Why should Africa care about Sustainability? - Susinsight
Adetoro Adetayo Adetoro is a Sustainability Professional who graduated with a Distinction in Sustainable Chemical Engineering (MSc) from the University of Bath. She partners with startups and organizations to conduct sustainability studies and advise on best practices.

Why should Africa care about Sustainability?

3 min read

Emphasizing the significance of sustainable development in Africa, addressing the challenges faced by the continent, and suggesting potential strategies to promote it.

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The Importance of Sustainable Development

Sustainability is an issue that should be of great concern to Africa for a good number of reasons. Sustainable development, which involves meeting the needs of the present while safeguarding future generations’ ability to meet their own needs, is critical for the continent’s future. It aims to balance economic, social, and environmental aspects to ensure long-term sustainability.

Sustainable development envisions access to basic needs and resources used equitably and responsibly. It recognizes the necessity of economic growth and development for improving living standards, but this growth should be inclusive and sustainable. Additionally, it emphasizes environmental protection and conservation, promoting resource efficiency, clean energy, and sustainable land use practices to mitigate environmental impacts caused by human activities.

Progress and Challenges in African Government Sustainability Efforts

African governments have launched several strategies to achieve this goal, including the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS I and II), the National Environmental Policy (NEP), Tanzania’s National Development Vision (NDV) 2025, and the National Solid Waste Management Strategy in Egypt (NSSWM). Despite these efforts, there is growing concern that Africa may not achieve sustainability. This is because there’s a lack of knowledge on ratification, reporting, accountability frameworks, roles, and responsibilities, which must be addressed. There must be a concerted effort to prioritize and implement these Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while addressing governance issues.

Addressing the Challenge of Sustainable Development in Africa

The world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by technology and globalization, but Africa remains unprotected and vulnerable to exploitation without proper recognition and remuneration for its resources. The continued increase in global poverty is another issue affecting Africa, with over half of the world’s poor living on the continent. More than 400 million people, or one in three Africans, live below the global poverty line, resulting in poor health, limited access to education, and a lack of access to electricity. Poverty continues to rise, and the environment’s ability to meet African countries’ current and future needs is deteriorating.

Impacts and Risks for Sustainable Development in Africa

Climate change is expected to have significant consequences for Africa, with melting glaciers being just one of the many problems the continent will face. The continent accounts for about 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, with its major contributors being South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Nigeria. Although its contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is relatively small, the continent’s low adaptive capacity makes it particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which can include decreased rainfall, higher temperatures, flooding, and the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera, impeding progress toward sustainable development.

Opportunities and Initiatives for Sustainable Development in Africa

To promote sustainable development, Africa needs to focus on stimulating socio-economic growth and innovation while also taking environmental concerns into account. Within the framework of the development, the following can be expected: GDP growth, increased expenditures on innovation (respecting the natural environment), poverty alleviation, reduced unemployment and employment growth, environmental care, including selective waste collection, renewable energy, and legally protected areas, as well as the effective functioning of non-governmental organizations and nursing homes. 

Leveraging Innovation for Sustainable Development in Africa

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor in the competitive landscape, driving trade growth and forcing businesses on other continents to reconsider their products, technologies, processes, and business models. Hence, it is essential that Africa takes it seriously, with innovation being the key to progress, particularly in times of economic crisis.

Collaborative Approaches to Achieving Sustainable Development in Africa

While Africa has the natural resources and motivation required to pursue sustainable development, more work is required to fully realize this potential for the benefit of its people. Governments must implement policies and conditions that promote green transformation, with trade policies helping African countries gain access to green technologies and global markets for sustainable products. Establishing a comprehensive policy framework that encompasses a consistent set of policies, regulations, and standards can encourage the transition to a green economy.

Collaboration on a global scale is crucial in addressing sustainable development as it requires international cooperation. To cater to the unique needs of the continent, African countries should partner with international organizations in developing and executing sustainable development strategies. Prioritizing renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power is also crucial to decrease carbon emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. A holistic approach to sustainable development, coupled with collaboration, can secure a better future for Africa’s people and the planet.

Holistic Approaches to Sustainable Development in Africa

It is also essential to recognize that sustainable development is an integrative concept that spans fields, sectors, and scales, with strong links between programs and projects necessary to ensure Africa’s sustainability. African governments must move beyond narrow policy implementation processes to focus on sustainability across all fields and sectors.

Sustainable development also requires the active participation of all stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector, and the general public. Encouraging public awareness and education on environmental and social issues can help create a culture of sustainability and ensure that everyone is aware of their role in achieving it. Finally, it is essential to ensure that sustainability efforts are adequately funded, with African governments and international organizations providing the necessary financial resources to support sustainable development initiatives across the continent.

Adetoro Adetayo Adetoro is a Sustainability Professional who graduated with a Distinction in Sustainable Chemical Engineering (MSc) from the University of Bath. She partners with startups and organizations to conduct sustainability studies and advise on best practices.

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