Africa must aim for a Green Economy

Rio+20 will debate sustainable economic path

Masego Madzwamuse's picture

Team Leader: Economic and Social Justice Cluster

June 19th, 2012

Rio+20 is taking place against a backdrop of global environmental, economic and development crises. These events, exemplified by recent financial and banking failures, are linked in the minds of many leading analysts to an unsustainable, short term, market-driven macroeconomic paradigm that fails to adequately address the interlinked challenges of climate change, food insecurity, increasing global poverty and inequality.

A pro-poor, socially-inclusive and natural resource-driven Green Economy offers the best opportunity to change the way we live and build a sustainable society by improving the efficiency of resource use; reducing the inequitable allocation of resources and opportunities; and, reducing the prevalence of poverty and inequality and the marginalisation of vulnerable groups.

Rio+20 provides a platform for this radical new approach to be discussed and for Africa to advocate for an end to Business as Usual. There has been a huge amount of talk about how Africa is rising but following the existing economic and development models will not lead to a fairer, more equitable and more sustainable future.

To prepare for the debates at Rio+20, around 40 researchers, practitioners and policy-makers participated in a roundtable on June 1 entitled Prospects and challenges for an inclusive and pro-poor natural resources-driven Green Economy in Africa in Johannesburg. The objective was to contribute to the formulation – by African governments, civil society, private sector and academics – of a common vision for the Green Economy in Africa.

The roundtable defined some key aspects of a Green Economy in Africa, which would:

  • Be pro-jobs and premised on growth that enhances production potential, raises employment potential and supports the growth of the informal sector;
  • Be sensitive to gender considerations and protect the rights of women;
  • Consider the cost already met by vulnerable people in its benefit-sharing mechanisms;
  • Address questions of intergenerational equity;
  • Ensure that the rights of communities are not diminished and that there is no return to elite capture of economic and political power; and,
  • Be people-centred and based on genuine bottom-up participation  - “nothing for us without us”

And the participants at the roundtable agreed that for this Green Economy to be established and endure, there would need to be radical change, including:

  • States playing a developmental role to ensure equity, fairness and accountability during the transition process;
  • Pursuing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) post 2015 and the end of the MDGs;
  • The emergence of an internalised value system that goes beyond monetary considerations, focusing on ecological concerns and costs, and the need to ensure equitable access to natural resources, while combating high levels of poverty;
  • New assessment criteria, other than simply GDP, to measure growth and development;
  • A much broader interpretation of the concept of ownership, including of natural resources;
  • A systemic approach to the realisation of the land and resource rights of local communities and indigenous peoples and the recognition of their role as stewards of natural resources;
  • Improving resource use efficiency and pursuing a low-carbon, low-polluting development path;
  • Diversifying rural economies; and,
  • African countries proactively shaping the Green Economy agenda by clearly putting forward their own policies and definitions, and articulating their national and continental needs on international platforms.

The Green Economy concept will be discussed on a number of panels at Rio+20 including Civil Society and Knowledge Community: Dialogues around Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD) on June 19.

About the author(s)

Masego is the Team Leader for the Economic and Social Justice Cluster. Prior to joining OSISA she was a freelance consultant working in the area of environment and development. Before then she was a Programme Manager for the UNDP TerrAfrica initiative, which was aimed as mobilizing civil society engagement in processes aimed at up-scaling sustainable land management in Sub-Saharan Africa. Before working for UNDP Masego was a Country Programme Coordinator for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Botswana and later Regional Programmes Development Officer for the IUCN Regional Office of Southern Africa in Pretoria. She holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Sciences and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Environmental Science.


  • 1 Hood Avenue/148 Jan Smuts; Rosebank, GP 2196; South Africa
  • T. +27 (0)11 587 5000
  • F. +27 (0)11 587 5099