UN agency launches Africa green recovery report

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The Economic Commission for Africa on Monday launched the Building Forward for an African Green Recovery report which highlights the continent’s bold post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery strategy.

The report seeks to bolster the continent’s valiant quest for the realization of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), attainment of the Paris Agreement’s climate change targets and achievement of the prosperity objectives articulated in Africa’s Agenda 2063. The Building Forward for an African Green Recovery will contribute significantly towards achieving and enhancing sustainable trade within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) over the next decade.



The report shows the African region faces its first recession in 25 years with output losses due to COVID-19 estimated to be 99 billion USD. This is compounded by climate impacts on economic output projected to cause annual losses of between 3-5% of GDP by 2030 under a business-as-usual scenario. In some cases, this will be as much as -15% of GDP. With credible data available on the impact of climate change, the ECA Building Forward for an African Green Recovery makes a case for Africa to make informed assessments and take knowledgeable decisions. The report calls for the uptake of nature-based solutions at national, regional and continental levels to inspire policies that preserve the global commons.

ECA has been at the forefront of supporting transitions in African countries towards sustainable development pathways illustrated on Green or Blue Economy pillars, which endorse climate-smart agricultural approaches, sustainable fisheries, ecotourism and adoption of cleaner energy sources including solar, tidal, wind and geothermal sources.

“For us to build back better we need a lot of energy. The conversation in Africa is about substituting expensive bad fossil fuels with something that is cleaner and cheaper,” said UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the ECA, Vera Songwe. “We have to replace fuel-based energies with green and sustainable ones.”

This report seeks to galvanise support for Africa’s Green and Blue Economy strategies and mobilise resources to bolster the continent’s climate adaptation and mitigation measures. It summarizes the continental outlook of how collaborative partnerships bringing together development partners, multilateral agencies, private sector, international and non-governmental organisations can boost Africa’s green and blue livelihoods recovery programme.

Ms. Songwe noted that with the impact of COVID-19 and its associated economic contractions coupled with the debilitating impact of the climate crisis, Africa’s focus on recovery was even more essential. According to the ECA Chief, there is an urgent need to roll-out financial aid packages, investments in sustainable infrastructure and structure fiscal stimuli to cushion the expected transition into the green and blue economy.

In the immediate this involves a new issuance of SDRs to boost liquidity for African countries, and extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). The ECA has also been advocating for SDRs to be made available for on-lending to provide cheaper forms of finance for investment in sustainable priorities such as clean energy. Opportunities for green and blue bonds using appropriate credit enhancements should also be considered alongside the opportunity for debt restructuring using debt for climate or debt for nature swaps.

The “circular economy” concept has been defined as one which is restorative, as it heavily relies on renewable energies and eradicates waste and toxic chemicals. In the same vein the green economy is described as one that improves well-being, promotes social equity, reduces ecological risks and is capable of transforming the global economy towards a low-carbon development uptake.

In his remarks, Albert Muchanga, African Union’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, welcomed the launch of the South African case studies. “The launch of the report and case studies has come at an opportune moment as the AU will work together with the ECA and other partners in fulfilling the objective of an African post-pandemic Green recovery,” the AUC Commissioner said.

“Africa has immense renewable energy potential to boost its economic growth through adoption of cleaner energy pathways which are a boost to adaptation and climate mitigation.”

Commenting on the need for urgent global action to support Africa’s green recovery initiatives, Sir Nicholas Kay, the UK regional Ambassador for Africa of the Climate Conference (COP26), said “Global political will is building up as has been seen with the return of the US to the Paris Agreement, commitment of China to net-zero emissions and raised ambitions by the UK, among other developed nations, to pursue a Green Industrial Revolution. All these are a boost for Africa to adopt greener economic pathways for attainment of sustainable development goals.” “Green energy is the future,” he added.



Speaking during the launch, Julia Bird from the Oxford University, who collaborated with the ECA in producing the report said; “Africa is endowed with some of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, and one of the most important natural carbon sinks, such as the peatlands of the Congo basin which can lock in up to 30 billion tons of carbon.”

“This sequestered carbon is equivalent to 3 years-worth of the whole world’s emissions. Carbon off-sets provide an opportunity for Africa to tap into the value of its natural assets by factoring in carbon sequestration values. Uptake of reliable green energy will support Africa’s economic transformation and clean transition.”

Ms. Songwe underscored the need for a “paradigm shift from resource-heavy and inefficient models of production and consumption that incentivise overexploitation, to models that are centred on sustainable use of resources and bring value throughout the production and consumption cycle as part of a circular green economy.”

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