UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN AFRICAN ENVIRONMENTAL CONSORTIUM (A NON-PROFIT GROUP) AND AN OVERVIEW OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS IN AFRICA
AUTHOR: Peter A. SAM, ASc; BS; MS. Environmental Scientist/Environmental Planner Chairman, AERCG.
This paper is in response to the numerous supportive and positive response we have received in regards to the article on the AFRICAN ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND CONSULTING GROUP (AERCG) in the December edition of the West African Magazine. This paper response to the numerous inquires AERCG has received from all over the world, provides a broad mission statement for AERCG and a brief overview of the environmental condition and relevant socio-economic and political issues.
The present environmental conditions and the dynamics of environmental issues in Africa have lead to the creation of the AERCG. The AERCG is a consortium of native African environmental professionals residing in the United States. The group encomposes individual principals with a variety of expertise in the fields of environmental and human health issues (such as water quality, air quality, land degradation, water resources, waste management, public health and sanitation, environmental planning, protection of sensitive ecosystem, population impact, etc.) that confront the continent of Africa. AERCG is a non-profit/non-governmental organization registered in the United States and plans to register as such in the international community including Africa. The principals of the group have contributed to various technology transfer programs to developing countries.
AERCG primary objectives include the following:
1. assist in fostering sound environmental protection and human health in Africa;
2. assisting both the international community and organizations in fostering sound environmental and human health protection;
3. advocating on behalf of the African nations in the United States and within the international community on environmental issues that confront the African nations;
4. advocating for financial aid and support to the African nations on environmental issues;
5. providing viable technology transfer to enable the implementation of sustainable development in Africa;
6. creating a clearinghouse for environmental research of relevance to African nations and involving and providing research support to the educational institutions in Africa;
7. voluntarily identifying and conducting preliminary assessments of potential environmental and human health threats to Africa;
8. conducting feasibility studies in an effort to address imminent threats of point source pollution from all media;
8. facilitate training programs for African governments to assist in developing a comprehensive hazardous waste management planning and enforcement capacity;
9. serving as consultants and advocates in the United States and within the international community on behalf of the African regions on environmental matters;
10. building partnership with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United Nations Environmental Programme, the African governments, the International Financial Institutions, the International Governmental Organizations and other Non-governmental organizations in the United States.
1.2. Historical Prospective of Geo-political location and the Economic transformation:
The continent of Africa is boarded on the north by the Mediterranean sea; on the west by the Atlantic ocean and on the east by the Indian ocean. The continent comprises of fifty-two (52) countries and spreads over an area of about 117,000,000 square miles. One can visualize the entire continent to absorb China, America, India, Europe, Argentina and New Zealand. Africa consist of about twenty-one (21) percent of the total earth's surface area. The World Bank projects the population of Africa at about 650 million and estimates a rise to about 3 billion by the year 2050. The present population amounts to about 13 percent of the world's population.
The political atmosphere have been created from the inception of the Europeans arrival on the continent 400 years ago. It created divisions of tribes due to the invasion of the colonial powers of the British, the Belgium, the Spanish, the Portugese, the French and the Italians. Once stable, natural, culturally rich and environmentally sound ecosystem, the continent have suffered economic regression, human sufferings, starvation, health crisis and environmental degradation. From the early 1960's, most African countries obtained their independence from the colonial powers and begun to confront with the politics of the cold war. The 1960's saw countries like Zambia as one of the richest black nation in the world. Ghana ( then the Gold Coast) was the world leading gold and cocoa producers. Most of the African countries had surplus foreign reserves. What happened? one might ask. Foreign investors took advantage of the cheap labor, various government nationalized industries and businesses, the political idealogy swung to that of a socialistic configuration and prominently, industrialization was prioritized over social issues and environmental concerns. Economic development initiatives failed to consider environmental management and natural resource preservation/protection.
Presently, the Sub-Saharan African economic growth is at a all time low. The present rate of about 1.1 percent is the world's lowest. The combined Region's GNP is below $140 billion. Political instability and corruption and wide spread ineffective governmental branches have also contributed to the economic slow down. Unfair International trade agreement and monetary policies also have also been a factor to the economic situation presently being experience in the Region. Food production is on the decline, mostly due to the environmental degradation and unsustainable development of the past decade. The food production decline is 20 percent lower than that of the past quarter century.
The pollution of surface water, ground water and air have lead to scarcity of quality drinking water and most of all undesirable living conditions. It is estimated that only 30 percent of the entire population have adequate drinking water. The population explosion is contributing to massive stress on the natural resources leading to deforestation and unreplenishable surface water and other natural resources including wildlife and terrestrial habitats (e.g. the rain forest). Diseases and epidermic like AIDs have plague the continent and as a result lead to an all time low average life expectancy of approximately 50 years.
It is without a doubt that the present state and condition of environmental management and its budgeting priority within the various governmental establishments in Sub-Saharan Africa is poor and warrants a high priority in addressing the inadequacies. The environmental situation in Africa can only be described as an "eye-sore" to mankind. The present condition reveal an unprecedented dynamics of socio-economic and environmental issues which confronts the African nations and the rest of the world. The dynamics of the situation can be attributed to several factors such as the industrial growth impact and it's direct impact to the lack of waste management practices and social issues (such as population growth, poverty and human health protection) in the entire Region.
Degradation of environmental and human habitation directly impacts economic growth and the social stability of a nation. Similarly, the political ideology and the governance of a nation directly influences the environmental conditions and human health of the entire population.
An assessment of the environmental management in the Region (Assessment of Waste Management Practices in Sub-Saharan Africa; Asante-Duah D.K. and Peter A. Sam; 1993) conducted by principals of AERCG concludes that an effective environmental management in an African setting is dependent on the economic, socio-engineering and cultural/traditional elements therefore, the environmental and human health is directly dependant on economic growth and social welfare. It is indicative that international monetary policies and the political idealogy of a typical African country significantly influences the environmental conditions and the human health. Furthermore, it is the opinion of AERCG that expansion of Africa's economic base must parallel and concurrently be implemented with sound environmental management principles and initiatives.
The International financing institutions including most of the African financial institutions, the African nations and the International Developing Agencies all unanimously agree that environmental management should be given a high priority in regards to development assistance. It is also agreed by the above entities that environmental considerations must be part and parcel to economic development initiative. Most important environmental considerations should be design to integrate economic policies, budgeting formulation and allocations matrix. Environmental consideration should also be integrated into investment programs such as the Multi-Country loan facility, Structural Adjustment Program and most important, it should be considered by the African nations as a high priority in Trade Agreements such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
1.3. Environmental Financial Assistance to the African Region:
The African nations have historically depended heavily on foreign aid to address the vast majority of the environmental issues which confront the continent at large. Financial aid to the Region have plummeted since the end of the cold war. For the vast extent of the cold war era, the Region has benefited and counted on the United States and the former Soviet Union as sources of financial assistance. The two world powers used these financial assistance "bribes" as a way of gaining pro-Western or pro-Communist surrogates. Now that the cold war have ended there are signs of immense decline in aid flow to the Region. The present World Bank commitments to the Region declined thirty (30) percent which amounts to approximately $1.2 billion in fiscal year 1992. There is all indications that the upward trend and high rate of financial aid to the Region in the 1980's may be over. It is also apparent that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Communities have diverted and increased their financial aid to western countries to tackle environmental problems. This situation may affect the funding levels to curb the serious environmental problems in Africa. There are other hope that Japan's commitment in 1993, to boost it's overall aid to Africa over the next five (5) years by approximately fifty (50) percent is a new sign of hope.
Recent Geo-political competition between the Eastern Europe countries due to the fall of the Soviet Union and the democratization in that Region has lead to the fall in lending and financial assistance to the African Region. Between the fiscal year 1992 and 1993, the United States have committed to billions of dollars in aid to the Eastern bloc countries. In terms of environmental technical assistance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have increased it's activities since 1992. The U.S. International Development Agency (USIDA) faces budget cuts as Congress discusses a twenty-five (25) percent cutback in the 1993 budget. The profound effect of USIDA budget cuts will be on the negotiations on IDA XI. The IDA XI is intended to fund African development programmes in the last half of 1990. The World Bank's lending have increased from $1.7 billion to $3.8 billion. It is obvious that this increase is not proportional to inflation, population growth and the overall extension of the environmental problems in Africa.
As these foreign financial resources/aid decreases, it is vitally necessary for the African governments to seek alternative sources to address it's environmental and human health issues. Currently, AERCG is undertaken research activities in developing a comprehensive financing methodologies for environmental budgeting for atypical African country. The research involves a holistic overview of budget appropriations and financing mechanism for environmental management in Sub-Saharan Africa. The overview utilizes specific case studies (using Ghana, Burkina Faso and Madagascar). It is intended research various alternative revenue generating sources to finance and appropriate governmental budget allocation for implementation of sound environmental practices/management. AERCG plans to develop alternative financing methodologies which will be designed as non-discretionary budget item to generate a "revolving funds" with the objective of achieving steady environmental management capacity, socio-economic and eco-sustainability development. The research findings is scheduled to be published in September 1994.
1.4. Summary and Conclusion - Environmental Management in Africa:
The waste management practices and the inadequate human health protection have lead to a devastating social ills in the frontiers of most of the countries in sub-saharan Africa. Most of the government in the Region have created Environmental Agencies within the structures of their respective government. Since 1973, countries like Ghana have created Environmental Protection Councils (which is one of the first environmental agencies in Africa to address problems relating to environmental management and protection of human health) by virtue of financial aid from foreign sources predominately, from the International financial institutions (IMF, World Bank etc.). The thrust of the environmental woes is two folds. The low priority placed on the environment due to other national priorities such as economic development and combating poverty; Second, is the scarcity of funds to afford the governments in the Region to address the issues. The report on the "National Environmental Action Plan in Africa" by the World Bank's Environmental Technical Department on African Region summarized the environmental situation in the Africa as follows:
"Africa faces an environmental crisis unprecedented in history of mankind. Rapid deforestation, loss of soil fertility, low agricultural productivity, disappearing bio-diversity, and an unmanageable urban environment have thwarted the continent's social political ills, such as the population explosion, unsustainable policies, weak institutions, lack of information and other external influences".
The general waste management practices within West African for an example can at best be described as crude in virtually all cases. This situation has been created from the inadequate to non- existence of environmental policy, lack of priority on the environmental issues on the national political platform/agenda and lack of technical environmental standards for pollution releases and standards for containment of hazardous waste generated from both industrial and non-industrial sources. Furthermore, the increased universe of the total waste quantities generated from industrial activities (mostly due to increased foreign industries locating to the Region and partially due to the structural adjustment programs and diversification economic initiatives in parts of the Region), coupled with the lack of technologically sound land disposal and treatment facilities, has contributed to the inadequate "state" of waste management in the Region (Dr. Asante-Duah D.K. and Peter A. Sam; Assessment of Waste Management Practices In West Africa; 1993).
AERCG plans to provide suggestions and specific recommendation in assisting the African countries and the International community in addressing the fundamental environmental issues in the Region during the group's upcoming press conference later this year in Washington D.C.
If you have any questions or want to be a principal associate/member you may contact:
Peter A. Sam, ASc; BS; MS. Chairman of AERCG 9915 West 61 st Street, Merriam, Kansas 66201. U.S.A. Telephone/Fax: (913) 362-9866.
1.5. Principal Associates of AERCG:
Dr. Kobina Atobrah
Dr. David Kargbo
Dr. Hilary Inyang
Dr. Helaine Daniles
Dr. E. Y. Asamoah
Femi Akindele, BSc; MSc; P.E.
Dr. D. Kofi Asante-Duah, Co-Chair
Peter A. Sam; ASc; BS; MS., Chairman
Dr. C. Onu
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