Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat - 2005
Africa’s voice at Rio is critical. This is a historic opportunity for Africa to present its green credentials to the world and demonstrate the advantages in expanding its green economies. Africa’s key negotiating document, the Consensus Statement, could be strengthened by emphasising Africa’s green investment opportunities and long-term green growth potential. Instead of calling on the international community to put green investment strategies into place on time, Africa is well positioned and amply qualified to propose its own.
The Rio+20 Summit is a unique opportunity for Africa to demonstrate its collective progress towards sustainability since 1992 and to present its green credentials to the world. It is a three-day window of opportunity for Africa to take the lead and propose ways to expand its green economies that can help rebalance the global economy. At Rio, Africa more than any other continent will be speaking with one voice. In negotiations this single voice is a major advantage.
Africa’s key negotiating document for Rio is the 13-page Consensus Statement from Ministers of African States, assembled during a preparatory conference in Addis Ababa in October 2011. The Consensus Statement demonstrates the tremendous advances in sustainable development thinking and experience in Africa over the past 20 years and makes a sound case for why the rest of the world should work with Africa to build a green economy in order to meet the challenges ahead.
Yet as a negotiating document it misses two important points for making a more positive case: (a) Africa’s green growth potential as a means of rebalancing the global economy, and (b) Africa as a buffer against the expansion of the unsustainable brown economy.
If Africa is a green field for investment and the new engine for global growth, more could be said about the continent’s huge growth opportunities and its position to influence global decision-making. Africa’s Consensus at Rio+20 would be stronger and more effective if it presented concrete green growth plans that would appeal to others' enlightened self-interest.
Item 24 of the Consensus Statement emphasises the need to promote the green economy in Africa through national and internationally agreed objectives, imperatives and commitments. The Consensus “calls on the international community to put an international investment strategy into place to facilitate the transition towards a green economy.” This call, however, is from the "old" Africa asking outsiders who don't understand their lands to fix their problems, and highlights an opportunity for the "new" Africa to propose strategies of their own.
Instead of waiting for the international community, preoccupied as it is with multiple crises, to deliver a meaningful sustainable growth strategy on time, Africa has a unique opportunity to propose a strategy of its own. With its vast resources, tremendous economic growth potential, 20 years’ sustainable development experience (smallholder farming, land rehabilitation and general progress on meeting MDGs, made possible by new technologies) and huge demographic advantages, Africa is in a strong position to take the lead in developing green growth strategies.
The statistics speak for themselves. The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the United Nations are clear on Africa's potential. The billions of dollars pouring into Africa from around the globe demonstrate a new-found confidence. The success and inspiration of the May 2012 World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa confirms Africa's enhanced position in global affairs.
On March 12 the Financial Times gave an encouraging view of the forthcoming summit: "Business to play a big role in green economy at next Rio conference." Yet on April 24 the FT gave more negative view: "Earth talks 'in need of vision and direction'" with just a side reference to the "so-called 'green economies.'" With the global brown economy heading for a possibly prolonged contraction this is a challenge and an opportunity for Africa to provide the vision and direction at Rio by proposing strategies to expand the green.