Feb 04, 2012
Africa is facing grim challenges of food security and climate change, lack of global concern, however, is the bigger challenge.
New Delhi: The special panel discussion on the Global Commons and Challenges in Africa was greeted by a lack-luster response from international delegates who came to attend TERI’s DSDS 2012. Few European and Asian delegates chose to show concern for Africa’s challenges of food security and desertification.
Africa, world’s second largest continent is endowed with abundant natural resources. The continent is the new drilling hub with rich petroleum reserves in Angola, Sudan and Nigeria. The continent is believed to hold 90% of the world’s cobalt, 90% of its platinum, 50% of its gold, 98% of its chromium and one-third of its uranium.
A concerted action for sustainable use of resources to move towards poverty eradication and food security was the unanimous vision of the panellists at the 12th Delhi Sustainable Summit in New Delhi on Februray 3. The panel included Abdoulie Janneh, Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic commission for Africa; Ogunlade Davidson, Former Minister of Energy and Water, Sierra Leone; Hama Arba Diallo, Chair of Global Water Partnership, Burkina Faso; Henri Djombo, Minister of sustainable Development, Forestry and Environment, Republic of Congo; Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egzabiher, Director-General, Environment Protection Authority, Ethiopia; Youba sokona, Co-ordinator, African Climate Policy Centre, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Gurjit Singh, Additional Secretary (East& Southern Africa), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
Food security is one of the biggest challenges in Africa, echoed the panel. Agriculture is gathering pace in Africa, but malnutrition and hunger are rampant. “It’s a paradox that Africa being one of the largest exporter of agricultural products is one of the largest importer of foodgrains,” said Gurjit Singh. For the past 5-10 years, Africa has received very little rainfall which has dealt a serious blow to its mostly rain-fed farming. This resulted in droughts in the Horn of Africa last year which affected claimed thousand of lives and affected 10 million.
Climate change has further led to degradation of arable land and desertification. “Unfortunately, the issue has not received due importance in UN declarations,” lamented Hama Arba Diallo. He called for a strong action on the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “African countries cannot afford to spend 3-4% of the GDP for adapting to climate change,” Diallo said while calling for increased international aid.
Not solely relying on cross-national co-operation, African countries already have their growth engines blazing. The nations maintained a growth rate of 5% on an average in 2011, when debt-ridden Greece was reeling under riots. Green practices are ingrained within the policy framework. “Ethiopia will become a middle-income carbon neutral country by 2025,” announced Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egzabiher. Energy is directly linked to economic growth and “Africa is gradually shifting its paradigm towards exploring new and renewable sources of energy,” noted Ogunlade Davidson.
The Planetworkshops, a Paris-based independent think tank for sustainable development working to create local jobs in renewable energies to attack the dual challenges of poverty and sustainability in Africa. “For each woman working, there are 9 people living,” said George Gendleman, the co-founder of the group emphasising on women’s participation for a robust economy.
“In Africa, the sustainability movement revolves around political will,” said Youba Sokona. The issues merit serious and urgent attention which they lacked at the DSDS.