Africa needs to map its natural capital for growth

Unea meeting 2016
Copyright: Ochieng’ Ogodo

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  • Although Africa has more natural resources, poverty affects most of its people
  • Experts say effective monitoring of the resources could boost sustainable growth
  • Strong governance systems and R&D could also help Africa develop

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[NAIROBI] Africa needs to urgently invest in the mapping of its natural capital or natural resources to develop evidence for fighting extreme poverty that afflict majority of the people on the continent, a forum has heard.
Investing in technologies and capacity for mapping the continent’s natural capital will not only help governments address poverty but it is also crucial in charting successful pathways for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Some delegates at the 2nd session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya this week (23-27 May) observed that Africa is one of the world’s regions most endowed with natural resources yet extreme poverty still afflict a large proportion of its  population.

“We need to talk the language of financing and planning around these resources, capture our priorities and put the right institutions for monitoring.”

Hussein Abaza, Ministry of Environment of Egypt


According to Hussein Abaza, senior advisor, Ministry of Environment of Egypt, Africa has to invest in technological and human capacity as key cornerstones for evaluation, ensuring cost-efficient and sustainable use of its natural resources, and improving the wellbeing of people on the continent.
“We need to talk the language of financing and planning around these resources, capture our priorities and put the right institutions for monitoring as well as strong governance systems to effectively reap from them,” he says.
According to a fact sheet of the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) shared at the meeting, Africa holds a huge proportion of the world’s natural resources. For instance, it has 30 per cent of the world’s mineral reserves, eight per cent of global natural gas, 12 per cent of oil reserves, 40 per cent of its gold and 80 to 90 per cent of its chromium and platinum.
Yet the continent loses an estimated US$195 billion annually of its natural capital through illicit financial flows; plundering of resources; environmental crimes such as illegal logging, illegal trade in wildlife, and illegal mining practices; degradation of ecosystems and environmental loss, UNEP adds.
Uganda’s minister for water and environment, Ephraim Kamuntu, says that if Africa lacks the capacity to monitor its natural capital then it has to create or hire that so that it can quantify and put the value.
“Africa has no choice. You can’t have a continent so endowed with natural resources yet remains so poor like it is,” Kamuntu observes.
Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, director and regional representative, Regional Office for Africa at UNEP, says that research and development of technologies for building data on African natural capital is key to sustainable growth of the continent.
“There will be no innovation without research needed to develop the continent from its natural capital base,” Koudenoukp adds, noting that the continent should invest in research.

Haddijatou Jallow, executive chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency, Sierra Leone, told journalists at the meeting: “In Africa we always sleep on laurels and until we put value to these resources we will not manage to reduce the losses.”
According to Jimmy Opelo, deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism of Botswana, putting value and usage of natural capital must be done in the context of inclusivity, accountability to the people by governments and zero-tolerance approach to corruption.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.