The future of Africa’s development is closely tied to the integrity of its natural resources base. How the region benefits from its stock of natural resources will depend on how strategically it places itself at the global negotiating tables, how it markets these assets and the extent to which it is able to maximize benefits and opportunities for its people.

There are improved opportunities on all these levels. Viable fora for meeting these challenges have been created through NEPAD and AU. The different initiatives being pursued by Africa underscore the interconnectedness of the development process and the need for holistic development planning. Indeed a sector by sector approach to environmental resources management is being replaced by integrated management policies. Similarly, territorial boundaries no longer bar sustainable management of resources, and transboundary cooperation is becoming more common. On another level, there is also growing recognition that human well-being depends on ecosystem services. Governments and development partners are increasingly involving civil society and the private sector in the fashioning and implementation of the different initiatives. What now needs to be urgently addressed is the commitment of adequate resources for the institutions mandated to implement the initiatives to carry out the tasks effectively.

It is important for Africa to comprehensively take stock and value of what it has in terms of natural resources and use them optimally to sustain decent livelihoods. This is the focus of Section 2: Environmental State-and-Trends: 20-Year Retrospective.