At the instance of the AfDB President, Nobel Laureate, Wangari Maathai, has accepted to deliver a lecture on the theme: “Natural Resource Management and Poverty Reduction: Strengthening the Links.” The theme of the lecture, which has been scheduled to take place on October 27, 2009, in Tunis, Tunisia, has been motivated by the need to deepen current understanding of how good practice in the use of natural resources can promote accelerated poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and development, particularly in rural parts of Africa.
The need is motivated by the overarching challenge of ensuring that Africa’s natural resources become a positive factor in broad-based socio-economic development. Natural resource endowment is a source of capital and wealth and is expected to lead to growth and development if well managed.The theoretical expectation is that resource-rich economies are better placed to achieve rapid poverty reduction and economic transformation than their resource-poor counterparts. The reality, however, is that the performance of resource-rich African countries has been relatively poor and far lower than expected, with few exceptions. In many cases, the extraction and use of the resources has often led to increased poverty and considerable environmental degradation where the resources are located.
The seminar will provide an opportunity for rich exchanges on how this paradox can be reversed by addressing how some countries and communities succeed in harnessing their resources for poverty alleviation and economic growth, while others continue to be trapped in poverty in the midst of plenty. The discussions will also review the relationships between resource endowment, national institutional and organizational capacities, participatory democracy, good governance as well as the roles and responsibilities of the local and international communities.
Since its inception in 2006, the AfDB Eminent Speakers Programme has attracted 13 high-level speakers who have addressed over 3,000 participants. The seminars provide Bank staff, members of the diplomatic corps, staff of international organizations and Tunisian institutions of higher learning with unique opportunities to exchange views with renowned personalities and experts on challenges facing the continent as well as learn of achievements and opportunities. The upcoming seminar to be addressed by the Nobel Laureate will be no exception. Her distinction, her passion for environmental protection, her profound knowledge and experience on natural resources issues, particularly as they relate to eco-system sustenance, poverty alleviation, human rights, gender equity and peace in developing countries, make her the ideal person to deliver the 14th seminar of the Eminent Speakers Programme.
Prof. Wangari Maathai combines scientific knowledge, education, social commitment and active politics. More than simply protecting the existing environment, her strategy is to secure and strengthen the very basis for ecologically sustainable development. She founded the Green Belt Movement where, for nearly thirty years, she has mobilized Kenyans, particularly poor women to plant over 30 million trees. Her methods have been adopted by other countries as well. We are all witness to how bad agricultural practices, deforestation and erosion have led to desertification in Africa and lead to a threat of many countries in the world. Protecting the landscape against desertification is a vital factor in the struggle to contain environmental degradation and climate protection.
Through education, community development, human rights protection, family planning, nutrition and the fight against corruption, the Green Belt Movement has paved the way for development at the grassroots level. Professor Maathai is a strong African voice speaking for the poor and the underprivileged, particularly women to ensure that their potential is realized and harnessed for the continent’s development. She is the first African woman to be honored with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. She is a role model and a source of inspiration for many across the globe who are involved in efforts at attaining sustainable development, alleviating poverty as well as fostering gender equity, democracy and peace.