The scenarios provide narratives about four possible futures that may result from different policy choices at the regional and sub-regional levels. All four scenarios are plausible but not equally probable. They have been considered because they incorporate alternative social visions and values, highlight significant causal processes and provide critical pointers for environmental responses. The narratives are also intended to provide a common framework for diverse stakeholders, including policymakers, to address the critical concerns related to the environment and development of our time, as well as a forum for discussion and debate on sustainable environmental management.


We are convinced
that an historic
opportunity presents
itself to end the
scourge of
that afflicts Africa.
The resources,
including capital,
technology and
human skills, that are
required to launch a
global war on
poverty and
exist in abundance
and are within our
reach. What is
required to mobilize
these resources and
to use them properly,
is bold and
leadership that is
committed to a
human development
effort and the
eradication of
poverty, as well as a
new global
partnership based
on shared
responsibility and
mutual interest.

NEPAD 2001

While it is too early to fully assess how these scenarios have played since the production of the AEO-1, selected regional trends are consistent with environmental implications which were highlighted in the scenarios of that report. For example, the expansion in use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has continued to be controversial, with countries divided over whether to welcome it as a necessary technology to help resolve Africa’s food security problems or to reject it due to uncertainty about its impacts on environmental and human health . The AEO-1 report stated that the “release of GMOs threatens agricultural biodiversity in some areas, especially where farmers depend on maintaining a mix of species and races as a hedge against annual and seasonal variations in farming conditions” (UNEP 2002a). At the sub-regional level, in 2002, economic communities including the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) developed policies for dealing with GMOs. At the global level, IUCN – the World Conservation Union (IUCN) declared a moratorium on the use of GMOs (IUCN 2004) citing poorly understood human and environmental health risks. Concerns around environmental and human health were highlighted in the Fortress World scenario of AEO-1. The debate continues and so does the expansion of the use of GMOs. South Africa has become a leader in the use of GMO technology, and in 2004 passed legislation to regulate GMO use. In Egypt, the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) of Egypt 2002-2017 has proposals for legislation on the intentional and unintentional release of GMOs that need to be passed by the People’s Assembly. These concerns have been identified as an emerging issue in AEO-2 and they are discussed in Chapter 9: Genetically Modified Crops.

However, in other instances the scenarios developed in AEO-1 have not been realized. Under the Policy Reform scenario, the AEO-1 report stated that the dependence on biomass by the majority of the people would be reduced, because there would be more energy choices available (UNEP 2002a). Although the issue is on the agenda of African Ministers for Energy, the region has yet to make significant progress in this area. Chapter 2: Atmosphere and Chapter 6: Forests and Woodlands of this report suggest that Africa’s achievements in the field of renewable energy are modest while the rate of deforestation due, in part, to fuelwood demand and charcoal production, continues to be high; this is contrary to the AEO-1 report’s assertion that this dependence would be “reduced considerably.”

In other instances, one scenario has been played out and not another. The Fortress World scenario of the AEO-1 painted a negative picture concerning regional cooperation on transboundary water issues. It suggested that cooperation would be weakened further and strained by escalating tensions and conflicts, as openness and transparency are eroded. However, given the policy choices the region has made, a different trend is evident. Contrary to the Fortress World scenario, there have been increased efforts to promote regional cooperation in managing transboundary resources. For instance, after more than two decades of negotiations, in 2004 the eight states of the Zambezi River basin concluded an agreement establishing the Zambezi River Commission (ZAMCOM). Although not highlighted in the scenario narrative, Africa also has witnessed the birth of the African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) in 2002. These developments mirror the narratives presented on two of the AEO-1 scenarios – Policy Reform and Great Transitions.

Different scenarios have been and will continue to play out in the region, combining and overlapping to chart a new course. The overlaps and contradictions, in and between different scenarios, are the essence of any narratives – they are not laboratory experiments with predetermined controls to achieve the desired results. Scenarios address the question “what if?” and the resultant narrative follows an “if...then” logic. In so doing, scenarios help in preparing for different possibilities, and in enabling policymakers to deal effectively with new challenges and minimize impacts on people and the environment. With this in mind, the chapter presents scenarios focused on the regional and sub-regional levels.

The AEO-2 scenarios presented here are founded on the commitments countries in Africa have made, along with the international community, to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And they build on the analysis of this report which, among other things, demonstrates that the challenges faced in achieving the MDG targets are still real and will continue to demand prudent policy responses. The underlying assumptions of the four scenarios have been refined to reflect changes since AEO-1, and to purposively highlight a limited number of the environmental issues over the course of the next twenty years. The 20-year period has been chosen to allow meaningful assessment of the driving forces and indicators of the selected issues – over the ten years leading up to and the ten years following 2015, ie, the MDGs target year. The driving forces have also been refined to better address the more recent policy decisions contained in initiatives such as the MDGs and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Environment Action Plan (NEPAD-EAP).