Educate. Connect. Inspire

Educate. Connect. Inspire

Jun 11, 2012

Green Economy in Africa

Catalyzing a Green Economy in Africa

Countries still do not take full account of the costs of inaction on environmental challenges such as climate change, and inefficient use of energy and resources. Such cost of inaction can be considerable, especially for developing countries, Africa amongst them - whose economies rely more heavily on natural resources and where climate change is already hitting hardest. A new paradigm is needed to ensure that countries take better advantage of the larger potential benefits that can accompany the move towards greener economies. A paradigm which recognizes that to build a prosperous economy, “green” and “economy/growth” can no longer be considered in isolation.

In line with the principle of sustainable development, the green growth paradigm responds to the need for a new model of growth that is much less intensive in natural resources and that can lead to social well-being and poverty reduction in Africa. A major challenge in moving towards sustainable development is to balance and coordinate different interest: between economic growth/job creation and environmental integrity, between the rich and the poor, and between the present and the future generations. A green economy, by turning environmental imperatives into viable economic activities, helps reconcile the need for economic growth and the need to ensure the environmental basis for continued growth into the future. The green economy can contribute to the achievement of the MDG especially the achievement of the poverty eradication.

The Climate Change, Development & Adaptation Programme (CC DARE) jointly implemented by UNEP and UNDP and funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is using technical and financial assistance to respond to nationally defined needs of UN member states. The programme approach is premised on using timely, flexible and targeted actions which constitute a true recipe of a fiscal stimulus that offers the opportunity for triggering bigger actions within the bigger framework of national development in Africa. Using this approach in the continent has shown its appropriateness on how best to realize a low-carbon, resource efficient economy for the 21st century. The uniqueness of the programme to kick off and rollout self-driven national actions using technical and financial backstopping in overcoming immediate and urgent capacity gaps is creating an enabling environment which is most needed in spurring and fostering the green economy in the African continent and beyond. The peculiarity of the funding approach used by CC DARE is a stunning-truetestament that even with smaller funds, activities can still be implemented especially where they serves as a stimulus of targeted actions that foster green growth and remove barriers to bigger actions.

Effective green growth requires an enabling environment - one that grants the poor citizens the rights, resources and access they need to sustain and benefit from markets, natural resources amongst others. A key lesson from decades of development experience is the importance of creating appropriate policies and effective institutions at all levels to support people-centered, sustainable development, green growth. The lesson is important to apply to the green economy, given the significant overlap between the green economy and development and of course the achievement of the Millennium development goals. Granting the citizens resource rights, representation in governance processes, participation rights and fair access to markets can build the resilience of communities and help them to shift towards a sustainable economy while at the same time adapting to the changing climate. The CC DARE approach of engaging different actors/players through national and subnational levels have helped in the mobilization of national interest, national governments, civil societies which have helped created the type of enabling environment needed for the green economy in Africa. The simplified, practical, easy to implement approach utilized by this programme has shown that tackling multiple developmental needs; opportunities could emerge from the actions that fosters green growth.

Fostering a Green Economy transformation

At the 3rd African Ministerial Conference on Financing for Development in May 2009, in Kigali, Rwanda, African Ministers of Finance, Economic Planning, and Environment recognised the importance of placing the environment at the centre stage of Africa’s development process given the challenges it imposes on the continent’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Ministers called for the creation of an enabling environment to support the transition towards a green economy and pursuing low carbon growth, as well as facilitating the private sector to play a crucial role in the transfer and adoption of clean technologies.

African Ministers of Environment who met at the 13th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, in Bamako, Mali, in June 2010, similarly recognized the need to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a growth and development trajectory that embraces the green economy model.

Africa’s valuable natural capital assets are critical to wealth creation, vital for its economies, and essential for poverty reduction and sustainable development. In addition, such resources are of global importance, playing a key role in the conservation and sustainable use of the earth’s biological resources, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

African governments recognise increasingly that investments in green economic sectors, ecosystem restoration and the nurturing of natural capital can be instrumental in halting environmental degradation and also create green jobs, secure sustainable livelihoods and contribute to poverty reduction and green growth.

Will the green-economy train take Africa to the right destination? - by Dianna Games

Africa faces particular challenges, given that it suffers from so many development challenges already, which some fear may be made worse by trying to keep pace with the global "green" drive. The sheer weight of funding and initiatives are good reason to believe something positive may emerge from the hysteria about the world’s condition. The expectation is that Africa will benefit from new investment in technologies and infrastructure that will improve the quality and sustainability of growth.

Global action on climate change also offers an opportunity for a new engagement with African governments and policy makers on improving economic efficiency. This is all good but perhaps unrealistic given that a lack of political will to improve the economic environment has been a brake on development in the past.

The fact that all African countries are confronting challenges as a result of climate change is not a sufficient driver of change in Africa. Countries have always faced climate challenges. In a key affected sector — agriculture — issues of land tenure and associated lack of collateral and access to credit still hamper Africans’ ability to have food security.

Two of the most serious problems attributed to climate change, deforestation and land degradation, are caused largely by unchecked commercial exploitation, rural energy needs and poor farming practices.

In short, neglect and policy failure are perhaps the greatest obstacles to the development of African agriculture. The question is whether the weight brought to bear on governments to tackle climate change will get them to be more proactive about improving the way this and other sectors are managed.

We would all like to live in a greener world so there are many upsides to the focus on greener economies. African analyst and author Paul Collier told the gathering that solar power would be the next big thing in Africa, leapfrogging current energy sources in the way that mobile phones had done, as the cost of the technology came down.

But there are also many unknowns. For example, what will the effect be of climate-change initiatives on growth on a continent where the biggest new investment is in the areas that climate change proponents suggest is causing the problem — resources. ADB chief economist Mthuli Ncube says there is no tension between a green economy and resources investment. The focus, he says, will not be on discouraging new investment but rather encouraging companies to be more aware of the environmental implications of their operations. 

With all the hype about climate change, it is easy to forget the size and complexity of the challenges and the effect all of this may have on growth. A continent already hobbled by capacity constraints now faces a future filled with more complex policy challenges as countries are pushed to restructure their economies to fall in line with this global trend.

There are also concerns about other consequences of creating green economies, such as trade barriers, deindustrialisation and rising costs of doing business. And there is a lack of consensus on what a green economy actually is, which will compromise policy formulation.

But Africa is already on this fast-moving train. African ministers recently signed an agreement recognising the benefits to the continent of green economies. But it will be interesting to see if the political will to make this work matches the enthusiasm expressed in public forums.