African countries are at a critical juncture in their development trajectories. Confronted with internal challenges of poverty and unemployment, the resource basis of many productive sectors is facing threats of environmental degradation, including deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, and loss of biodiversity, depletion of fish stocks compounded byeffects of climate change.
At the same time, these challenges represent opportunities for change. A green economy offers considerable opportunities for mobilising resources towards an economic growth pathway that is low-emission in terms of carbon-dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases released in the atmosphere during economic production activities.
A green economy also builds a culture of resource efficiency in economic activities and of sustainable consumption among the population as well as climate-resilient housing, infrastructure and other economic installations, while at the same time adapting to different approaches to promote, among others, resilient agricultural production, diversification into off-farm livelihoods and other diversification innovations for the local and export markets.
However, the combination of tackling poverty, accelerating growth and development, and addressing climate change, is likely to involve trade-offs and policy choices between mutually supportive, but equally important priorities toward the improvement of welfare and quality of life for Africa’s citizens.
Natural capital accounting and natural resource wealth valuation are not a fringe activity but a cornerstone of wealth upon which sustainable, equitable and prosperous Africa will be built.
Natural resources are thus critical to the economic activities and the livelihood of millions of African people who depend on water, fertile soil, forest, fishery and other resources from nature.
The exploitation of these resources fosters high rates of economic growth, which in recent years have been among the strongest in the world. Notwithstanding such contributions, African countries continue to face persistent poverty and unemployment and underemployment, particularly among the continent’s fast growing young population.
At the same time, the potential for future economic growth and development itself is put at risk, as a result of environmental degradation, climate change, desertification, and other environmental risks and resource scarcities, which are driven by internal and external factors.
The natural capital, an essential basis for wealth creation, faces mounting pressure at a time when African countries need to meet the growing demand for water, food and health, whilst reducing poverty and stimulating economic activity to create employment and raise income levels.
African economies are highly dependent on their natural resources which, in many countries, form the basis of economic activity. While the exploitation of such resources generates economic benefits in the short run, resource depletion decreases the potential for economic growth and development in the long term.
Recent years have seen a growing recognition that a new system of resource valuation and accounting is urgently needed, in particular to help countries more accurately assess the wealth accruing from these natural resources.
Natural resources and minerals appear in numerous forms throughout Africa, ranging from forestry to minerals including gold, oil, and copper. Other minerals, such as nickel and bauxite, are used in rechargeable batteries and represent the world’s primary source of aluminum. Not only are these minerals vital to products and standard technologies around the globe, but also to African growth.
An inclusive green economy has the potential to improve human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities in the continent.
In a green economy, growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investment that reduces carbon emissions and pollution, enhances energy and resource efficiency, and prevents the loss biodiversity.
These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes.
Some improvements have been seen. Over the past century, pollution controls and other measures have reduced the environmental impacts of economic growth. And, thanks to innovations in manufacturing, product design and energy use - aided by the rising number of people living more efficient lifestyles in cities - the global economy has grown faster than resource consumption growth.
Rwanda is one of the leading countries in terms of promoting green growth. A national “Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy” proposes ways to integrate resource efficiency, adaptation and mitigation actions across all sectors of the economy, focusing on the socio-economic development and future prosperity of Rwandans.
FONERWA, the largest demand-based climate fund in Africa, is a national fund through which international and domestic climate finance can be managed and it is intended to be the primary vehicle through which Rwanda’s climate and environment finance is channeled, disbursed and monitored.
In addition, Rwanda has an international track record in pursuing good governance, sustainable growth on the basis of prudent economic management, sound investment of mineral revenues in human and physical capital including health and education infrastructure, establishment of social safety nets, and the wise use and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity in and outside of protected areas.
To date, the country continues in her endeavors to diversify the green economy initiative which is mirrored to bring more gains as far as economic transformation is concerned. Green village pilot project has, for instance, brought great potential to mobilise additional private and domestic resources required to achieve sustainable development goals.
This proves what Mr Achim Steiner, an expert in environmental issues and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, who once said that inclusive green economy has the potential to improve human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.