Innovative solutions top agenda as African environment ministers meet



The need to invest in innovative solutions and interventions by promoting sustainable consumption and production is top on the agenda of the seventh special session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), which has opened today in Naroibi, Kenya.

The two day conference is being held under the theme: Turning Environmental Policies into Action through Innovative Solutions.

Ministers and other stakeholders are deliberating on key messages for the forthcoming African biodiversity Ministerial Summit which will be held in Egypt in November this year prior to the 2018 UN Conference on Biodiversity.

It has long been held by experts that the environment has high potential in providing solutions to sustainable socio-economic development and poverty alleviation in Africa.

According to UN environment, the continent holds 30 per cent of the world’s mineral reserves, roughly 65 per cent of its arable land and 10 per cent of its internal renewable energy sources. Its fisheries are estimated to be worth 24 billion USD and the continent hosts the second largest tropical forest in the world— the Congo Basin Forest, with almost 2 million square kilometers of humid forest.

However, available statistics show that degradation of the ecosystems costs Africa 68 billion USD annually coupled with losses of up to 6.6 million tonnes of potential grain harvest, capable of meeting calorific needs of up to 31 million people.  In addition, post-harvest losses are estimated at 48 billion USD annually.

At the conference, delegates are particularly looking at how to enhance the political will to address the challenges of environmental degradation, to increase investments in innovative solutions to sustainably maximize on the benefit from the continent’s abundant natural resources.

“Africa should focus on making a paradigm shift through practical innovative actions so that we can benefit at the maximum levels,” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, UN Environment regional director for Africa, in her opening address.

She believes much progress has been made and urged participants to ensure that such policies are turned into actions for sustainable environmental management in Africa

“We have made strides through AMCEN by taking policy reform directions to promote and strengthen innovative and environmentally sound actions that can ensure sustainable use of Africa’s natural capital.”

Among other key issues on the table for discussions is Africa’s preparation for the twenty-fourth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 24) to be held from 3 to 14 December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

This year the ministerial conference is held back to back with the first meeting of the Africa Environment Partnership Platform which will take place from 20 to 21 September.

The aim of the Africa Environment Partnership Platform, according to Kwame Ababio of the NEPAD Agency, is to promote sustainable environmental management in Africa through enhanced partnership, coordination and harmonization of activities.

Others represented at the conference include sub-regional economic communities, the African Development Bank, civil society organizations, United Nations agencies as well as other bilateral and multilateral partners

The conference is expected to adopt a declaration, a set of decisions and key messages that will feed not only into the continent’s COP 24 position paper, but also the African biodiversity Ministerial Summit in November and the 4th session of the UN Environment Assembly meeting to be held in March next year.