Central Africa can develop sustainably only with environmental protection, social equity: Report


Susan Chacko, Down to Earth

Date Published

Central Africa, which is rich in natural resources, can develop itself sustainably provided the resources are shared equitably and the region’s environment is protected, a recent report has said.

Development based on respect for the environment and social equity will be the only way to prevent poverty and war, the report added.

The report, titled Protected Areas in Central Africa 2020, has been produced under the Central Africa Forest Observatory (OFAC), a specialised unit of the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC).

Central Africa is rich in petroleum, copper, manganese, iron, diamond, cobalt and coltan.

Macroeconomic forecasts for 2020 for central African countries indicate a growth rate of between –2.5 per cent and –4.3 per cent.

The decline in the price of oil per barrel since late 2018, coupled with the global health crisis stemming from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), have led to a deteriorating economic situation.

Consequently, governments in the region are accelerating oil extraction and diversifying national economies, especially toward mining and forestry industries.

Natural ecosystems in the region are being exposed to:

Wildlife poaching
Expansion of transhumant pastoralism
Increase in mining permits
Industrial agriculture and family farming
The exploitation of timber, fuel wood
Conflicts over land

There are 206 protected areas in the region, covering 799,000 square kilometres or 14.8 per cent of the land area and five per cent of the marine exclusive economic zone of central African countries.

Countries have tried to rectify the situation.

For instance, 24 African countries have adopted Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) standards.

The initiative aims to promote more inclusive and transparent management of mineral resources. This, it aims to do by improving governance systems, making information about mining and drilling available to the public and building greater trust among stakeholders.

EITI has led to some progress in transparency in the sector in central African countries such as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad.

Cameroon established SONAMINES, its national mining company in December 2020, with the aim of developing the mining sector sustainably.

However, there is still a long way to go.

In 2009, the African Union adopted a general framework for the development of mining resources called the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), complemented in 2011 by an action plan.

AMV recommends improving the conditions for negotiating mining contracts, paying more attention to the environment and ensuring the best use of natural resources.

Unfortunately, the implementation of AMV at the national level has been slow to materialise.

Only five member countries of COMIFAC have ratified the revised Maputo Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which was adopted on March 7, 2017.

This Convention provides obligations to protect natural habitats, their fauna and flora as well the preservation and restoration of these habitats.