AfDB Hosts Talks on Accelerating Green Growth in Africa at Rio+20

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How to ease the path of green growth in Africa was the subject of an African Development Bank (AfDB) event at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro.

The event, entitled “Facilitating Green Growth in Africa: Perspectives from the African Development Bank”, was held on 14 June.

The AfDB’s Chief Climate Change Specialist at the AfDB, Frank Sperling, explained how green growth is premised on the notion that economic growth can be achieved through a range of economic activities.

By choosing certain economic activities, he said, economic growth can be decoupled from environmental harm.  Mr Sperling stressed that green growth needs to be development-centred.  

He listed the most immediate priorities for Africa.  They were - overcoming the infrastructure deficit, efficient management of natural resources, natural disasters and climate change, and food security.  He added that “decisions taken today will lock in Africa’s energy infrastructure for decades.”

Kate Raworth, senior researcher at Oxfam UK, spoke about the concept more globally.  She presented a vision for inclusive and sustainable economic development as a safe and just place for humanity.

She said that environmental boundaries are being overstepped.  Without concrete solutions in place, overexploitation of natural resources and destruction of natural systems would continue to pose a significant threat to economic growth and human welfare.

Ms Raworth said it was the responsibility of all nations to follow a green growth trajectory.  She was of the opinion that all countries are developing nations because no country yet lives in a safe green economic space.

There was general agreement that lack of finance remains the main obstacle to sustainable development and green growth in Africa.  But Ms Raworth said it was not just a question of money. 

There had to also be an “injection of creativity.”

The manager of the AfDB’s Safety and Compliance Division, Anthony Okon Nyong, added that, in Africa especially, creativity is needed in managing existing resources, not in creating new ones.  It was the responsibility of each country, he said, to map its own green growth path and tailor it to the specific context in which it was being developed.

To further ensure the sustainable introduction of green growth economies, development organizations including the AfDB can build on existing policy, operational and financial experiences that can function as building blocks for green growth development.

Additionally, its implementation requires sustained political commitment, better valuation of natural and social assets in decision-making processes, and the removal of market distortions.

Chair of the AfDB’s Climate Change Coordination Committee, Aly Abou-Sabaa, said: “A strong political will at all levels of governance is key in the establishment of new policies.”

He added that the AfDB is an important resource in undertaking such initiatives.  He added that it is designed to serve as a catalyst in terms of ideas and practical concepts, technical assistance and financial support for its regional member countries.

Green growth economies cannot develop without the engagement of various stakeholders, including the private sector and high-level government representatives.

As Mr Sterling stated, the African continent runs the risk of losing out again in the climate finance architecture, unless there are concrete African solutions aimed specifically at Africa and its priorities regarding climate change and green growth.  Choices made now would have dramatic consequences for everyone.