UNECA urges Africa to leverage natural capital to accelerate transition to green economies

HARARE, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Africa must leverage its natural capital to accelerate the transition to inclusive green economies, a senior United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) official said Wednesday.

Facing disproportionate burdens and risks from climate change-related events and patterns, the continent must adopt homegrown solutions to its development challenges, in the face of an inadequate global financial system, UNECA deputy executive secretary for program support, Antonio Pedro, said at the start of the week-long 56th Session of the Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development that got underway in Zimbabwe's resort town of Victoria Falls Wednesday.

"We have, therefore, a unique opportunity to actively transform our countries by transitioning into inclusive, low-carbon and resource-efficient economies. In practice, this can be achieved by combining environmental commitments with climate action, socioeconomic commitments with poverty eradication and reducing inequalities. And we must break away from being exporters of raw materials," Pedro said.

The conference is running from Feb. 28 to March 5 under the theme: "Financing the transition to inclusive green economies in Africa: Imperatives, Opportunities and Policy Options."

Pedro suggested several transformative entry points to accelerate development and the transition to green economies in Africa.

According to him, the continent, which hosts 60 percent of the world's arable land but is the most hunger-stricken, must urgently transform its agricultural and food systems by prioritizing the development of regional value chains through de-risking investment and fast-tracking implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

"These measures will help to insulate the content from global food security shocks," he said.

He said Africa should harness its renewable energy and make it affordable, as this would make its products globally competitive by meeting the most stringent carbon adjustment measures.

Related to that is the need for Africa to valorize its natural capital, potentially making it an asset class to expand its fiscal space, starting with the development of credible carbon credit markets.

"At the right price, carbon credit markets could generate investment of up to 100 billion U.S. dollars per annum, creating 100 million jobs by 2050. The same opportunity exists with biodiversity credits, where Africa can become a price maker then price taker, if the right kind of investments were made," Pedro said.

He said that an abundance of arable land, carbon credits and biodiversity credits, green hydrogen and geothermal resources, renewable and non-renewable resources offer Africa pathways to green and sustainable transitions.

Speaking at the same meeting, Zimbabwean Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said there is an urgent need for domestic resource mobilization towards financing the transition to inclusive green economies as it helps mobilize private sector investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation projects.

"It is important that we valorize our natural capital by mainstreaming our natural capital in our national accounts. This would lead to a rebasing of our GDP and expansion of our physical space and reducing vulnerability to external shocks," he said, stressing that there is also a need to re-look at the international financial architecture to ensure that it is fit for purpose to support the development goals of African countries.

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