? This is an appropriate question to ask in the context of the yearly parade in Cape Town. I am referring to the Mining Indaba, attracts about 6 000 people from all over the world. For Africa, turning its... 

The Eskom quagmire

By: Saliem Fakir     1st February 2019 As we enter the year 2019, State-owned electricity utility Eskom, once a success story of South Africa's industrialisation programme, is now an albatros around the neck of the National Treasury and hampering the State's efforts to realise the full potential for economic growth.   

Reflections on global conventions in a postliberal order

By: Saliem Fakir     18th January 2019 I was in Sharm-El Shaik, Egypt, in November at a gathering of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of the Conference of the Parties (COP). This enclave of holiday resorts is characterised by daily jostling by tourists mostly from Kiev. At least four flights a day come and in out of the... 

Africa’s infrastructure and recent climate report

By: Saliem Fakir     30th November 2018 It was my first attendance at the yearly Africa Infrastructure conference, held in Sandton this year on October 9 and 10. Infrastructure has always been an interest of mine but this year it has consumed all my time as I work with a colleague and co-lead Dr Yemi Katerere on the African Ecological... 

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... 

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