Although the 1980s have been referred to as the 'lost decade' for Africa, it
was also the decade in which governments in the region consolidated efforts
to set their countries on a path of sustainable development. Various environmental
initiatives were undertaken during this period, at both regional and global
levels, and these greatly influenced environmental policy in Africa.
Emergence of African common resolve
Meetings under the auspices of the OAU, such as the 1980 Extraordinary Summit
of Heads of State and Government, which led to the adoption of the Lagos Plan
of Action, helped to highlight the challenges facing the region. Under the Lagos
Plan of Action, African leaders emphasized that 'Africa's huge resources must
be applied principally to meet the needs and purposes of its people.' They also
emphasized the need for Africa's apparent 'total reliance on the export of raw
materials' to change, and the need to mobilize its entire human and material
resources for the development of the region (OAU 1980). The Lagos Plan of Action
(see Table 1.4) is one of many measures adopted by the
region which set either qualitative or quantitative targets. Unfortunately,
many of these targets remain unmet.
|Table 1.4 Goals of the Lagos Plan of Action, 1980-2000
- Adopt a plan of action, which should incorporate the development
of policies, strategies, institutions and programmes, for the
protection of the environment.
- Utilize urban wastes to produce biogas, in order to save energy;
and convert rubbish into manure; combat water-borne diseases;
control water pollution from agricultural and industrial effluents.
- Introduce measures to control marine pollution from land-based
industrial wastes and oil from shipping.
- Implement stricter control of fish exploitation in economic
exclusion zones by foreign transnationals.
Establish programmes to rehabilitate mined-out sites, by removing
earth tailings; filling up ponds to eradicate water-borne diseases;
and controlling toxic heavy metal poisoning.
- Establish stations to monitor air pollutants from factories,
cars, and electrical generators using coal.
Control the importation of pollutive industries (cement, oil refineries,
tanneries and so on).
- Create national programmes in environmental education.
- Improve legislation and law enforcement, in order to protect
- Plan and manage the rational use of land, water and forest resources
as part of the campaign against desertification.
- Develop innovate approaches in drought management and desertification
- Collect and disseminate environmental data, in order to monitor
the state of the environment.
- Facilitate the establishment of techniques for the proper exploitation
of natural resources, in order to prevent water and air pollution.
- Facilitate the establishment of techniques to manage and use
forests and grasslands, in order to prevent the exposure of the
land to soil and wind erosion.
|Food and agriculture
- Achieve a 50 per cent reduction in post-harvest food losses.
- Attain food self-sufficiency in the next decades.
- Set up national strategic food reserves, at 10 per cent of total
- Increase production from African waters by 1 million tonnes
- Develop a national food policy in each country.
- Establish an inventory of forest resources.
- Promote indigenous research, and the study of indigenous species
in particular ecological areas.
- Expand areas under forestry regeneration by 10 per cent annually
up to 1985.
- Expand forest reserves by 10 per cent by 1985.
- Establish an inventory of surface and groundwater sources.
- Develop special techniques for managing water resources, that
is, collect data on water availability and quality; forecast demand
in various rural sectors; and develop and use technologies for
recovery and recycling.
- Develop technologies for collecting water in rural areas, for
distribution, irrigation, treating polluted water and disposal
of waste water.
- Establish river basin organizations.
- Strengthen existing sub-regional organizations, such as river
and lake basin commissions.
|Source: Field-Juma (1996), OAU (1995; 2001)
African Ministerial Conference on the Environment
The first meeting of AMCEN, organized by UNEP in close collaboration with the
UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the OAU, was held in Cairo, Egypt
in December 1985. In addition to being Africa's direct response to the 1972
Stockholm Conference, the establishment of AMCEN was also part of UNEP's response
to Africa's environmental crisis. The objective of the AMCEN programme, which
was adopted in Cairo, is to mobilize national, sub-regional and regional cooperation
in four priority areas:
- halting environmental degradation;
- enhancing Africa's food producing capacity;
- achieving self-sufficiency in energy; and
- correcting the imbalance between population and resources.
As part of its programme, AMCEN focuses on environmental, social and economic
inequality, and their impact on the environment. It also focuses on the pace
of economic globalization and its environmental impact on Africa. The AMCEN
meeting in Abuja in 2000 marked a turning point for AMCEN. At this meeting,
African governments committed themselves to:
- keeping a constant review of policy actions that would enable Africa to
challenges, especially new and emerging issues;
- building capacity to deal with major concerns;
- forging strategic partnerships with the public and private sectors, with
civil society, with non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and with the international community in preparing and
- implementing AMCEN policies and programmes;
- coordinating the implementation of environmental treaties, in accordance
with environmental and development priorities; and
- cooperating with relevant regional and sub-regional bodies in preparing
a common position for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held
in Johannesburg in 2002.
Through its partnership with UNEP, AMCEN has committed itself to keeping under
review the state of the environment, and emerging environmental issues and trends,
in Africa. It also aims to provide early warning signals, and to promote government
and public access to environmental information, as a basis for policy development,
programme responses and action to achieve environmental security.
For almost 20 years, AMCEN has facilitated the broadening of the political
and public policy legitimacy of environmental concerns, through the growth of
civil society organizations, and their active participation in international
and national environmental activities. Some of the milestones that AMCEN has
achieved include the following:
- the adoption in January 1991 of the Bamako Convention on Hazardous Wastes;
- the adoption in Abidjan in November 1992 of the African Common Position,
which was subsequently
submitted to the UNCED Secretariat;
- the establishment and promotion of eight networks, in the areas of: environmental
monitoring; climatology; soils and fertilizers; energy; water resources; genetic
environmental education and training; and science and technology;
- the establishment of four committees related to
- the development and improvement of the environment of the five African ecosystems,
namely: deserts and arid lands; rivers and lake basins; forests and woodlands;
regional seas; and
- the harmonization of Africa's position on global environmental issues,
through the Convention on
Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) and the
UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious
Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD); and
- the strengthening of cooperation between African member states.