The history of social, economic and environmental development presented in Chapter 1 demonstrates that African countries have risen to the challenge of environmental degradation. They have developed a collective will to address environmental and related issues, and have created institutions to translate that will into concrete results. Some milestones in this process are recapitulated below.
In addition to the regional and sub-regional initiatives mentioned above, there have also been country level efforts, a summary of which is presented in Annex 1. In their efforts to address environmental degradation, African countries have focused on a range of policy responses. These are examined individually below. Some failures and weaknesses in their implementation are analysed in Annex 2.
Governments use policies to influence the structure and operation of economies, with the aim of attaining goals and targets for development and economic growth. To do this, they use economic, financial, legal and institutional instruments to encourage or to discourage particular types of economic activities at macroeconomic or sectoral levels (Mogaka and others 2001). For example, macroeconomic policies are used throughout Eastern and Southern Africa to manipulate exchange rates, money supply and interest rates in order to achieve economic growth, to stimulate employment and investment, and to generate foreign exchange. Agricultural policies in the sub-regions, on the other hand, have long made use of combinations of subsidies, taxes and credit arrangements to promote the goals of food security, increased export earnings and rural income generation (Mogaka and others 2001).
African states have endorsed poverty reduction as a priority goal, the foundation of which is sound macroeconomic policies and strategies, ensuring both sustainable broad-based economic growth and macroeconomic stability. They have also become more outward-looking and have put in place trade liberalization policies, structural reforms in agriculture, and monetary policies that aim at maintaining low inflation, a stable exchange rate, lower interest rates and fully convertible currencies. Collectively, these responses are aimed at making Africa a part of the global village. The perceived benefit of greater globalization is the reduction of poverty in Africa.
Food insecurity is a measure of poverty. Table 5.2 shows that many countries have improved their daily per capita calorie intake, although some sub-Saharan countries have done the opposite. The situation is similar for per capita protein and fat supply, further strengthening the argument for greater attention to poverty reduction.
|Table 5.2 Food security and nutrition|
|Source: UNDP (2000)|
|Box 5.3: Macroeconomic policy impacts on the forest sector in Tanzania—the case of structural adjustment and the agricultural sector|
|Source: Shechambo, 1999|
Industrial sector activity is often accompanied by risks to the environment.
Some macroeconomic policies have had negative effects,
exacerbating poverty instead of reducing it. For example, during the 1980s,
most of the countries of Eastern and Southern Africa faced economic stagnation,
declining growth, and increasing public sector and trade deficits. These worsening
economic conditions, and the economic stabilization and structural adjustment
measures introduced in the 1990s to overcome them, resulted in considerable
contraction of the economy, a decline in rural living standards, and a fall
in income and employment (Mogaka and others 2001). As is often the case, increased
poverty made people more reliant on natural resources to meet their daily needs
or to generate income, and this increased pressure led to overexploitation of
resources. In other words, macroeconomic policies exacerbated poverty in the
two sub-regions and contributed to further environmental degradation. This was
certainly the case in Tanzania, where structural adjustments had a negative
impact on the forest sector (see Box 5.3).
In addition to macroeconomic policies, African states have introduced sectoral policies aimed at stimulating output, employment and income and, hence, poverty reduction. However, using economic instruments to stimulate sectors can be accompanied by risks to the environment. There are incidences of this in Africa, including promotion of the energy sector and urban development, with a risk of overexploitation of forest resources; promotion of the agriculture, mining and infrastructure sectors, leading to woodland and forest clearance; and promotion of industrial and manufacturing sectors, which generate wastes and pollutants that undermine environmental quality. Table 5.3 illustrates sectoral economic policy incentives and disincentives for sustainable forest utilization and management in Zambia.
Economic instruments in support of agricultural policy goals are, arguably, those that have had the most detrimental effect on the environment. Agriculture has long been promoted as a key sector for development and growth in Africa, and for pursuit of national goals of food security, rural income generation and export earnings. The range of economic instruments used in support of the sector is well-documented, and has mostly involved manipulating of fiscal, financial, price and market mechanisms. Examples are: imposition of relatively lower tax rates on agricultural land uses (Barnes and de Jager 1995); subsidies to inputs; government intervention in marketing; preferential credit arrangements; relief on taxes and duties; and high spending on research, extension, development and marketing (Mogaka and others 2001). Use of such mechanisms has led to an artificial inflation of the profitability of agriculture and has often encouraged the spread of farming activities at the expense of the environment (Mogaka and others 2001).
|Table 5.3 Sectoral economic policy incentives and disincentives for sustainable forest utilization and management in Zambia|
|Source: PFAP (1998)|
Use of such mechanisms— subsidies to inputs, perferential credit arrangements, etc.— has led to an artificial inflation of the profitability of agriculture and has often encouraged the spread of farming activities at the expense of the environment.
Therefore, when African states introduce macroeconomic and sectoral policies aimed at reducing poverty, they must take care to ensure that none of the planned improvements in economic growth are at the expense of the environment. This is particularly relevant as African governments embark on the modernization of agriculture as a means of reducing poverty and for overall modernization of their economies.
Apart from macroeconomic and sectoral economic policies, social policies can also have significant consequences for environmental management. For example, the underlying cause of much of Africa's widespread poverty is the high rate of population growth, and it is poverty that forces people to overexploit their natural resources and thus degrade their environment. Social policies that tackle the underlying cause of poverty therefore indirectly support environmental improvement. Family planning and other population growth control strategies have been introduced in some African countries and are beginning to yield positive results (UNDP 2000). Better education can also provide a way out of the poverty trap, and there are efforts in African countries to ensure ‘free education’ for the young to attain the goal of universal literacy.
In some countries, the health policies introduced have emphasized preventive rather than curative strategies. Figure 5.1 and Figure 5.2 show the impacts of policy responses that improve accessibility to safe water and sanitation services. In both cases, there is a direct inverse relationship between infant mortality and the increasing percentage of the population that has access to safe water and sanitation. Removing unhealthy environmental conditions can therefore contribute to reducing vulnerability to disease (see Chapter 3).