Securing and restoring livelihoods should be top of the agenda in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, an African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) has resolved.
It is against this backdrop that an online platform for the African Green Stimulus Programme has been launched to provide an overarching framework to support the "green recovery" from COVID-19.
"This programme is intended to significantly contribute to Africa's green recovery from the impacts of the pandemic and support the continent's journey towards a sustainable and low-carbon development pathway," Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, said on Thursday in her capacity as the outgoing President at the 18th Ordinary Session of the AMCEN.
Creecy described the rapid progress in the development and implementation of this African-led and owned initiative as a source of pride for the continent.
This launch comes after the Eight Special Session of the Conference, which took place late last year, recognised that the pandemic had placed additional pressure on Africa's socio-economic development.
The Minister acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak had exasperated efforts to achieve sustainable development and called for continued efforts to conserve, protect and enhance the resilience of Africa's environment to avoid similar crises in future.
"The session agreed to adopt the continental-wide African Green Stimulus Programme to support the continent's recovery to the devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 in a sustainable manner," she told the delegates.
AMCEN's mandate is to provide advocacy for environmental protection in Africa, ensure that basic human needs are met adequately and in a sustainable manner.
It also aims to ensure that social and economic development is realised and that agricultural activities and practices meet the food security needs of the region.
"This pandemic has affected all facets of our lives and I wish to extend my condolences to all those who have lost loved ones, friends and colleagues."
Since last year, she said the conference had decided to respond to the impact of the pandemic in such a way that it will inspire hope.
"In line with this year's theme for the 18th Ordinary Session of AMCEN, 'Securing people's well-being and ensuring environmental sustainability in Africa', securing and restoring people's livelihoods should be a priority in the wake of this pandemic."
United Nation's Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, said Africa suffered the most from the climate crisis, from nature and biodiversity to the pollution crisis.
"It is a crisis that we have to face while dealing with the ongoing human and economic tragedy of COVID-19," she said, adding that the pandemic has erased nearly 5% of per capita income in Africa, while food prices are soaring globally.
According to Andersen, if the green stimulus measure is done right, it could boost the economy in the short term, deliver growth pathways that are sustainable and mitigate environmental degradation.
All of these "wins" would deliver livelihoods, food security, economic prosperity and peace.
She described the stimulus programme as a critical step in taking advantage of this opportunity.
"The programme hits all the right notes climate action, air quality, land restoration, biodiversity, blue economy, green cities and so on," Andersen added.
Creecy said it has been an honour and privilege to preside over the August Conference over the past two years and extended her best wishes to her successor, Minister Abdul Karim Sall of Senegal.