by Ruth Aine - 01 February 2015
As I write this the United States is going through one of the worst snow storms ever in recent history. I was in Bremen on the weekend and we woke up to snow for the first time in a long time in this city. Heading towards the airport hours later, signage had already been put up indicating to people where to pass and which roads to avoid. Workers which I believe were from the City Council were busy pouring ‘salt’ onto the snow to melt it and allow for easy movement of cars and pedestrians. What was and is visible is that the authorities were prepared - even after not having as much snow in over five or so years. This is the case with economies that are reliable.
The World Economic Forum at Davos has also just come to an end – and there were very few African presidents in attendance. Even if I am not presenting, I would like to attend if I were in office, just to be able to hear, learn and listen from leading people around the world.
What am I trying to say? Green economies in Africa will continue to be a myth if we do not take charge of our affairs as Africans.
Malawi has for the last couple of weeks been submerged by floods. According to Jimmy, a friend I talked to, some areas had been without power for more than two days. And there was no deliberate effort by the government to keep the citizens indoors or get them shelter, even while there could have been mechanisms put into place to predict such occurrences.
We have many hindrances. They include:
While I am a great advocate of African tradition, sometimes it is not our best ally. In Malawi, before the rain that caused the floods, there was a rumor of an earthquake occurring. So Jimmy’s grandmother called him at about 2:00 am telling him that he needs to go and sleep outside of his house because an earthquake was about to happen. So he gladly said yes, but obviously went back to bed. Imagine though, the very many that believed that there would be an earthquake and slept outside, because someone predicted an earthquake. Obviously that was not communicated by government but by someone traditional. You know, in Africa everything has got a meaning – from two birds flying together to the rain falling on a Saturday evening - a lot of premonitions we hold back here.
Our leaders are more concerned about winning the next election than they are about planning for the next generation. No one ever thinks past 40 years. If they did, we would not have problems implementing and working towards the Agenda 2063 for the African Union and the Vision 2030 to Vision 2040 for some of our countries. Moreover, we have grown so accustomed to aid that we do not want to actually lift our people out of poverty, because then we will have no reason for aid. So, we will not have decisions made about the things that actually do matter to us.
With our huge affinity for tradition and our leaders, how are we able to start thinking about looking out for the environment and how natural resources will affect the continent that we now live in?
We have a lot of now discovered, untapped natural resources – oil, gas and other minerals. This will obviously bring a lot of financial resources to our government and not necessarily the people. In addition, those resources will have a huge impact on the environment – and this seems to be underestimated by our planners and leaders.
Green economies offer considerable opportunities for mobilizing resources towards a low emission, climate-resilient development pathway in Africa. However, the entire reasoning of the green economy requires deep conceptual deliberations, for there are many glaring contradictions in the green growth paths chosen by many countries in Africa. Unfortunately, this is not what we are seeing at the moment and I think that this is because we probably do not view the green path as a priority – we are still trying to feed people to avoid them dying from famine and drought.
A 2014 analysis of data by the World Bank covering 136 countries, shows that poor countries (and mostly from Africa) are losing natural resources very fast, and without gaining much by way of human resource capital or gross wealth.
Therefore, the green economy in the context of developing countries should also at the very least, imply that millennium development goals (MDGs) in critical areas such as health, water, sanitation, agriculture and energy access, among others, should be met, but also that we are seeing our countries, governments and leaders being held accountable for what is going on in our continent.