The economy and its ecologically sustainable growth offered yet another opportunity this week to shine the light on the region, which played host to continental and global meetings on environmental concerns.
As Kigali was hosting the inaugural African Green Growth Forum, Nairobi was coincidentally on the Blue Economy.
Issues involved in both the green and blue aspects are not new to the region. Efforts geared at addressing some of the challenges have been ongoing in the past few years.
For instance, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) Sub-Regional Office based in Kigali, which covers 14 States in the larger Eastern Africa, has, for some years now, been spearheading efforts towards sustainable blue economy in the region.
One such is the June 2015 Blue Economy and Ocean Governance Workshop in the Seychelles that built on previous blue capacity initiatives to harness regional development. Follow-up efforts continue to date.
This may be viewed within the larger global context under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that the Nairobi Blue Economy meet espoused, especially under the sustainable development goal 14.
The goal includes the specific target on enhancing the economic benefits to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other developing countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through the sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism.
As for the African Green Growth Forum, it brought together investors, policymakers and practitioners from across the continent to share experiences in green growth and climate resilient development.
The ground had already been laid, specifically if one connects it with Rwanda’s accomplishments under its Green Fund (FONERWA) that has been operational for a number of years now.
The fund’s purpose, as explained on the initiative’s website, is to be “the engine for the next 50 years of green growth” in the country.
The concept of Green Economy, as the country’s Environment Management Authority (REMA) also reminds us, refers to an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
It is an economy whose growth in income and employment is driven by investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, as well as prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Note how this finds echo under AU’s 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy and its assertion that local level grass-root communities should be at the heart of Blue Economy growth. Include also the call to enhance knowledge to better exploit opportunities within that economy.
And, other than protection, conservation, preservation and sustainable use of aquatic biodiversity, note how the AU strategy also aims at addressing climate change mitigation.
With the foregoing, it is thus the assertion that the twin concepts of the Green and Blue Economy are well anchored in the region.
By this, a country does not need to have a coastal border to appreciate the depth of the assertion. Rwanda, in its geographical circumstance of being landlocked, offers a handy example with its rich and, for such a small country, surprisingly broad network of wetlands.
As set out in a REMA inventory on the wetlands, the country has an array of 860 marshlands covering a total surface of 278,536 hectares, which corresponds to 10.6 per cent of the country surface.
The country’s lakes number 101 covering 149,487 hectares. Its rivers number an impressive 861 totalling a combined 6,462 kilometres in length.
The real story, however, is in their utility. The wetlands are used in various ways and have had a great role to play in the national economy.
Some of the main utilisations include agriculture production, hydrological functions, biodiversity reservoirs, peat reserve, mitigation of climate change, leisure and tourism and cultural value.
Appreciation of the impact these have had undergirds the national green fund initiative to safeguard the resources. It, however, also speaks of the country’s connection to the larger region East Africa region through some of its major arteries such as River Nyabarongo which goes on to join the Akagera River before emptying into Lake Victoria and proceeding on through River Nile.
If one also considers the railway network already under construction to connect the country to the Indian Ocean through Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in one way and eventually to Mombasa, Kenya, in the other direction through Kampala it does not matter that countries in the hinterland are not coastal.
For this reason, the two meetings shone invaluable light on the challenges and the threats that must be dealt with, and which no country anywhere on the continent and the world is untouched.
This is in addition to affirming the collective role we must adapt to safeguard and sustainably exploit the resources.
While the meetings were essentially about responsible environmental social governance by both the developed and the developing countries, may they also make good the commitments pledged towards social inclusion, preservation and improvement of livelihoods.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.