Sustainable Development is a major concern that all nations of the world must unite to address. While others may choose to debate sustainable development, those in developing world like Africa view it as an only choice that needs utmost attention and effort from the global community. Not only does Africa and the developing world recognise the need to develop and the challenges that confront them, but also appreciate the importance of sustainable ‘economic, political, ecological and cultural development’. Africa’s history with natural resources exploitation and its failure to promote sustained growth, environmental integrity and improved social capital is a lesson well learnt in moving forward.
Permit me to focus this discourse more on Africa as a model of the developing world. Among the political and economic factors that contribute to Africa’s challenges are: Conflict and governance – and there are many of these in Africa – in Somalia, in some countries of Central Africa, in Sudan, in Mali, I note with interest the recent establishment of an Institute for Sustainability and Peace by the United Nations University. This institute, I believe, will do its best in addressing the conflicts in Africa in a sustainable way. I see no need to start something which cannot be done in a sustainable way. The world, when left alone, will run itself sustainably. So if any intervention cannot be done sustainably, it should be done in a sustainable manner.
Another major factor to consider in the whole discourse on sustainability in Africa is agriculture due to the major role it plays in Africa’s development. Urbanization, expanding deserts, the adverse effects of climate change, the demographic profile of the continent, etc are complex issues that require major efforts for sustainable development. There is also a need to give much attention to develop green economic policies and develop/adopt green technologies that go a long way to establish equilibrium with the ‘ecological support systems.’ Africa has a wealth of indigenous knowledge that can contribute to economic as well as cultural sustainability. There is a need to establish meaningful partnerships among developing countries, to better use Indigenous knowledge and adapted technologies instead of importing technologies and remain in the quagmire of endless dependence.
Sustainable development must be seen as a process that ensures a minimum of decent livelihood for the satisfaction of basic human needs for all strata of the population. The value of our natural capital, the wealth of benefits and services provided to people by biodiversity and ecosystems must be fully accounted and integrated into national and corporate planning and reporting practices, policies and programs. Our renewable natural resources must be harnessed in an environmentally sustainable manner for them to recover at natural rates, while managing non-renewable resources with a view to protecting the needs of future generations.
Given Africa’s enormous wealth in natural resources, the challenge of sustainable development is above all a question of democratic governance and human rights, or the responsible management of these resources in the interest of the public.