Harare – Green spending could help South Africa address the COVID-19 economic downturn, reduce carbon emissions, and transition to a strong and resilient long-term growth pathway, a report released by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) says.
According to the report, South Africa is the continent’s leader in terms of modelling its economics in a manner that boosts investment in green initiatives, which could bring up to 60 percent more jobs in the short-term and as much as 140 percent greater economic value in the long-term, compared to traditional alternatives.
ECA this week launched the “Building Forward for an African Green Recovery” report, which seeks to inform a post-pandemic recovery path for the continent.
The report shows Africa faces its first recession in 25 years with output losses due to COVID-19 estimated at US$99 billion. This is compounded by climate impacts, projected to cause annual GDP losses of between three and five percent by 2030 under a business-as-usual scenario. In some cases, GDP losses could be as high as 15 percent.
The report calls for uptake of nature-based solutions at national, regional and continental levels.
“For us to build back better we need a lot of energy. The conversation in Africa is about substituting expensive bad fossil fuels with something that is cleaner and cheaper,” ECA Executive Secretary Dr Vera Songwe said. “We have to replace fuel-based energies with green and sustainable ones.”
Dr Songwe said there was urgent need to roll-out financial aid packages, investment in sustainable infrastructure and structuring of fiscal stimuli to cushion the transition into the green and blue economy.
She underscored the need for a “paradigm shift from resource-heavy and inefficient models of production and consumption that incentivise overexploitation, to models that are centred on sustainable use of resources and bring value throughout the production and consumption cycle as part of a circular green economy”.
In his remarks, Mr Albert Muchanga – the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry – said, “The launch of the report and case studies has come at an opportune moment as the AU will work together with the ECA and other partners in fulfilling the objective of an African post-pandemic Green recovery.
“Africa has immense renewable energy potential to boost its economic growth through adoption of cleaner energy pathways which are a boost to adaptation and climate mitigation.”
Dr Julia Bird, who assisted with production of the report, weighed in: “Africa is endowed with some of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, and one of the most important natural carbon sinks, such as the peatlands of the Congo Basin which can lock in up to 30 billion tonnes of carbon.
“This sequestered carbon is equivalent to three years-worth of the whole world’s emissions. Carbon off-sets provide an opportunity for Africa to tap into the value of its natural assets by factoring in carbon sequestration values. Uptake of reliable green energy will support Africa’s economic transformation and clean transition.”