Promoting Green Economy for Africa’s Structural Transformation

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The green economy provides an innovative response framework for the structural transformation of the global economy, which has become inevitable given the global threats and impacts of climate change, said Desta Mebratu, the Africa Regional Office Deputy Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Desta was speaking on Wednesday in Addis at the sixth African Economic Conference organized by the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development programme, on the theme ‘Green Economy and Structural Transformation’.

“We are seeing breakdown of cycles and seismic structures. We are seeing a large level of social inequity, economic inflations, and the recession we had in 2008 heading towards a depression. A number of species are disappearing as we speak; there is an element of revolution, which we are seeing all over. Possibly we are heading towards economic depression with a global proportion. There are fundamental dynamics behind this,” he said.

Hundreds of economists, academics, researchers, government and civil society representatives and media from Africa and other continents are attending the four-day event, organized annually to discuss African development and related issues. 

Speaking at a plenary session on ‘Promoting the Green Economy for Africa’s Structural Transformation, said that the green economy concept aims to maximize human wellbeing and promote economic growth with reduced resource and environmental impact. 

The decoupling required to achieving economic growth with little impact on the environment focuses on resources and impacts, with different challenges for developing and developed countries, he added.

He emphasized however, that Africa was in a better position to transform to the green economy despite the tough environmental challenges it faced, such as land degradation, deforestation, desertification, water scarcity, pollution, and coastal degeneration. 

“Africa has the largest potential in terms of energy generation from renewable sources,” he added.

Other factors favourable to growing the green economy in Africa include, availability of mature, efficient and sustainable technologies, low lock-in inertia because of the low-level of development of physical and institutional infrastructure, and the culture of living in harmony with nature.

“Any system is a combination of (social, economic and environmental) dimensions. We need more of a systemic thinking. The triple helix of biological, social and economic systems is not what we can split. We have to take it all together in our planning of the transformation,” Desta said.

For his part, Afeikhena Jerome, a coordinator at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, told the session that Africa was lagging behind the rest of the world in transiting to the green economy. Apart from South Africa, Kenya, Botswana and a few other countries, green growth awareness remains low, he added.

He suggested macro-economic policies towards building sustainable physical and institutional infrastructure, promoting innovative development planning based on sustainability principles at regional and local levels, ensuring adaptive and inclusive development governance to promote social innovations at all levels, and greening development cooperation quantitatively and qualitatively, as some of the conditions for a successful transformation.

“The only question in front of us is whether we smartly design and manage the pace of this structural transformation or remain subject to its dictates,” he said.