As the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) approaches, experts have called on Africa to rethink its approach to natural resource management.
Experts highlighted the need to reduce environmental degradation and promote adaptation to climate change in order to achieve sustainable development on the continent.
The experts noted that the African Development Bank is playing a key role in promoting sustainable resource management, and stressed the importance of collaboration between all stakeholders.
Merlyn Van Voore, Head of the International Resource Panel Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, stressed the need for better tools and frameworks to ensure sustainable management of natural resources.
According to Voore, current practices are insufficient to address the issue, and countries need to rethink how they use natural resources to ensure long-term sustainability.
Voore also emphasised the importance of collaboration between countries, organizations, and individuals to achieve this goal. “There are overlaps between managing natural resources and what it means regarding climate and the sustainable development agenda,” she said.
Voore highlighted the need for particular attention to be paid to the manufacturing of electronics, as mobile phones at the end of their life cycle require the involvement of various stakeholders to ensure responsible recycling.
These include manufacturers, extractive workers and companies, end users, and network providers. This collaboration is essential to ensuring that natural resources are used sustainably and that electronic waste is properly managed.
Africa and the World Facing a Crisis of Nature
Vanessa Ushie, acting director of the African Development Bank’s African Natural Resource Management and Investment Center, stressed that Africa and the world are facing a crisis of nature.
Ushie cited the African Development Bank’s Africa Economic Outlook 2023 report, which highlighted that natural resources, including renewables and ecosystem services, account for around 62 per cent of Africa’s GDP. She noted that addressing the crisis of nature is critical to achieving sustainable development on the continent.
“Nature is providing essential goods and vital services, and these are not just economic values but ecological, biophysical and environmental values as well. Without fully appreciating these services, we tend to underestimate the value of natural capital.”Vanessa Ushie
Hans Bruyninckx, former executive director of the European Environment Agency, argued that sustainable resource management should be a top priority in Africa and economies around the world.
Bruyninckx noted that the depletion of natural resources poses a serious threat to the environment and human well-being. He, therefore, urged policymakers and individuals to take action to protect and sustainably manage the planet’s natural resources.
“This is important for everybody on this planet given the deeply unequal distribution of costs and benefits of how we do that today, particularly in an African context,” he said.
Bruyninckx explained that historically, Africa has largely served as an exporter of natural resources, but this has often been done in an unsustainable way.
Bruyninckx added that Africa will play an important role in the global energy transition and information technology as the continent seeks to improve the social and economic well-being of its people.
Bruyninckx suggested that Africa has an opportunity to become a leader in these areas, but must do so in a way that prioritizes sustainable resource management.
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