How to Create 100,000 Jobs

By Gunter Pauli

Gunter Pauli explains how readily available resources in a city can be utilized to create jobs and realize improved and sustainable living conditions.

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The working population of sub-Saharan Africa will triple to 1.25 billion by 2050. By 2035, the number of Africans of working age (15 to 64) will exceed that of the rest of the world. In the coming decade, as 100 million Africans join the workforce, the world will be compelled to focus on the needs of Africa.

The global economy reaches only 10 percent of the African working population. This implies that even at global levels of industrialization and the service economy, Africa would never generate the jobs required to alleviate poverty and to evolve from scarcity, poverty and misery into a society that offers its citizens a chance to evolve toward dignity.

Clearly, we need to find alternative approaches to address the need for large-scale job generation. The Blue Economy, which has been described as the philosophy of zero emissions in action, does not embark on a strong critique of present development models; it points out that there are opportunities to do much better. When I proposed this zero emissions and zero waste idea as the standard for a new competitive industry in 1991, it was considered a dream by many. With the support of the United Nations University and the Japanese government since 1994, zero emissions has turned into a new standard. Now, 21 years later, having implemented nearly 200 projects based on the Blue Economy model, mobilizing $4 billion in capital and creating 3 million jobs, it is clear that a better approach to inclusive growth and fast-track development is possible.

Zero emissions proposes that everything gets used; nothing is wasted. This is achieved by cascading and interconnecting, just like nature does. Instead of a blind focus on cutting costs and eliminating people in the primary and secondary sectors, we concentrate on generating more value with readily available resources, embracing innovations in technology but also adopting new business models and payment systems that ensure more money remains circulating in the local economy.

Mpho Parks Tau, the executive mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa, embarked on a pragmatic review based on this Blue Economy approach: what material and financial resources does the city have which could generate more water, food, power, health and jobs, alleviating poverty and building a community? A team of 135 members of the Blue Economy network associated with the Zero Emissions Research Initiatives (ZERI) Foundation reviewed in detail the local resources, matched them with needs, tradition and culture and proposed 29 initiatives.

These initiatives were subsequently integrated into a system dynamics model. Instead of using macroeconomic data to look for trends in the global economy, this model searched for equations, feedback loops and multipliers, providing the mayor with a tool to make transparent decisions on obvious opportunities for meeting basic needs, growing the local economy at double-digit rates and improving purchasing power.

Projects were prioritized using such criteria as anticipated number of new jobs, time required to achieve results and level of impact on individual livelihoods. Instead of basing decisions on stand-alone projects, all initiatives were integrated into models that unveiled and empowered interconnections that reinforced themselves. We unraveled a myriad of synergies that supported decisions and expanded impact as a result of extra value generated in and circulated throughout the emerging local economy. The strategy was inspired by the theoretical framework of the economic plan set forth by the late Saburo Okita, a former Japanese minister of foreign affairs who led a program during the 1950s and 60s that aimed to double income within 10 years and that greatly accelerated economic growth in Japan.

The Johannesburg Project

The initial portfolio of six clustered initiatives is only the beginning of a long-term strategy to dramatically transform the economic tissue of Johannesburg, the industrial powerhouse of Africa, ensuring equity, participation, transparency and delivery.

The project clusters include the creation of local micro-bakeries that operate on solar and thermal electric power. Building 13,500 bakeries will facilitate local production of bread that includes fruit seeds and peels, eliminating the need for sugar and salt while maintaining taste and improving mineral and vitamin content. This triggers the creation of a "multifunctional oven" that produces bread heated by a hybrid solar installation that provides heat and power, generating light at night as well as power for charging cell phones. This creates a convergence in the community. The system is locally manufactured.

The mayor's Blue Economy initiative addresses food security, complementing starch from bread with protein from mushrooms cultivated by 7,000 small urban farms working with local organic waste streams from parks and gardens. The leftover substrate is ideal chicken feed, and the fresh substrates and produce are processed and dried in the multifunctional oven that in the winter also provides heat for the bakery families.

The city is facing major shortages of power and water. An integrated approach will ensure more of both. Power will be generated from the flow of water through the city using gravity and depressurizing valves to provide a smart network that generates energy, especially at peak times, to power not only pumps but also clinics and police stations and operate an information network on water consumption that is autonomous from the grid.

More energy is generated from the creation of biogas for public transportation from wastewater sludge blended with organic solid municipal waste, cutting the load on landfill sites while adding value. The imposition of tough bylaws set a new standard for very water-efficient toilets, saving billions of liters of water and megawatts of power.

Construction rubble is converted to paper, creating new jobs and transforming 100,000 tons of construction waste into an income stream, as has been proven in China, without consumption of water or cellulose from trees. Later, mining waste will complement the construction debris.

These initiatives will generate an estimated 100,000 jobs in Johannesburg in the short term and more than 300,000 in the long term. The capital investment is triggered by the city's core budget in the order of 10 percent of the financial requirements for the projects, while market forces will take over after the concepts have been proven.

This program is part of the "bottom-up scenarios" that the ZERI Foundation is organizing in order to design sustainable cities around the world based on initiatives that are locally viable, driven by readily available resources and leveraged by the purchasing power of the city to kick-start new industries. If we want to achieve a better world, we cannot do more of the same and expect different results. We must embark on a creative science-based approach while being prepared to assume calculated risks.

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Gunter Pauli is founder of the Zero Emissions Research Initiatives (ZERI) Foundation and author of The Blue Economy. Learn more at and