AFRICA ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK
Past, present and future perspectives

THE 1970S —WINDS OF CHANGE

DECOLONIZATION

The decolonization of Africa was described in the 1960s by the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as the ‘winds of change’. Decolonization of the region began in 1957, with the independence of Ghana. It gathered momentum through the 1960s and beyond, to 1994 and the eradication of apartheid in South Africa.

The momentum which fanned African nationalism strengthened relations between former colonies, leading to stronger voices in favour of pan-Africanism. In 1963, the founding fathers of African independence established the OAU, whose main objectives were to:

In many instances, independence did not mean political stability. Many countries which gained independence in the late 1950s and the 1960s—such as Chad, Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan—underwent phases of political instability which, in some cases, have continued up to the present. Major developments which took place in the 1970s, and which have influenced policies in Africa, are listed in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1 Major developments which shaped policies in Africa in the 1970s

Year

  Developments
1971
 
  • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is adopted in Ramsar, Iran
1972
 
  • The UN Conference on the Human Environment is held in Stockholm, Sweden
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is established, with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya
  • The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is adopted in Paris, France
  • The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Substances is adopted in London, United Kingdom, and Mexico City, Mexico
1973
 
  • The 'oil weapon' is first used on the world oil market by the Arab oil exporting countries. This has a devastating impact, especially on the economies of developing countries, including those of Africa
  • The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is adopted in Washington, D.C., USA
  • The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships is adopted in London, United Kingdom
1975
 
  • Mozambique becomes an independent state on 25 June, followed by Seychelles on 29 June and by Angola on 11 November
  • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat enters into force
  • The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage enters into force
  • The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Substances enters into force
1976
 
  • The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques
1977
 
  • The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques is opened for signature in Geneva, Switzerland in May
1978
 
  • The Protocol relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships modifying provisions, adopted in 1973, is adopted in London, United Kingdom
  • The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques enters into force
1979
 
  • Protracted negotiations are held at Lancaster House between the British government and the Patriotic Front. The talks led to the independence of Zimbabwe in the following year
  • The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals is adopted in Bonn, Germany in June
Sources: SADC/IUCN/SARDC (1998) and UNEP/Sida (undated)

The Cold War is arguably one of the major events that had the greatest impact on Africa, in terms of its socio-economic alliances and development. Environmental management was generally not considered paramount during that period as it is today, even though Africa has a long track record in terms of the sustainable use of natural resources. The two dominant development paradigms during the Cold War were capitalism and socialism. This sometimes led to tensions between African countries, often resulting in armed conflict between them and civil war in others. Armed conflict led to a refugee problem, which saw the number of refugees grow from a low figure of 23 500 people at the end of the 1950s to a high of about 50 million refugees at the end of the 1990s (UNHCR 2000). Political unrest and the resultant refugee situation in many parts of Africa during the past decades have led to many problems, including: