26 June 2012

Africa: Experts Discuss Financing Sustainable Development in Africa

Innovative sources of finance and resources from the private sector are key to achieving sustainable development in Africa.

This was the message from African leaders and global experts during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro last week.

During the high level panel on "Financing Sustainable Development in Africa", African States and their partners discussed resource mobilisation for sustainable development - both domestically and internationally.

According to a statement from the African Development Bank (AfDB), institutions that have access to global financial resources are sometimes constrained by their inability to effectively operate at a level where sustainable development initiatives are undertaken in a meaningful manner.

Those who are able to do so are often either unable to raise the resources they need or are denied access to institutions who have such resources, it added.

While green growth is often perceived as an expensive pathway to development, Aly Abou-Sabaa, Chair of the AfDB's Climate Change Coordination Committee observed that "not all green development options are expensive as many could derive benefits," making it a realistic investment for all types of actors.

Ibrahim Thiaw, Director, Environmental Policy Implementation, UNEP, gave concrete examples of such opportunities. "Two of the main issues plaguing the continent, namely desertification and waste management, represent some of the main opportunities," he noted. "Desertification has the potential for land restoration, reforestation and creation of green jobs, conservation of biodiversity, recharging of underground water sources and agricultural activities," he explained.

"The perception of sustainable development requirements, from a burden or a risk, to a new set of opportunities, is novel. Many developing countries may even soon begin to mobilize finance for development from domestic sources as their GDP continues to grow," said Kebour Ghenna, Chairman of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "The private sector is increasing its confidence to do business in Africa, which represents an important opportunity," he added.

The transformation of African economies to a green growth model offers an opportunity to mobilize additional resources. The current infrastructure gap in Africa puts it in a position to "leap-frog" to more advanced technologies and infrastructure, allowing it to deal with pressing development needs while reducing the environmental footprint.

However, existing challenges such as the risk of not prioritising aspects of a green economy and demands of sustainable development are especially pertinent in situations of national instability, said Gustave Aboua, Director General for Sustainable Development in Cote d'Ivoire.

"Fragile national social development strategies and a lack of defined frameworks do challenge the implementation of a green economy," he said, calling on institutions such as the AfDB to provide the necessary support, including technical assistance and maximisation of funding.

Country representatives and development partners agreed that sustainable development commitments need to be made within the continent. It is also essential that these commitments are coupled with a reassurance that their implementation is feasible within a broader context, they said.

The panel, representing a number of partners such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Ivoirian Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry also addressed the divide between the managers of money (international finance institutions - development banks, donors etc.) and facilitators of development (e.g. NGOs, CSOs).

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