World’s Economic Woes Could Harm Africa but Continent Set on ‘Green Growth’

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Africa’s current buoyant economic growth rates could be hit by the continuing economic crisis in the developed world, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the African Economic Conference (AEC) in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, the AfDB’s chief economist, Mthuli Ncube, said: “our prediction is that a one percent drop in the GDP of the OECD countries would lead to a half percent drop in African GDP.”

Ncube estimated this year’s growth rate for Africa at 5.5 percent and 5.8 percent next year.
The theme of the 2011 African Economic Conference, the sixth in the series co-organised by the AfDB, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is “Green Economy and Structural Transformation.”

Over the four-day event, economists, climate change experts and researchers will tackle the question of how Africa can grow and create much-needed jobs without adding to global environmental problems.

The AfDB chief economist said the African continent “suffers unfairly” from climate change.  He explained that although Africa contributes only four percent of global greenhouse gases, it is at the “receiving end” of more than its fair share of climate change effects, such as scarce water and extreme weather variations.

At the same time, he added, Africa does not get its fair share of funding to mitigate the effects of climate change. Ncube highlighted the fact that “over the last four years, Africa had received only 12 percent of global funds available for adaptation to climate change.” He added that the AfDB had been ensuring that funds are invested in climate-friendly projects. To raise direly needed funding for climate change initiatives in Africa, it envisages the establishment of an Africa Green Fund in the not so distant future.

Echoing the chief economist’s remarks, Tegegnework Gettu, UNDP’s director of its regional bureau for Africa, said “the continent is the most vulnerable to climate change.”  He noted that while Africa’s overall level of human development was low, it was affected disproportionately by pollution.

UNECA executive secretary, Abdoulie Janneh, emphasised that economic growth and greenery could go hand in hand. “It is important that the green economy does no further damage to the environment,” he said.

Growth, he explained, was essential, particularly for job creation and especially among the young. “The most pressing priority in Africa is creating jobs. We must try to ensure we create jobs for young people.”

Jean Ping, chairperson of the African Union Commission, stressed the crucial nature of Africa’s economic advancement. He said the issues for the green economy were no longer just matters for debate, but that there had to be a compatible model for Africa. “The process has already begun,” he said.  “The green economy is already under way in most African countries.”

Ping stressed: “Africa will not remain on the sidelines of the fight for a green economy.  It is essential to achieve inclusive growth without increasing environmental risks.”