However, while optimism in Africa has reached spectacular heights in recent years, there is enough evidence to suggest that caution is needed at all levels of discussion. This is Africa’s third era of hope and while this time is certainly different, so much unfortunately is still the same. Business-as-usual, or the old ‘brown’ economy, which has failed Africa so dramatically in the past, is still the most dominant force on the continent and is expanding fast. Yet sustainability as a means to address the externalities or ‘hidden costs’ of business-as-usual in Africa is given very little space in most of this year’s meetings. The green economy, which African leaders increasingly recognise as the only viable route to achieving sustainability and resilience, is not even mentioned on most agendas. Climate change, the biggest hidden cost of the brown economy and one which threatens Africa more than any other, is also absent from most Africa meetings in 2013.
This could be a pivotal year for Africa, the last frontier for investment. This, therefore, is a call for the green economy to be included in all discussions on Africa’s potential and Africa’s future. In the last 20 years African countries have made huge progress in green development and are in a unique position to take the lead in the evolving global green economy. The UN’s Rio+20 ‘Earth Summit’ in June 2012 confirmed that the green economy is not a luxury but a 21st century imperative. Africa’s Consensus Statement to Rio+20 made it clear that the continent is ready for a rapid expansion of the green economy we all must eventually build. Leading Africans from Meles Zenawi, late prime minister of Ethiopia, to Kofi Annan, former UN secretary-general and Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, have been telling us for years that green growth is critical to Africa’s future. This year’s meetings on Africa are the most important forums to explore ways forward.
Possible areas for discussion as a way of understanding the green economy in Africa are: (1) the history of industrial development on the continent from 1950-1990 which will show how the hidden costs of the high carbon, resource intensive, ecologically degrading and social divisive brown economy caused failures in the past and will cause failures in the future; (2) the history of green development and the evolution of the green economy in Africa, from the Lem Meeting in Addis Ababa in June 1992 (held in conjunction with the UN’s first Rio Summit) to Rio+20 in June 2012, and (3) how Africa’s green economies can be measured, developed and expanded to meet the world’s urgent need for green growth as the only long-term way to rebalance the global economy and save the planet. Africa’s under-developed brown economies are now Africa’s greatest advantage for building a green economy.
Thank you for your attention.
(1) PRELIMINARY LIST OF AFRICA-FOCUSED OR AFRICA-RELATED CONFERENCES IN 2013. THIS WILL BE ADDED TO AS MORE ARE DISCOVERED. IT IS WORTH NOTING AGAIN THAT, WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, SUSTAINABILITY, THE GREEN ECONOMY, ADAPTATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE DO NOT FEATURE IN THE FOLLOWING AFRICA MEETINGS.
- BRICS SUMMIT (brics5.co.za) - BRICS and AFRICA: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation -
- Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum - Cape Town, South Africa
- World Investment Conference North Africa - Marrakech, Morocco
- Offshore West Africa (offshorewestafrica.com) - Deepwater Discoveries, Emerging Opportunities - Accra, Ghana
- OECD Global Forum on Development (oecd.org) - Paris, France
- African Venture Capital Association Conference (avcanet.com) - Cape Town, South Africa
- Liberia Mining, Energy & Petroleum Conference (limep.com) - Cape Town, South Africa