The Sixth African Economic Conference (AEC) wound up on Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after four days of brainstorming on the environment, climate change and green growth and how they affect Africa’s future prosperity.
This year’s event, which had the theme “Green Economy and Structural Transformation”, attracted experts from the worlds of international organizations, the public and private sectors, governments, academia, civil society and the media.
Some 400 participants tackled over 40 research proposals and propositions on political, economic, and social issues that can help African countries to improve their economies and agriculture without harming the environment.
The prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi set the tone. He rejected the argument that Africa did not have to deal with environmental problems because it did not create them and could not afford expensive green technology. He proposed three sound arguments why Africa countries should go green, mostly using their own resources.
First, the transformation of Africa’s economy had to start with agriculture, the continent’s economic backbone. It had suffered badly from environmental damage, resulting in land degradation, floods, soil erosion, and drough. Green development involving massive re-forestation, water management, and soil conservations were crucial to improve the productivity of farms and increase the income of farmers.
Secondly, he continent is endowed with huge green and renewable energy sources. Structural economic transformation would require huge energy generation from the continent’s abundant energy resources “whose opportunity cost is close to zero.”
Thirdly, Africa’s structural economic transformation and ‘greening’ could only come about if the continent caught up with the technology levels enjoyed by developed countries. Africa had not really invested in heavy technology, and could easily leapfrog into the new world.
“But even as we embark on the struggle to get every penny that we deserve, we should understand the issue of green development and structural economic transformation in Africa are too urgent and to important to be left to the tender mercies of the god will of others,” Mr. Zenawi told delegates during the opening ceremony.
These views were endorsed by sustained applause from participants,. The chief economist of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mthuli Ncube, recalled that over the last four years, Africa had received only 12 percent of global climate change adaptations funds. This was in spite of the fact that Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change, noted Tegegnework Gettu, the director of the African regional bureau of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
For his part, Abdoulie Janneh, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNRCA) said that economic growth and greenery could go hand in hand, noting that it was important that the green economy should not damage the environment further while creating jobs.
The chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, emphasized that the green economy was already a fact in many African countries. However, he added that the continent would not remain on the sidelines in the campaign, and that it was necessary to achieve inclusive growth without increasing environmental risk.
These positive signals coming from the continent’s political, economic and social leaders confirmed the view that African countries are intent on a green revolution.
In addition to the number of existing green projects and funds in which the AfDB is already involved, it is also helping to design and secure political support for a proposed USD 100 billion Africa Green Fund. Its formation will be discussed at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP17) taking place in Durban in November and December 2012.
“I believe the Durban meeting will be an opportune moment for Africa to ensure that Africa’s specific challenges are articulated. For an energy poor continent –suffering already the impact of climate change on our agriculture, and food security, our forests – Durban is a landmark,” said the prresident of the AfDB, Donald Kaberuka. Mr Kaberuka is also a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Persons Group on Climate Change.