AFRICA ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK
Past, present and future perspectives

The narratives

The Policy Reform scenario is the Market Forces scenario with a human face. It not only embraces the market-driven prescriptions of the Breton Woods institutions-the IMF and the WB-but it is also strong on social and environmental policies. The Market Forces scenario is premised on the so-called Washington Consensus, which says that good economic performance requires liberalized trade, macroeconomic stability and getting prices right (Stiglitz 1998). The Washington Consensus supporters 'unreservedly promote free trade, financial liberalization and foreign investment incentives, business deregulation low taxes, fiscal austerity and privatization, and flexible labour markets' (Bond 2000; see also Box 4.1).

Box 4.1 Camdessus speaks at UNCTAD-X Interactive Sessions

'Now we know, it is not enough to increase the size of the cake.How the cake is shared is equally relevant to the dynamics of development... it is recognized that the market can have major failures, that growth alone is not enough or can even be destructive of the natural environment or precious social goods and cultural values.

'Only the pursuit of high quality growth is worth the effort - growth that can be sus-tained over time... growth that has the human person at its centre... growth based on continuous effort for more equity, poverty alleviation, and empowerment of poor people, and growth that promotes protection of the environment and respect by national cultural values... a striking and promising recognition of a convergence between a respect for fundamental ethical values and the search for efficiency...

'... the new emerging paradigm, rooted in fundamental human values, taken together with a better ability to prevent and manage the crises, is a distinct and positive chance of our times... a new perception of globalization is emerging... a call for common action to trans-form globalization into an effective instrument for development. Globalization can be seen in a positive light, not what some have portrayed it to be, a blind, potentially malevolent force that needs to be tamed... a logical exten-sion of the same basic principles of economic and human relations that have already brought prosperity to many countries...'

Source: Raghavan 2000

For Africa, the Policy Reform scenario offers an opportunity for the region to break with more than four decades of 'unfulfilled promises of global development strategies' (OAU 1980). For instance, in the years between decolonization, which began with Ghana in 1957, and the democratization of South Africa in 1994, the region has been 'unable to point to any significant growth rate, or satisfactory index of general well-being' (OAU 1980). Some of the important challenges facing Africa at the beginning of the 21st century, therefore, include: a population which is growing rapidly, at a rate which is faster than food production and which is beyond the capacity of some resources to satisfy such demand; growing poverty in both rural and urban areas; millions of refugees, due to wars in different subregions; growing urbanization, introducing new environmental issues; HIV/AIDS; land degradation, particularly desertification; deforestation; recurrent droughts; increasing demand on the finite water resources; water pollution; and biodiversity loss.

Since the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, Africa has participated in many conferences, such as: the 1990 World Conference on Education for All; the 1990 World Summit for Children; the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development; the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights; the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development; the 1995 United Nations Fourth Conference on Women; and the 2000 Millennium Summit. In addition to these international initiatives, African countries have also convened their own important meetings, which have set targets for economic and social development, and environmental management. Meetings under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which led to the adoption of the Lagos Plan of Action-the region's blueprint for economic development-in 1980 have 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 virtually 'total reliance on the export of raw materials' to change, and for the need to mobilize the region's entire human and material resources for the development of Africa (OAU 1980).

The Lagos Plan of Action is one of many measures adopted by the region which set qualitative and/or quantitative targets that should have been met by the new millennium. Unfortunately, many of these targets remain unmet, largely because of errors of judgement, of both omission and commission. Nonetheless, the 21st century marks the beginning of a new dawn. The symphony created by an informed populace, fully familiar with its rights; the commitment by political leaders to serve their people rather than their egos; the development of strong legal and institutional frameworks; the willingness by all stakeholders to constantly keep their development plans under review; the development of a strong entrepreneurial base; and breakthroughs in science and technology see Africa claim its place as one of the leading regions in the world. Africa takes policy reform seriously, looking within for any shortcomings and enhancing its strengths.