To meet economic growth targets and the MDG targets, to realize regional and national environmental goals, to decrease poverty and to improve overall well-being requires that Africa maximize the opportunities available to it.

The New Economic Partnership for African Development seeks to position Africa to take advantage of the opportunities presented by changing global trade by promoting good governance, allocating resources efficiently and exploring partnerships with the private sector and within key political fora (Katerere and Mohamed-Katerere 2005). It seeks to balance the neo- liberal economic reforms it is promoting with support for social services, particularly health and education.

At the sub-regional level, economic communities have been developed, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). Many of these initiatives focus on increasing opportunities the natural resource basis offers and stimulating inter-African trade by reducing restrictions on the movement of people, goods-and- services. Some initiatives, such as the Spatial Development Initiatives (SDI) in Southern Africa, provide for joint development and planning in contiguous regions, some of which straddle international borders. Several SDIs seek to harness the under-utilized potential for economic growth by promoting tourism, and other natural resource-based activities, thus increasing investment and lending, infrastructural development and opportunities for local livelihoods, particularly the development of local small and microenterprises (Mohamed-Katerere 2001).

In addition, policies have clearly identified the need to look at the opportunities industry and technological development can bring. The WSSD focuses specifically on the need to strengthen the contribution of industrial development to poverty eradication and sustainable natural resource management. This includes actions, at all levels, to mobilize resources to enhance productivity, increase income-generating employment activities, financial and technical support to rural communities, the development of small and microenterprises, and the support for natural resource management to create sustainable rural livelihoods. The commercialization of wild resources, such as medicinal plants, fruits and resins, can offer important livelihood opportunities. Box 5 looks at the benefits the commercialization of seaweed has brought to poor people in Tanzania. Intellectual property rights of those engaged in product development and poor control of genetic resources potentially undercut the extent of benefits that can be earned.