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[ABU DHABI] Africa should use next year’s Rio+20 conference to push for investments in renewable energy, a sustainable and green economy, water security and other policies useful for livelihoods and environmental protection, according to Dennis Garrity, former director general of the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre.

Garrity also told SciDev.Net at the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (12-15 December 2011) that the continent needed to bring together providers and users of environmental data to work out how they could most effectively foster sustainable development.

"If we can mobilise them we will see a tremendous increase in food production and environmental co-benefits," he said.

 

He called for environmental maps to be produced that would be easily usable by policymakers and development partners.

Robert Bakiika, deputy executive director for Environmental Management for Sustainable Development in Uganda, also told SciDev.Net that one of the Abu Dhabi meeting’s clearest outcomes was that African governments, working with the private sector and development partners, should urgently generate environmental data for sustainable development.

"The discussions here were clear on the role of governments in leading the process in environmental data generation."

He called on multinational corporations to make their technology know-how available to Africa free or at affordable cost.

"We would like to do mapping but the cost of technology platforms needed for collection, processing, storing and management of data is way beyond most African countries," he said.

Africa needed to highlight the problem in the coming months and press for the issue of technology transfer to be on the Rio+20 agenda, Bikiika suggested.

Pointing to the under-representation of African governments at the Abu Dhabi meeting, he called on “African governments to be serious about global negotiations to drive their agenda. We stand to lose a lot with weak representation.”

Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Environment, Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia,  said that environmental information-sharing at national and continental levels was important if Africa was to achieve sustainable development.

"You can only plan it right if you have the right information and one of the best ways to achieve that is through sharing," she said.

Mailafia said proceedings at the meeting had made it clear Africa must invest in information technology.

Isa Ibrahim of the West African Heath Examination Board agreed that seeking technology transfers and forging a united front at global fora was crucial for African information-building and sharing.

African countries must build networks among themselves and reach out to development partners in order to have the capacity to push effectively for their targets at meetings such as Rio+20.

"If you look at what happened here [in Abu Dhabi], there has been a lack of coordination among African governments present and other relevant organisations. Every country pursued an individual agenda," he said.

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