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CAPA Abuja June 2014 International Conference

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The following is a research paper presented at the Common Wealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA).



Authors: Wahome Rureri1 and Bashir Mursal2


Sustainable development have become a common phenomenon around the globe, especially in developing countries. It has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.? Africa is an important supplier of natural resources globally, and the extractive industry (oil, gas, minerals) plays a crucial role in many African economies. However, it has now become a major challenge amongst the African countries to add value to the exploited resources so as to obtain significant revenues for domestic savings and investment. Indeed, one of the major challenges of sustainable development is to use the wealth created from non-renewable resources as an engine of economic growth and social development in an environmentally friendly manner. This study analyzes the challenges of achieving sustainable development in African countries. In addition, the study looks at ways by which TVET can contribute in addressing these challengesbecause managing Africa’s sustainable development challenges is key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It is a desk study that relies on secondary information such as previous research and analysis of scholars, newspaper/magazines as well as journals and articles that are related to the subject.The paper concludes by identifying strategies on how to overcome these challenges and ensure that by the time the finite resources run out, Africa would have attained sustainable level of development where her economies would be more diversified and the continent’s reliance on raw materials as its primary source of income reduced. Finally, the paper recommends that TVET needs to play its part in providing high end human resource that is critical in addressing the challenges of sustainable development and global competitiveness. Much more empirical research of this subject is also recommended.

Key words:Sustainable development, non-renewable resources, exploitation, environment, economic growth.


Sustainable developmenthave become a common phenomenon around the globe, especially in developing countries. Sustainable development refers to a mode of human development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while ensuring the sustainability of natural systems and the environment, so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. The term ‘sustainable development’ was used by the Brundtland Commission, which coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development; “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social challenges faced by humanity. As early as the 1970s, “sustainability” was employed to describe an economy “in equilibrium with basic ecological support systems. The concept of sustainable development has in the past most often been broken out into three constituent parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and sociopolitical sustainability. More recently, it has been suggested that a more consistent analytical breakdown is to distinguish four domains of economic, ecological, political and cultural sustainability.

In order to increase the well-being of people in Africa and promote industrial and other forms of development, there is need to meet the increasing demand for reliable and affordable energy supplies. Present consumption relies heavily on primary energy sources that pollute the environment and are highly inefficient. Africa is endowed with abundant energy resources in the form of fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal), hydropower, uranium, biomass and other renewable energy resources (solar, wind, geothermal power). However, as a result of lack of development of the resources themselves, as well as lack of infrastructure and facilities to use the energy productively on the continent, these rich sources remain largely untapped. Only 7 per cent of Africa’s hydropower potential is currently used.

Africa is an important supplier of natural resources globally, and the extractive industry (oil, gas, minerals) plays a crucial role in many African economies. Accounting for more than 50 per cent of Africa’s export in the 1990s, the extractive industry constitutes Africa’s largest export category. Exploitation of Africa’s abundant mineral resources was a major motivation for colonization. It is still a challenge to add value to the exploited resources so as to obtain significant revenues for domestic savings and investment. Indeed, one of the major challenges of sustainable development is to use the wealth created from non-renewable resources as an engine of economic growth and social development in an environmentally friendly manner. Overcoming this challenge will ensure that by the time the finite resources run out, Africa would attain a sustainable level of development where the economies would be more diversified and the continent would no longer rely on raw materials as its primary source of income.

The foregoing suggests a broad integrated conceptual approach in which the net benefits of economic activities are maximized, subject to the maintenance of the stock of productive assets over time, and providing a social safety net to meet the basic needs of the poor. Sustainable development therefore calls for integrating economic growth, social development and environmental management as interdependent, mutually supportive and reinforcing pillars of long-term development. It calls for participatory and multi-stakeholder approaches to dealing with development issues, involving a wide range of actors- government, private sector, civil society organizations, institutions of higher learning and research and development partners. It is therefore encouraging to note that at WSSD, African Ministers reiterated their commitment to address all three components of sustainable development in a balanced way, and as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars. The Ministers noted that achieving sustainable development objectives requires concrete global partnerships between governments on the one hand, and between governments, business and civil society on the other.

This paper documents and analyzes the challenge of achieving sustainable development in African countries. In spite of the widespread adoption of the Brundtland report, ‘sustainable development’ remains elusive, especially in Africa. The potential impacts of climate change exacerbate already existing threats to human wellbeing and undermine efforts towards achieving sustainable development. Progress towards achieving sustainable development depends critically upon the sustainable use of ecosystem resources.


This study was conducted using a mixture of secondary sources. It was, therefore, a desk study of an exploratory nature. Orodho (2003) argues that exploratory research is a good tool for analyzing social scenarios that are characterized largely by qualitative factors. Exploratory studies, therefore, help to formulate important principles, hypotheses and solutions to problems. Development of this report followed an integrated and participatory approach. The study therefore relied on secondary information such as government policy documents, previous papers and analysis of scholars, newspaper/magazines as well as journals and articles that are related to the subject. The study also involved an extensive literature review which critically analyzed the challenges of sustainable development in African countries.


The sustainable development concept

The international community has come a long way to reach a common global understanding on the concept of sustainable development that now figures prominently on the agenda of all significant international development initiatives, in particular the major United Nations conferences and summits. This development paradigm resulted from a gradual shift in development theories and their focus. In the 1950s and 1960s, development mainly focused on economic growth and increases in outputs based on efficiency theories. The main subject of this development concept was that strong economic growth would have trickle-down effects thus benefiting all segments of society. However, observations in the 70’s of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, between and within regions resulted in the shift to addressing equity issues with emphasis on social development and income distribution as key elements. At around the same time, observations on the impact of economic growth on the environment brought into focus the importance of integrating environmental concerns in the development agenda.

These observations led to the questioning of the traditional perception of development, which jeopardizes the integrity of the environment, fosters social inequalities and injustice and disregards the welfare and needs of future generations. Therefore, the sustainable development paradigm took the international community well beyond the traditional compartmentalized treatment of social, economic and environmental concerns, and advanced a more holistic and integrated approach to development. It has led to profound changes in the way development is understood, conceptualized and measured worldwide.

The economic approach to sustainability is based on the Hicks-Landahl concept of the maximum flow of income that could be generated while at least maintaining a good stock of assets (or capital), which yield these benefits (Solow, 1986; Maler, 1990). This is based on the underlying concept of optimality and economic efficiency applied to the use of scarce resources. The social concept of sustainability is people-oriented, and seeks to maintain the stability of social and cultural systems, including the reduction of destructive conflicts (Munasinghe and McNeely, 1995). Equity is an important aspect of this approach. Preservation of cultural diversity and cultural capital, and the better use of knowledge concerning sustainable practices embedded in less dominant cultures, are desirable. Modern society would need to encourage and incorporate pluralism and grassroots participation into a more effective decision-making framework for socially sustainable development.

The environmental view of sustainable development focuses on the stability of biological and physical systems (Munasinghe and Shearer, 1995). Of particular importance is the viability of subsystems that are critical to the global stability of the overall ecosystem. Furthermore, “natural” systems and habitats may be interpreted broadly to also include man-made environments like cities. The emphasis is on preserving the resilience and dynamic ability of such systems to adapt to change, rather than conservation of some “ideal” static state.

Natural resource degradation, pollution, and loss of biodiversity reduce system resilience. Reconciling these various concepts and operationalizing them is a major challenge, since all three pillars must be given balanced consideration. The interfaces between the three pillars are also important. The economic and social elements interact to give rise to issues such as intra-generational equity (income distribution) and targeted relief for the poor. The economic-environmental interface has yielded new ideas on valuation and internalization of environmental impacts.

Finally, the social-environmental linkage has led to renewed interest in areas like inter-generational equity (rights of future generations) and popular participation. However, tradeoffs will always be necessary depending on the complexity of issues being addressed, the circumstances and the current state of knowledge.

Challenges of Sustainable Development in Africa

The major challenge in the world today is to find ways of living and working sustainably, so that the reasonable needs and wants of people from all walks of life and in all countries can be satisfied without so over-exploiting the natural resources upon which all life depends that the ability of future generations to meet their needs and wants is threatened.Some of the reasons for this low level of sustainability for Africa are as follows:

(i) Extreme poverty: –The overriding sustainable development challenge in Africa is poverty eradication. Poverty remains the foremost development challenge confronting Africa. Poverty in Africa is linked to the environment in complex ways, particularly in natural resource-based African economies. About two-thirds of the populations in African countries live in rural areas, deriving their main income from agriculture. From the arid zones of the northern fringes of West Africa to the thick forest of the Congo Basin up to the highlands of East Africa, the poor strive to pursue livelihoods with few options outside what the natural resources available can offer. Trees are cut for fuel wood, land-degrading farming systems have been adopted, wildlife are being hunted to extinction, all in an effort to satisfy today’s pressing livelihood needs. Unfortunately, these activities have not only worsened the situation of the poor living in Africa today, but they will also have implications for future generations to come. Indeed, the “African Ministerial Statement to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) identifies poverty eradication as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Africa is the only region in the world where poverty has increased both in absolute and relative terms. Apart from being the poorest region in the world, Africa remains the least developed, the most technologically backward, the most indebted, the most food-insecure and the most marginalized.

(ii) Environmental impact of extractive industries: – For a continent that is dependent on its natural resources to achieve growth, the challenge of ecologically-friendly sustainable development is daunting. Current patterns of extraction of non-renewable resources such as gold, diamonds and crude oil have had an untold impact on the environment. In Nigeria, oil spills and gas flares have polluted the environment significantly for more than 50 years. The 2008 target set forth to eliminate gas flaring increasingly appears to be impossible to achieve. In Southern Africa, abandoned mine sites have constituted an environmental menace. The loss of productive land, surface and groundwater pollution, and soil contamination are part of the legacies of oil and mineral exploration. Africa cannot afford the current approach to resource extraction. If the trend of unsustainable oil and mineral extraction is allowed to continue, environmentally sustainable development in Africa will continue to be a great challenge.

(iii) Rapid population growth: –According to the World Bank, the sub-Saharan population is growing at the rate of 2.5 percent per year as compared to 1.2 percent in Latin America and Asia. At that rate, Africa’s population will double in 30 years. Rapid population growth has put a lot of stress on Africa’s ecosystems. Problems such as food security, land tenure, environmental degradation and the lack of water supply are often related to high rates of population growth.

(iv) Rapid urbanization: – The majority of Africa’s population growth is expected to take place in urban areas, largely due to rural-urban migration. Rapid urbanization in Africa has been accompanied by new and challenging environmental problems. A sizeable proportion of urban dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa live in slum conditions, without durable housing or legal rights to their land. At least one-quarter of African city dwellers do not have access to electricity. A 2000 World Health Organization report estimated that only 43 percent of urban dwellers had access to piped water. Nearly a decade later, not much has changed. Waste disposal presents a tremendous health hazard in many urban areas: in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum, plastic bags are used as “flying toilets.” Clearly, current patterns of urbanization are not consistent with the desire to have ecologically friendly sustainable development in Africa.

(v) Deforestation: – Now let us turn and look at the problem of Deforestation in Africa. According to the African Forest Forum (AFF), Africa has about 650 million hectares of forests and woodlands, covering 28 percent of its total land area (FAO 2001). The Congo Basin, which covers 45 percent of Central Africa, is the world’s largest area of contiguous forest. Sadly, the legacy of vast forest resources that could have been passed to future generations is being rapidly lost through deforestation and degradation. Between 1990 and 2000 Africa lost about 53 million hectares of its forests, which is about 56 percent of the global forest loss in that period. This is translated to a 0.8 percent annual loss of forest cover — the highest in the world!

As the forest disappears, so too its contribution to the protection of soils, recycling of nutrients and the regulation of the quality and flow of water. A recent African study in Tanzania confirms that water catchment functions of the Kilimanjaro Mountains are being threatened by severe deforestation and land clearing for economic purposes to support the growing population on the Kilimanjaro Highlands.

(vi) Climatic variability and natural environmental hazards: –The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) studies suggests Africa will suffer greater effects of climate change than any other region of the world. Projections include the decrease in rainfall in the already arid areas of Eastern and Southern Africa, and increasing drought and desertification in the north of Central Africa. In West Africa, the countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mauritania, Niger and Nigeria all face water scarcity by 2025. Africa needs to step up its anti-climate change actions, as a legacy to future generations. However, not many African countries have this as a top priority in view of the pressing development challenges being confronted by the African continent such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and low agricultural production.

Furthermore, malnutrition, disease, environmental degradation, natural resource depletion, poor and inadequate infrastructure, unemployment and weak institutional capacities continue to pose serious development challenges for Africa.This state of affairs is exacerbated by recurring natural disasters and the AIDS pandemic, which is reversing decades of economic gains and imposing costs on Africa at least, twice those in any other developing regions, thus undermining sustainable economic growth. It is striking that Africa is the only continent not on track to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Sustainable development thrives best in an environment of good governance, peace and security, but armed conflict remains a major obstacle to development in several parts of the continent. The maintenance of an environment of peace and security is therefore one of Africa’s foremost development imperatives. Apart from its costs in human and material terms, conflicts impede production, damage infrastructure, prevent the reliable delivery of social services and disrupt societies.

Africa is the most sub-divided continent, with small and fragmented economies that undermine the continent’s position in the global development arena. In spite of the long-standing commitments and the emphasis placed by African leaders on the process of regional integration, this has been slow and therefore, remains a major challenge for Africa. It is therefore no coincidence that the Africa Chapter of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) of WSSD, states in its preamble that since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), sustainable development has remained elusive for many African countries, with poverty remaining a major challenge.

The multiple challenges to development in Africa have necessitated the use of a holistic approach that integrates economic, social and environmental dimensions, and generates new knowledge, policies and actions. The Sustainable Development Report on Africa (SDRA) tries to fill in the gap in knowledge left by largely single dimensional reports produced at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) by monitoring and assessing the interrelationships between the three dimensions. This is because measuring and managing Africa’s sustainable development challenges is key to achieving the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals.

Policy responses to Africa’s development challenges

Africa’s development challenges are somehow rooted in past policies and strategies. In the 1960s and 1970s, many African countries pursued national development planning as the main strategy for development. For many countries, this strategy of growth was state-based with the rationale that the state was big enough to mobilize resources for the daunting task of development. Besides, private capital and the relevant institutions were not well developed to partake meaningfully in development activities.

Most African countries relied mainly on the exploitation of natural resources for development. Many newly independent countries used the revenues generated from the natural resources to build their infrastructures, industry, education and health while increasing formal employment. However, the sharp oil price increase in the 1970s negatively affected improvements in sustainable development that had been made. Also, the heavy dependence on natural resources led to resource depletion and environmental degradation and worsened the exposure of weaker economies to external shocks, thereby increasing poverty and reversing social development (World Bank, 2003). Many countries experienced reduced economic growth in the latter part of the 1970s and early 1980s.

As a result of poor economic performance, the majority of African countries embarked upon Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) during the 1980s and 1990s and Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) from 1999. The SAPs were meant to correct the macro-economic imbalances that had occurred as a result of state-controlled economic policies in most countries. They were also supposed to generate quick growth to compensate for the long-term low average growth rates for the continent. However, these policies failed to integrate environmental and social concerns, thereby exacerbating inequalities, poverty and environmental degradation. Even the macro-economy sector suffered, as not much attention was paid to important sectors such as agriculture, industry and employment.

The shift to PRSs occurred as a result of the acknowledgement that many adjustment measures had generated negative impacts for the poor. Furthermore, it was recognized that there was a correlation between adjustment programmes and growing poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. The PRSs were originally conceived in the context of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and hence did not adequately incorporate environmental and social concerns. The SAPs and earlier generations of the PRSs suffered from lack of effectiveness, policy coordination, and lack of ownership. Policies had contradictory sectoral impacts because they were not harmonized. Furthermore, most African countries have not put in place strategies and policies to coordinate the agricultural, industrial and social sectors to generate significant value addition, employment, and incomes and to eradicate poverty.

However, countries are building upon their experiences, and as they move towards the ‘second generation’ of PRSs more broad-based sustainable development concerns are being, particularly in the context of the MDGs (ECA 2006). The foregoing demonstrates that development can only be meaningful and sustainable, if policies not only take into account economic concerns, but social and environmental concerns as well. Furthermore, policies should embody holistic, broad based and participatory approaches, to promote ownership and engender action by all, and for all.

Principles of Sustainable Development

1. Integration of Environmental and Economic Decisions: – Economic decisions should adequately reflect environmental, human health and social effects.Environmental and health initiatives should adequately take into account economic, human health and social consequences.

2. Stewardship: – The economy, environment, human health and social well-being should be managed for the equal benefit of present and future generations. Today’s decisions are to be balanced with tomorrow’s effects.

3. Shared Responsibility and Understanding: – There is need to share a common economic, physical and social environment. There is need to also understand and respect differing economic and social views, values, traditions and aspirations.

4. Prevention:- The government should anticipate, and prevent or mitigate, significant adverse economic environmental, human health and social effects of decisions and actions, having particular careful regard to decisions whose impacts are not entirely certain but which, on reasonable and well-informed grounds, appear to pose serious threats to the economy, the environment, human health and social well-being.

5. Conservation and Enhancement: – Maintain the ecological processes, biological diversity and life-support systems of the environment; Harvest renewable resources on a sustainable yield basis; Make wise and efficient use of renewable and non-renewable resources; Enhance the long-term productive capability, quality and capacity of natural ecosystems.

6. Rehabilitation and Reclamation: – Endeavour to repair damage or degradation of the environment. Consider the need for rehabilitation and reclamation in future decisions and actions.

There are some five shared principles that will enable us to achieve sustainable development. First is living within environmental limits. This is by respecting the limits of the planet’s environment, resources and biodiversity – to improve our environment and ensure that the natural resources needed for life are unimpaired and remain so for future generations. Second is ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. This is by meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity for all. Third is achieving a sustainable economy by building a strong, stable and sustainable economy which provides prosperity and opportunities for all, and in which environmental and social costs fall on those who impose them. Fourth is using sound science responsibly by ensuring policy is developed and implemented on the basis of strong scientific evidence, whilst taking into account scientific uncertainty (through the precautionary principle) as well as public attitudes and values. Finally is promoting good governance by actively promoting effective, participative systems of governance in all levels of society by engaging people’s creativity, energy, and diversity.

The Role of TVET in meeting the challenges of sustainable development;

Over-exploiting the natural resources threatens the ability of future generations to meet their needs and wants. The key to sustainable development is finding approaches to development that balance economic and social progress, address cultural differences, and respect ecological values. Moving towards this goal requires fundamental changes in human attitudes and behavior which critically dependent on education and training. TVET takes on a complex and distinctive character with regard to sustainable development. This is because, both directly and indirectly, TVET produces and consumes resources, as well as affects attitudes towards sustainability held by future workers.

The manner in which production and consumption are managed can either contribute to sustainability or to practices and conditions that are not sustainable. During education and training, the greater the exposure of trainees to sustainable concepts, practices and examples, the more likely it is that the desired workplace culture change will take place in the future. Taking incremental steps now is preferable to waiting for larger measures to be realized. Such steps are of equal importance in both developed and developing nations, and some steps are common to all nations.

The Final Report of the Seoul Congress (1999) came up with the following as roles of TVET for a sustainable future:

(i) TVET as an effective tool to realize the objectives of a culture of peace, environmentally sound sustainable development, social cohesion and international citizenship.

(ii) TVET of the future must not only prepare individuals for employment in the information society, but also make them responsible citizens who give due consideration to preserving the integrity of their environment and the welfare of others.

(iii) TVET can play an instrumental role in developing a new generation of individuals who will face the challenge of achieving sustainable socioeconomic development.

Similarly, the Final Report of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development emphasized the need for all countries and international agencies to meet “capacity needs for training, technical know-how and strengthening national institutions in … economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound” development in order to eradicate poverty, improve human health and access to safe water and hygienic sanitation, conserve the natural resource base upon which social and economic development depends, and foster the use of technologies for cleaner production and renewable energy.

A number of new subjects (issues) therefore need to be incorporated into TVET teaching and learning or be further emphasized for the sake of the future of all of us as we struggle to learn throughout life. A well trained technical workforce is essential for any country’s efforts to achieve sustainable development. There is an urgent need to renew TVET. This should be the top priority for every country. This is a task that can only be accomplished if a country can succeed in articulating TVET with its system of education within a framework of an overall sustainable development strategy.

As both a consumer and a producer of resources, or more accurately a sector involved in the transformation of resources, TVET has multiple concerns about sustainability. The over-exploitation of natural resources, ill-health and poverty can all threaten the ability of future generations to satisfy their needs and wants. The role of TVET is to re-orient and re-direct its curricula to induce students and trainees with respect for the conservation and sustainable use of resources, social equity and appropriate development, along with competencies to practice sustainable tasks at the workplaces of today and tomorrow. Similarly, in a labour market undergoing the transition from the Industrial age to the Information age, involving considerable job shift, re-training, and dislocation of workers, the maintenance of currency in the labour market also assumes importance with regard to the sustainability of employment.

In some advanced economies the proportion of workers with less than secondary school completion and those with diplomas has reversed during the past decade. The adult and continuing TVET training provided to workers in jeopardy of job loss can result in sustainable employment that will also impact upon their children’s futures. In addition, the growing significance of sustainability is having major impacts upon business and industry. Many companies are now not only reporting the results of their economic achievements to their shareholders and community stakeholders, but also the impacts of their social and environmental record through a system known as “triple-bottom-line” reporting. Many new industries and employment opportunities are also being developed, e.g. in ecotourism, environmental monitoring, sustainable community development, eco-design, recycling, land rehabilitation, pollution control, waste water treatment and re-use, etc. All require skilled workers who have knowledge of, and commitment to sustainability, as well as the requisite technical knowledge. This is creating new roles and courses in TVET. These trends lead to questions about the curriculum changes needed to integrate sustainable development into TVET.

Three potential strategies are:

i. To include sustainable development concepts in all courses for everyone (“TVET for All”).

ii. To enhance focus upon sustainable development in occupationally relevant areas, e.g., water, auto repair, fabrication, carpentry, forestry, mining, ICTs, service sectors, etc.

iii. To indicate that new jobs will become available in sustainability industries.

The inclusion of sustainable development in all courses can be built upon the traditional TVET practices in which skilled trades people taught apprentices to repair, re-use, and re-cycle materials and components at all levels in both developed and developing nations. Rural TVET has always operated upon these principles, especially in developing nations. Some TVET institutional practices and procedures require re-orientation to foster sustainability.
The inattention to sustainable development in some occupations is evident in the adoption of modular technology. Rather than repair components, it is easier to replace an entire module. This contributes to environmental degradation and the waste of resources and raises questions whether the price of “progress” is too high?

In developing nations, where replacement components are either unavailable or too expensive, procurement and stocking of modular replacement parts may be well beyond budgetary limits. Further, the question of how to dispose off replaced modular components raises issues of potential environmental damage, on the one hand and suggests development of recycling potential, on the other hand. The generation of jobs in new sustainability industries, such as re-cycling, needs to be stressed – and both legislative and curricular provision added to TVET to develop future employees in such industries. Many new industries and employment opportunities are also being developed, e.g. in ecotourism, environmental monitoring, sustainable community development, eco-design, recycling, land rehabilitation, pollution control, waste water treatment and reuse, recharging computer printer ink cartridges, etc.


Currently, a number of national, sub-regional, regional and global initiatives seek to harness Africa’s resources in order to maximize their contribution to sustainable development of the continent. An important prerequisite for such development is political stability and the appropriate policy environment to encourage private investment, while balancing and managing local, national and international concerns and interests, and promoting growth that benefits the poor and does not harm the environment.

In promoting sustainable development, environmental, social and economic dimensions must all be addressed in order to ensure balanced progress that benefits people at all levels of society. An inter-sectoral approach to identified challenges ensures that the different aspects will be addressed appropriately through adoption of sustainable development-oriented policies, programs, strategies and related instruments. Stakeholders in the public, private and civil sectors must be identified and meaningfully engaged in the development of relevant policies, programs and strategies and also in their implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Ecologically friendly sustainable development in Africa is about decision making, trade-offs and the delicate balance of priorities. Like any change process, it requires participation and commitment from top to bottom – from government policies to individual behaviors. In addition, new technological and social innovations will be required to provide alternatives to help all Africans maintain their livelihoods without depleting the scarce natural resources available to the African continent.

Finally, coordination mechanisms to reduce duplication of efforts and create beneficial linkages should be pursued along with fostering good governance.


An inter-sectoral approach to identified challenges ensures that the different aspects will be addressed appropriately through adoption of sustainable development-oriented policies, programs, strategies and related instruments. Stakeholders in the public, private and civil sectors must be identified and meaningfully engaged in the development of relevant policies, programs and strategies and also in their implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Finally, coordination mechanisms to reduce duplication of efforts and beneficial linkages should be pursued along with fostering good governance. The following are the recommendations;

1. Global-level action

(i)Strengthen Africa’s capacity to implement multilateral environmental agreements:

African countries are signatories to most multilateral environmental agreements that showcase global consensus on the causes and effects of environmental challenges. Examples include the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Montreal Protocols, the Convention to Combat Desertification and many others. However, often times African governments lack the capacity to implement these agreements or honor the commitments therein. That is why multilateral initiatives such as the Global Environmental Fund (GEF)should be given more funding in order to help Africa meet these objectives.

(ii)Seek assistance to improve effectiveness of institutions, policies and regulatory capacity:

African countries need to demonstrate their capacity to be able to tackle these challenges. Most countries in Africa have established environmental institutions and, along with them, the legislative basis and administrative procedures for environmental management. However, progress is limited by lack of adequate human, technical and financial resources, and ineffective institutional arrangements. There are still projects being undertaken without adequate environmental assessment, and/or the adequate mitigation and follow-up processes are compromised.

2. National-level action

(i) Develop capacity to carry out strategic environmental assessments of current policies and programs;

Although progress in project level environmental impact assessment capacity is noticeable, there is a bigger need to equally develop capacity in strategic environmental assessment (SEA). SEA is a pro-active measure that aims to integrate environmental considerations into proposed laws, policies, plans and programs. Strategic environmental assessments would enable these more important, higher order or strategic decisions to be subjected to environmental and social scrutiny.

(ii) Promote environmental management;

There is also a need for national governments to engage the private sector effectively to provide business solutions to environmental challenges. Governments should also reward innovation that enables the achievement of national environmental priorities.

3. Community-level action

Through increased awareness, attitude re-orientation and the provision of alternatives, individual and communal action could be a vital force in the long run in achieving ecologically friendly sustainable development. At the community level, the message of environmental management ought to be re-packaged to reflect African values. The recognition of the need not to starve coming generations of resources needed for their future development should be an incentive for present Africans to use resources in a more sustainable way, given the importance that Africans place on inheritance.


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