Sean Maphosa | February 16, 2021
Despite the global growth of the concept and notion of sustainability over the years, African states continue to lag. The majority of African states have signed and agreed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Africa 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
However, there has been minimal progress in the implementation of practices that encourage sustainable development and, in some cases – there has been no progress at all. Yet, as a continent, Africa is affected the most by extreme events. The lack of traction towards sustainability on the continent is due to several challenges which include (but not limited to):
· Low levels of sustainability literacy. A sustainability literate person must understand the interrelationship that exists between humans, natural resources, the environment, and development1. Thus, begs the question; If one does not fully grasp the concept of sustainability, how can they work towards achieving it? This is not only an issue which lingers in the general public but the corporate environment as well. To drive the continent towards a more sustainable future, the general public and those in the corporate environment must be educated and fully understand that sustainability goes beyond saving rhinos and picking up plastics. But that it is a broader concept that requires one to think in a holistic/systematic manner.
· Always seeking the cheapest option. African states due to other intervening economic priorities are generally driven to seek the cheapest option, and this has vast detrimental impacts on our societies and the environment. For this article, we shall look at energy as the main example. Coal is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere, which not only amplifies global warming but also has a great impact on our societies and the environment. Despite the vast negative impacts coal has, it is still the main source of power across the continent because it is the most “affordable.” Most of the African nations can afford to invest in renewable energy and have some of the ideal conditions for these options but choose the latter.
· Lack of sustainable financing. The concept of sustainable finance is still fairly new on the continent and the world. With green bonds only being issued for the first time in in 2014, as a first on the continent. Only a handful of financial institutions have diversified and introduced sustainable products to the market. Majority of the financial institutions on the continent remain non-innovative when it comes to product mix and credit lending considerations, which focuses on maximum returns and does not consider long term effects of their investments on the environment and the society. Finance is one of the main driving forces behind development across the globe. Should financial institutions take the green route and introduce more sustainable products they will make all the difference across our continent, as it is a key element for sustainable development.
These are some of the key reasons why as a continent, we are still lagging in terms of sustainability. However, these are all issues that can be resolved, which means there is still hope for the continent. It is important to note that the implementation of sustainability across the globe can not be uniform. In Africa, we need to find ways that work for us and not just emulate what is being done on other continents. We can learn and adopt some measures from other continents but, it is of utmost importance to look at things in our context as the concept of sustainability is not uniform across the globe.
For example, we can make use of the vast indigenous knowledge we have and local tertiary research. We should start looking at the continent’s poor development as an opportunity to leapfrog towards adopting green technology and implementing sustainable practices as opposed to having to remain heavily reliant on fossil fuels and unsustainable methods of development. By increasing the continent’s sustainability literacy, adopting green technology and sustainable finance products (among other things), Africa could accelerate its efforts towards becoming more sustainable.
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