Africa can be green and resilient by turning immense political will into action in mobilising and using financial resources for sustainable development, leaders at the seventh Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development have urged.
Africa is a rich continent with a poor disposition in tracking and deploying economic resources towards its development. This was the feeling underlining a high-level panel discussion on transformative actions and investments needed for Africa to build forward better from the COVID-19 crisis at the Regional Forum which kicked off in Brazzaville, Congo, this week.
To develop transformative actions and investments needed to build forward better from the pandemic and move towards a resilient and green Africa that will achieve Agendas 2030 and 2063, the continent needs to cap illegal logging and deforestation which are fuelling illicit financial flows, urged Albert Muchangana, Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining at the African Union. He noted that illicit financial flows were undermining the domestic resource base, adding it was imperative for Africa to mobilise public and private capital for low carbon growth.
According to the United Nations Conference in Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Africa can half its annual financing gap of $200 billion it faces to achieve the SDGs by stemming illicit capital flight. Africa losses an estimated $88.6 billion annually in illicit financial flows which include money and assets sourced illegally and moved across borders.
In addition, Africa needs to restructure its external debt to unlock resources that can go into social protection among other programmes to improve livelihoods of citizens, panellists agreed.
“Of necessity we have to create conditions for the green economy and that calls for research and innovation. It calls for sustainable value addition to our resources,” opined Paul Mavima, Zimbabwe’s Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, who warned that for too long Africa has relied on extractive industries to drive economic growth yet sustainable industrialisation was equally profitable and laden with prospects of green jobs and innovation.
“We need to garner enough will within our countries to fight corruption and fight the illicit flow of resources from Africa,” Mr. Mavima urged. “If we preserve those resources and come up with policies and programmes directly focusing on our priorities, then Africa can generate the resources we need to further objectives of achieving Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.”
The recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area, if implemented, offers Africa a fresh opportunity to grow green and build sustainable trade within Africa, the panellists agreed.
Congo’s Minister of Tourism and Environment and incoming Chair of the Bureau of the seventh session of the regional Forum, Arlette Soudan Nonault, said the countries in the Congo Basin Climate Commission have demonstrated political will in action towards a resilient Africa that can achieve the 17 SDGs. They have mobilised resources through strategic partnerships to protect the basin which is Africa’s biggest carbon lung.
“We cannot wait for disasters so that the international community mobilises funding for us,” Ms. Nonault said. “Should we burn the Congo basin for the international community to respond? We cannot do implementation unless we have resources. Hence political resources must be translated into action. We have the Green Fund and the Blue Fund that we should be able to tap into.”
Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Collen Vixen Kelapile, said Africa must generate innovative and transformative action and use Agenda 2063 as a roadmap to build back better but added leadership was key to a post-COVID green and resilient Africa.
Concurring that COVID-19 had increased inequalities across Africa with massive failures of health systems to respond to the pandemic, Diene Keita, Deputy Executive Director for Programmes at the United Nations Population Fund, said inter sectoral coordination at the highest level of government was critical for the continent to build better and greener by monitoring all health related goals.