New and Emerging Challenges in Africa Summary Report
UNECA, 2011
by: Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) has the objective of securing renewed political commitment to sustainable development, assess the progress and implementation gaps in meeting already agreed commitments, and address new and emerging challenges. With these goals in mind, Rio+20 provides an opportunity for Africa to evaluate progress, and identify what has worked and what has not in the last two decades and how to address new challenges and take advantage of opportunities. This Africa Report on New and Emerging Challenges aims to inform the deliberations at the Africa Regional Preparatory Conference for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and serve as reference material during the Rio+20 Summit. In the twenty years that have passed since the Rio Conference in 1992, African countries have gained significant experience in the implementation of the sustainable development agenda albeit with mixed results towards achieving the sustainable development goals set. Africa?s challenges include the adverse impact of climate change, increasing water scarcity, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, desertification, low resilience to natural disasters, potential non achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), energy crisis, food crisis, limited benefits from globalization, health security, the global financial crisis, trafficking and piracy, low penetration of ICT services, urbanization, need to develop better disaster response mechanisms, genetically modified crops in relation to food security and technology transfer among others. Africa is largely dependent on natural resources to achieve growth and development. However, the realization of these goals may be hindered by the impact of climate change. Notwithstanding its low greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, it is the continent that will be most affected by climate change mainly due to low adaptive capacity. Climate change is significantly altering Africa?s development pathway. Persistent loss of biodiversity is also a major problem that countries have to address. Expanding agriculture, clearing of forests for charcoal and firewood, climate change, and desertification are the primary causes of loss of biodiversity. Addressing biodiversity loss requires long-term solutions in the form of development and implementation of appropriate policy guidelines, institutional capacity-building and deployment of adequate resources. Africa is characterized by highly variable rainfall which results in uneven distribution of water resources. The water resources harnessed and land area developed for irrigation in Africa are still far below the potential, less than 4 per cent. Measures need to be taken to improve water management and storage capacity to ensure continued supply of water for domestic and economic purposes and for ecosystem balance. Globally, the food crisis has passed. Yet, persistently high food prices remain a problem in many countries in Africa. Food prices increased dramatically as a result of droughts in grain-producing countries, reduced yields, depleting cereal stocks and multiple demands on existing stocks for human and animal consumption as well as for bio-fuels.

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