05 Mar 2015 Press release Climate change

From Villages to Nations, Africa's Success Stories Offer Lessons for Global Transition to Greener and More Inclusive Economies

Cairo, Egypt, 5 March 2015 - Increasing Kenya's GDP by 12 per cent, raising Senegal's life expectancy rate by 1.3 years, and reducing Burkina Faso's rural urban divide by 8 per cent - are all above and beyond what can be expected from a business as usual scenario, with a switch to green investments, says a new report launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

From oil tax levies in Algeria and forest rehabilitation in Burkina Faso, to bio trade in Namibia and organic exports in Uganda, Africa's green economy transition is already underway and reaping sustainable dividends across the continent.

The new Green Economy Africa Synthesis Report - launched today at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) - highlights the key findings of agriculture, energy, water, fisheries, buildings, manufacturing, transport and tourism assessments carried out in 10 African countries. The report was developed to help policymakers better understand the diverse benefits of investing in the green economy.

Despite real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increases across Africa of, on average, 5.1 per cent a year over the last 10 years, social and economic challenges remain acute: 48.5 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africans live in extreme poverty, 76 per cent of households are not connected to the grid, and 70 per cent do not have access to improved sanitation.

More sustainable and equitable growth is needed the report argues, but not at the expense of Africa's natural environment.

Speaking at AMCEN, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "This report makes clear that green investments can not only drive economic growth faster than business as usual investments, but represent a valuable opportunity for Africa to conserve the natural wealth on which economies, lives, and livelihoods depend."

"Enormous sustainable, renewable, and untapped resources exist on this continent. Africa receives 325 days per year of sunlight and is using less than 7 per cent of its hydroelectric potential, and less than 2 per cent of its geothermal capacity."

"Many African countries are beginning to tap into this potential. Green investments in renewable energy development in Burkina Faso are expected to yield an increase in electricity generation from renewables 180 per cent greater than business as usual investments."

"And in South Africa, a new Green Economy Accord is set to create 300,000 green jobs by 2020. The list of successful examples of green investments in Africa is far greater than what is generally imagined. The potential is enormous."

"But what is required to scale-up these investments is the right mix of policy, incentives, capacity development, and informational tools. Here at AMCEN, policymakers and experts have convened to identify the best means of achieving this mix and bringing the enormous potential of these green investments to scale," he concluded.

The synthesis report was developed in response to overwhelming demand from African governments to examine the opportunities for, and challenges to, a green economy transition.

The report also emphasizes how game changing innovations do not have to be expensive to make a big difference.

For example, one small solar Light-Emitting-Diode (LED) can save a family more than US $1 per week on kerosene, and enable a child to complete their schoolwork in the evening without any negative side effects on health, an innovation of immeasurable importance on a continent where 25 million children are not able to attend school.

Key report take-aways include:

Burkina Faso - In Burkina Faso, renewable energy investment scenarios are projected to save up to 100,000 hectares of forest area by 2050, corresponding to a reduction of about 16 thousand tonnes of CO2.

Burkina Faso has also pioneered a National Investment Plan for Environment and Sustainable Development to increase funding in environmental sustainability.

Egypt - Energy efficiency measures in Egypt could save 30 per cent of energy consumption, estimated at 33 billion kW.

Egypt has already installed 225 MW of wind energy capacity with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company.

Kenya - GDP growth in Kenya is projected to be 12 per cent higher by 2030 under the green economy scenario, as compared to a baseline scenario.

A shift in investment to green sectors would lead to an additional 3.1 million people in Kenya being lifted out of poverty by 2030, compared to traditional investments.

Senegal - In Senegal, it is estimated that green investments in sustainable agriculture technologies and techniques will facilitate an increase in arable land. Total available agricultural land is projected to decrease in Senegal if no green investments are made.

South Africa - In South Africa, investments in natural resource management, and particularly in land restoration, are projected to save billions of tonnes of water.

The report leaves no doubt that across Africa governments are formulating strategies to initiate growth in the green economy, including in Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, and Ghana.

These strategies, developed through an inter-governmental process and supported by detailed macroeconomic studies, provide a framework for mainstreaming green economy in national development planning and for delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, now being discussed in the United Nations.

The benefits of green investments tend to be felt over the medium-term, as the state of the environment improves and increases overall human well-being, making it essential to plan effectively for commonly desired development pathways.

Enabling conditions exist, and while implementation is not easy, a growing amount of evidence - from villages to nations - is showing that incorporating green economy principles in development planning is possible and is already happening - offering lessons for the rest of the world as countries reflect on their growth and investment priorities in the post-2015 period.