This year, Africa celebrates Earth Day on Sunday, 22 April, with an immense and deep sense of hope for a better future.
Africa is now seen as a land of sunshine and hope. Over the last two decades, it has experienced tremendous progress in implementing tough economic reforms, strengthening governance and improving conditions for private sector development.
Because of these reforms, Africa is enjoying the longest growth period since the mid-1980s.
And things are improving on other fronts, too. Poverty levels fell to under 45 percent in 2010 compared to 59 percent in 1995. Primary education enrollment and completion rates are up, and under-five child mortality rates continue to decline.
But not all indicators are positive, so there is still plenty of work to be done. For instance, there are increasing disparities in poverty levels in and between regional member countries.
A number of core drivers play a critical role in defining our future. They include population growth, rapid urbanization and rising youth unemployment, together with an increasingly tight international fiscal environment.
On the other hand, there is strong global demand for energy, mineral and agricultural commodities, emerging South-South trade and investment, improving political and economic governance, climate change and opportunities for green growth.
Also, information and communications technology advances and becomes more accessible across Africa, not least because of submarine cables linking Africa to the rest of the world.
Each of these drivers presents both opportunities and challenges for the continent’s future. The Rio+20 climate change conference, which takes place in Brazil in June 2012, is a chance to move away from business-as-usual.
As it title suggests, this conference comes 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, when countries adopted Agenda 21. This was a blueprint for rethinking economic growth, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection.
Rio+20 is a chance to act jointly to end poverty, address environmental destruction and build a bridge to the future for our children and their children/ It is an opportunity to adopt practical measures for implementing sustainable development and green economy.
For the African Development Bank (AfDB), Earth Day is a good time to reiterate our commitment in supporting Africa’s development in a more sustainable manner; to take stock of the socioeconomic development that the continent is experiencing, and to make our development more sustainable and greener.
Formulating AfDB’s Long Term Strategy for 2013-2022 provides a valuable opportunity to re-examine our role in supporting sustainable, inclusive and green development in Africa.
This strategy will ensure that the AfDB remains relevant to Africa, by continuing to help its member countries realize their development aspirations. The Bank’s organizational effectiveness and efficiency will continue to improve to make the best use of its resources, which remain relatively small compared to Africa’s financing needs.
Consequently, the AfDB will continue to act as a catalyst to attract more financial resources from both public and private sector sources in Africa. It will continue to play its important role in fostering public-private partnerships, spurring the creation of new businesses and the growth of global African companies, including promoting innovation and entrepreneurship that generates employment for people on the continent.
The AfDB, as the premier financier of Africa’s development, takes note of the evolving international economic landscape and commits itself to supporting the continent in a more flexible and responsive manner, providing tailored and focused approaches to its member countries while remaining selective and focusing on its areas of relative strength.
In the run-up to Rio+20, Earth Day is a time for Africa and the AfDB to give serious reflection to the future of the planet.
While seeking for innovative solutions to pursue the development efforts and alleviate poverty, Africa will increasingly need to deal with the imperatives of sustainable development and climate change.
Earth Day is a time for reckoning, to make green growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction a concrete reality in Africa through innovative ways. These include climate-proofing infrastructure development, supporting climate-smart agriculture, sustainably managing natural capital, investing in clean technologies, reducing the informational and technological gap, creating a living environment for a more urbanized African population, and promoting decent and green jobs on the continent.