This time last year the Financial Times' and The Economist’s joint “Africa Rising” campaign was in full swing. Over the first quarter of 2013 two of the world’s most influential newspapers, using every medium at their disposal*, confirmed that Africa is now the “Hopeful Continent” and that its “Moment” has truly arrived.
“Africa is looking increasingly risky for investors and global supply chains,” Jackson writes, referring to information in the latest Global Risks and Resilience Atlas (GRRA), published by UK-based global analysts Maplecroft on 6 February. Maplecroft’s highly respected annualevaluates 179 countries across 36 risk issues. It identifies 5 broadly interconnected risks in Africa: macroeconomic, security, climate change, resource scarcity and pandemics and infectious diseases. Risk resilience is identified by two indices: governance and societal.
Factor in the effects of climate change, deforestation, soil erosion, resource depletion and biodiversity loss (most of these are twice the global average) plus the doubling of populations over the coming decades and today's risks, without a radical change of approach to economic growth, will seem insignificant.
What is more worrying is that countries with high growth rates, like Nigeria and Mozambique, seem to be just as vulnerable to increased risk as the lesser economic performers like Central African Republic or Somalia. According to Maplecroft, Nigeria, Africa’s second largest economy and darling of international investors, has seen a big change in its rankings moving from the 22nd most at risk to 14th in the past year and is now in the high risk category.
African leaders first called for self-sufficiency, or self-reliance, at independence in the 1960s, not to reclaim it, as they are today, but to avoid losing what they already had. Their fears were justified. By the end of the 1980s, the planning, technologies and economics of the post-colonial development model (and the assumptions that underlie them) left Africa with billions of dollars’ worth of failed or failing projects, millions of destitute people and billions of dollars of debt. In single generation Africa’s self-sufficiency had been destroyed.
The good news is that despite the dominant role of the old dependency system, Africans haven’t given up their quest for self-sufficiency through a green economy. Since the dark days of the crisis Africans have been building on their green foundations and now have the knowledge and credentials to convince potential partners where sustainable investments lie. African countries need rapid and sustained investment in their green economies to counteract the expansion of the dependency system, which also happens to be high carbon, resource intensive, ecologically degrading and socially divisive. This old “brown” economy will not work in the world’s most challenging continent.
Last October the African Development Bank issued an inaugural $500 billion Green Bond which sold out within 24 hours and was 10 per cent oversubscribed. The AfDB, NEPAD, the UN, the World Bank, OECD and other global institutions plus innumerable NGOs, large and small, are taking first steps towards measuring Africa’s green economies so that they can be understood and expanded.
With urgency mounting, Item 24 of the Consensus Statement calls on the international community “to put an international investment strategy in place to facilitate [Africa’s] transition towards a green economy." As world leaders, preoccupied as they are with multiple crises of their own, are unlikely to deliver a green investment strategy in time, this is a historic moment for Africans to propose their own.
Globalisation on Trial
In the 1960s, departing Europeans said "the white man's civilisation is on trial in Africa." Well aware of the consequences of success or failure they could see that "the future of us all is bound up in Africa." Fifty years later it is globalisation that is on trial and an economic growth system that is wrecking the planet. As Africa is the last frontier for investment the future of us all is bound up there more than ever. In our interconnected world Africa's risks are now everybody's risks.
The days when Africa’s dependency was to everyone else's advantage are over. The continent's return to self-sufficiency through a low carbon, resource efficient, ecologically responsible and socially inclusive green economy would benefit us all. Africa's advantage is that the brown economy is still underdeveloped. African leaders can and must do more to put the green economy into the Africa Rising narrative. More exposure from influential publications like the Economist and the Financial Times would help.
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