The challenge facing Africa is not new. Africa must harness the resources available to it – human, physical, financial and environmental – to realize fundamental human and development goals. Developing and implementing an effective environmental strategy can have wide-ranging crosscutting benefits for human well-being and economic development, and can be an essential tool in ensuring that the NEPAD aspiration for the 21st century to be Africa’s century is realized (NEPAD 2001).

An effective strategy will need to be based on purposeful and clearly articulated goals, with achievable time-bound targets. Existing MEA and other global commitments should be seen as a platform for action, and not a ceiling.

Actions need to be strategic, focusing on those areas where investment, whether in environmental management or human and physical capital, will have multiple follow-on impacts. For example, relatively small investments in improving water quality will not only have important environmental outcomes but can increase opportunities for access to safe water, resulting in improvements in human health, decreasing overall vulnerability and increasing human capability. Such investments may as a consequence result in improved economic growth.

Just as Africa has begun to make fundamental improvements economically and politically, an environmental turnaround is within its reach – and in its interest.