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This blog was started in May 2012, one month before the United Nations Rio+20 ‘Earth Summit’ where the green economy was the main theme. The blog so far has had three specific objectives.

In the run-up to the Rio+20 Summit the initial objective was to raise awareness of Africa’s huge green growth potential and role in rebalancing the global economy. Eight posts were published before the Summit and were sent to as many African environment ministries as possible. One post was published in August 2012 appraising the summit and Africa’s position: Africa, Rio+20 and the Green Road Ahead.

The second objective was to examine the case of Ethiopia, following the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi on 21 August 2012. At the time of his death Mr Meles was recognised as 'the voice of Africa' at international summits and conferences and a leader in Africa's green thinking. Four posts on Ethiopia were published between late August and early November 2012 exploring the paradoxical nature of his leadership with a focus on raising awareness of his green legacy and 21st century vision for Ethiopia and Africa.

The third and current objective is to raise awareness of the importance of the green economy in Africa's growth story. 2013 started with unprecedented optimism for Africa’s growth prospects. Summits, conferences, articles, books, blogs, films and other media now proclaim that 'Africa’s Moment' has arrived. But very few even mention the green economy as an essential tool in the process to achieve sustainability and resilience. For this reason the current focus of this blog is a call to action to 'put the green economy into Africa’s growth story'.

Part of this call to action is writing letters to the Financial Times. Not only does the FT have excellent coverage of Africa but it is also seen by many as the 'world's most influential newspaper'.

Friday, 10 April 2015


For more than decade Africa has registered strong economic growth with impressive results across a range of social, environmental and governance indicators. Not since independence have the continent’s prospects looked so promising. And now, more than ever, the world needs Africans to succeed. However, Africa's continued rise is by no means assured and many questions remain unanswered. 2015 looks likely to be a decisive year for the ‘Hopeful Continent’.

Two historic international negotiations are taking place in 2015 that require Africa to speak out and to speak with one voice: the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by the UN General Assembly expected in September and the UN’s Climate Change Summit in Paris in November.

The outcome of these interlinked negotiations will determine the direction and pace of Africa’s rise and its necessary transition to a sustainable and climate resilient economy that, by definition, must be low carbon, resource efficient, socially inclusive and environmentally responsible.

African leaders in their Consensus Statement to the UN’s Rio+20 ‘Earth Summit’ in June 2012 made it clear that the only way to succeed in this transition is by building a green economy. The African Development Bank has made it equally clear that green growth is critical for Africa’s future. In the months leading up to this year’s summits Africa’s ‘green voice’ must be heard.

Unfortunately the opposite could easily happen, as there is mounting concern that Africa is unsure of its place on the world stage and may be losing the diplomatic gains it has made internationally over the past decade.

The lack of African representation at last November’s G20 summit in Brisbane, the challenges encountered by Africa’s negotiators at the UN Climate Change talks in Lima last December and Africa’s struggle to get heard at the World Economic Forum at Davos in January 2015 justifies concerns that the continent is in danger of becoming sidelined once more, and at a critical stage in its long awaited rise.

It is against this vulnerable backdrop that Africa has to deal with a host of converging and interconnected challenges - economic, social, environmental and political - driven by both internal and external forces.

Economic: falling commodity prices, fiscal and current account deficits, foreign exchange crises, illicit capital outflows, tax evasion, rising borrowing costs and non-performing loans are contributing to the continent’s unsustainable debt.

Social: persistent poverty, rising hunger, inequality, unemployment, illegal migration, disease, extremism and insecurity if not addressed could turn Africa’s huge demographic dividend into a global demographic time bomb.

Environmental: climate change, deforestation, soil erosion, flooding, desertification, biodiversity loss and extreme weather events threaten Africa’s agricultural output while the continent faces population growth of historic dimensions. 

Political: With many older leaders reluctant to step down and nearly a third of Africa’s 54 countries holding elections in 2015, the continent’s hard won democratic advances of recent years will be severely tested.

Add mounting geopolitical crises and the ever-present threat of another global economic downturn to the mix and it becomes clear that for Africa to meet these challenges, continue to rise and contribute to sustainable global growth, something urgently needs to change. The most viable route to bring about such change and roll back business-as-usual is through developing an inclusive and robust African green economy that measures Africa in new ways.

Meles Zenawi, late prime minister of Ethiopia who by the time of his death in 2012 was seen as the ‘voice for Africa’, said during the financial crisis “Africa is a green field for investment because it is the least developed region in the world”. Africa’s least developed status is now Africa’s greatest advantage for expanding green growth and could be Africa’s best card in this year’s international negotiations.

With the window of opportunity for change closing fast there are four ways Africa can raise its ‘green voice’ on the world stage and improve its negotiating position in 2015.

One. Put the green economy into this year’s record number of Africa summits. Worldwide there are more than one a week yet hardly any have the green economy in their otherwise excellent programmes. Each of these summits is a unique opportunity for Africans and their green partners to explore ways and means of creating green growth with others who may not be aware of the huge green potential in this ‘last frontier’.

Two. Form a Pan-African Green Economy Coalition that will unite all 54 African countries with a common goal of spreading knowledge of the continent’s current and potential green growth. Despite a vast network of green growth initiatives and partnerships created in Africa over the past 20 years there is no single coordinating body bringing all these together. Such a coalition would create space for the public and private sectors to communicate in new ways and to form a single green voice for Africa on the world stage.   

Three. Present a Pan-African green investment plan to the international community that will demonstrate how Africa can become an engine of global green growth for the 21st century. Item 24 of Africa’s Consensus Statement to Rio+20 called on the international community to ‘put an international investment strategy in place to facilitate the transition to a green economy’. As this has not been forthcoming, the 2015 summits offer an historic opportunity for Africans to develop and present a green investment strategy of their own.

Four.  Develop a smart Pan-African publicity campaign designed to get Africans talking about the green economy. This can be done through traditional as well as social media. Such a campaign will clarify Africa’s unique potential for accelerating green growth. It should be made clear that the green economy is not restricted to low carbon energy (as is so often thought) but also, and equally, includes resource efficiency, social inclusion and environmental responsibility.

If Africa is still a ‘green field for investment’ the challenge is to keep it green while delivering the investments, goods and services Africans need. Enough foundation work has been done since the end of the Cold War to make this happen. The knowledge and information are there. The management tools and green technologies have been developed. The financial instruments are being honed. The skills have been learned and the people are ready. Political and business leaders know what is required. Global corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars of underperforming funds. 

With the right investment Africans are now in a position to take the lead in pioneering 21st century green growth strategies from which the rest of the world can learn. The opportunities presented by this year’s summits may never be seen again. As the late Wangari Maathai, one of Africa's pioneering  green voices, used to say "We know what to do: why don't we do it?" 

This is Africa’s third era of hope. The first was at independence. The second came at the end of the Cold War - Africa’s ‘second liberation’. Although ‘this time is different’ unfortunately so much is still the same and business-as-usual, or the high carbon, resource intensive, socially divisive, environmentally degrading and unsustainable ‘brown’ economy, continues to be the most dominant force on the continent. For this time to be truly different in ways that will benefit the world, this is the time for Africa’s ‘green voice’ to make itself heard.

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