Past, present and future perspectives




The material presented here constitutes the first comprehensive, integrated report on the state of the environment in Africa. Following on from the review and assessment of development policies and progress described in Chapter 1, attention is now turned to the environmental context that underlies policy and forms the background for progress.

Improved understanding of the causes, patterns and consequences of environmental change can contribute to more effective design and implementation of mechanisms to tackle the negative impacts of such change. This report helps to improve understanding by presenting detailed retrospective analyses of Africa's environment, and by describing discernible environmental trends against the backdrop of human activities and management practices of the past 30 years. It thus provides a basis for learning from past experience and lays the groundwork for more effective implementation of Agenda 21 and for sustainable development of Africa's environmental, social and economic resources.

The framework used to assess the state of Africa's environment is called a 'Pressure-State-Impact- Response' framework:

The Pressures, State, Impacts and Responses framework allows analysis of policies and activities relating to specific environmental issues, reveals positive and negative impacts of economic and development policies on the environment, and shows how consideration of the environment can drive policy. Examples and case studies are used to highlight particular issues of concern and instances of good practice, and to illustrate the links between environmental components and issues. Pressures, states, impacts, and responses are discussed in an integrated manner for each issue.

It is not possible to cover all of the environmental issues that have arisen over the past 30 years. Rather, this Chapter aims to draw attention to priority issues for Africa as identified through regional and sub-regional consultations. Hot spots of environmental degradation and potential and emerging issues are highlighted where relevant. The 'bottom-up' means of assessment- in which information comes from national or subnational activities and is synthesized in sub-regional or regional analyses-and the extensive consultation and review processes ensure that a wide range of perspectives and studies are incorporated, and that the review of the state of the environment is as balanced and objective as possible.

The information is presented under seven environmental themes, namely:

Key issues identified for each theme are introduced and regional perspectives presented. Further details are then given for each sub-region. The cross-cutting nature of environmental issues is emphasized at every opportunity with links between issues, themes, subregions and causes or impacts of change being highlighted. After this sub-regional analysis, the chapter ends with a Concluding Summary which ties together the different themes at regional level and examines both present and future priorities for action.

The breakdown of Africa into sub-regions presented in Chapter 1 is along political and economic lines, its borders do not therefore always coincide with those of an ecological breakdown. There is, therefore, some overlap in the sub-regional analyses presented below.