Can Africa’s regional flagship programmes change the continent’s development narrative?

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“If we want Africa to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030, if Africa must transform its agriculture and drive its development priorities to acceptable levels, then we have to take the regional flagship programmes outlined by New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and partners very seriously,” cautioned Estherine Fotabong, Director of Programmes for the NEPAD Agency, as she opened a panel discussion on Africa’s Green Growth Strategies at a COP21 side event on Saturday, December 5 in Paris.

The programme, she said, underscored the political commitment for the promotion of sustainable development on the continent as a whole, and in regions in particular.

She called on governments and development partners to further strengthen and consolidate their efforts to integrate the African regional flagship programme as mapped out by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).

Fotabong pointed out that an action plan to counter the negative effects of climate change in Africa was launched in 2003 by NEPAD and AMCEN and a framework to deal with environmental management of the continent was reached.

“Since then, we have put in place five sub-regional action plans today termed flagship programmes that will help bring some dynamism and create an enabling environment to fight climate change at regional and national levels,” Fotabong said.

All five regions, the North, West, Central, South and East Africa, are benefiting from the flagship programme, which is the first-ever continental framework on environment that also gives room for collaboration between regions.

The focus areas of the action plan include green economy partnership, land degradation, desertification, biodiversity and ecosystem, an African sustainability energy development programme, and integrating environmental assessments in sustainable planning.

The Steering Committee to oversee the implementation of these programmes has been created with the African Development Bank (AfDB), AMCEN, African Union (AU), NEPAD, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) working together.

Participants agree that one of the key flagship programmes that will move Africa forward is renewable energy.

“Many of the flagship programmes are cross-cutting, so their plans of action have to be shared and documented to ensure that the different partners know what is happening where and when. But we know that key among these plans is the renewable energy project that will help move the rest along,” Aly Abou-Sabaa, Vice-President, Sector Operations, at the AfDB, pointed out.

He said it is against this backdrop that the African Development Bank announced the tripling of its climate finance over the next five years to US $5 billion.

The financing, he said, will be spread across the five flagship operations with emphasis on sustainable management.

“While the AfDB continues to negotiate very hard for additional financing, we are emphasizing the sustainable management of what we already have,” Abou-Sabaa said.

The need to explore private-sector financing was also reiterated.

“The private sector cannot be left out in this drive and that is why they constitute a significant partner in the programme,” noted Mohamed Abdel, Advisor to the Minister in the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency.

The participants at the discussion expressed the need for Ministerial Departments involved with the implementation of the programmes at the country level to work in tandem with their Ministries of Finance.

“Planning and implementation of the flagship programmes at the country level has to involve the Ministry of Finance of every country, so that the project is properly integrated in the budgetary allocation of each country,” AfDB’s Abou-Sabaa said.

The African Group of Negotiators and civil society organizations have called on AMCEN to ensure transparency in decisions reached in all negotiations.

A press release issued Sunday by the African Group of Negotiators and the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) pointed to the need to ensure transparency in financial support to African countries.

“There is a need to double the Green Climate Fund in the immediate term and to treble it by 2020,” the press release stated.

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