Technical assistance

Blog: Why the transition to an inclusive green economy is key to achieving climate goals in Africa

For most of the last century, economic theories have been oriented towards economic growth at the expense of ecology and social equity, creating imbalances between and within countries while driving climate change, losses biodiversity and non-inclusive growth.

However, recent research suggests that sustained economic growth can only be achieved by investing in low-carbon and less polluting development models. Among them is the notion of “inclusive green economy”, which refers to a model of economic growth that is resource-efficient, non-polluting and equitable.

Today, it remains the best hope of lifting hundreds of millions of Africans out of extreme poverty and ensuring long-term sustainable development for the continent.

What is the inclusive green economy?

The term “green economy”, coined in 1989 report title Blueprint for a Green Economy, is defined by the World Resources Institute as “an alternative vision for growth and development; that can generate growth and improvements in people’s lives in a way that is compatible with sustainable development”.

A understood The green economy is one that respects the interconnected economic, social and environmental commitments reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

An inclusive green economy therefore considers a whole-of-society approach in designing the drivers of economic growth. It emphasizes sustainable means of production as well as sustainable and responsible consumption of economic goods and services. This maximizes resource efficiency and waste reduction at all stages of the economy.

Mainly, six main sectors contribute to the green economy: renewable energy, green buildings, sustainable transport, water management, waste management and land management.

While climate change has forced many countries to rethink their commitment to the environment alongside economic growth, the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine, has brutally exposed many economies around the world to shocks from supply chain disruption, highlighting the futility of a ‘growth only’ paradigm.

This has prompted countries to realize the importance of a more sustainable and green economic path, with many now seeking a different approach to economic growth that is not decoupled from environmental protection and of social justice.

The green economy and its context for Africa

Africa is in an excellent position to harness the benefits of transitioning to an inclusive green economy. For example, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) suggests that under green economy investment scenarios, real GDP in Kenya is expected to exceed a business-as-usual model by about 12% by 2030.

In fact, more than 83% of national climate plans include greenhouse gas reduction targets, with focus areas such as energy, agriculture, waste, land use and forestry – which are also the main focus areas of the green economy.

Africa is endowed with abundant natural resources, particularly lithium, graphite, cobalt, nickel, copper and rare earth minerals – all of which are key elements in the transition to electric mobility and represent new market opportunities for net zero goals as well as sustaining livelihoods.

Seven African countries are predicted be among the ten fastest growing economies in the world: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Senegal, Malawi and Zambia. This means a sharp increase in energy demand from households, industry, transport and electricity generation.

A green economy approach allows African countries to shift to a greener energy generation path and meet their growing energy demand at the same time, supported by falling renewable energy costs, with solar panel prices having dropped 80% over the past decade and wind power prices. by 40%.

The UN estimates that the annual investment gap for renewable energy infrastructure is between $380 billion and $680 billion. With targeted green economy policy interventions, African countries have enormous potential to close the financing gap.

So far, Nigeria has been able to tap into the green, social and sustainability bond market to raise funds. Direct policy measures are needed to attract this funding to more African countries. Burkina Faso, for example, has set up a new investment code which reduces performance obligations for investors in the green and renewable energy sectors.

Africa is also likely to embark on rapid urbanization that requires better planning to develop more compact and resource-efficient cities.

The transition to the green economy would create new jobs and attract more investment in Africa. This is crucial for Africa with around 70% of the population under the age of 30 and new entrants joining the labor force every year. For instance, UNEP estimates that expanding solar and wind capacity in Senegal will create up to 30,000 additional jobs by 2035.

Green economy principles applied in the context of agriculture, land use and forestry activities could pave the way for mitigating drought and preventing desertification in many sub-Saharan countries. The Great Green Wall Initiative is setting a great example by helping to bring Africa’s degraded landscapes back to life on an unprecedented scale, delivering food security, jobs and reduced migration, all in the space of just a decade.

The newly adopted The Commonwealth Living Lands Charter is also a platform through which countries can coordinate action on climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation.

What is necessary?

The transition to an inclusive green economy first requires strong political and institutional support, political will and a participatory approach between public, private and community actors.

For example, Ethiopia has developed a climate-resilient green economy strategy that outlines the steps needed to transform the Ethiopian economy into a carbon-neutral and climate-resilient economy and also defines the roles and responsibilities of government stakeholders. and non-governmental.

Second, it must also be backed by adequate financing to enable countries or societies with limited resources to move towards a more sustainable future. These countries cannot be expected to embark on a green transition without adequate support to create an enabling environment, technology transfer and financing from more advanced economies and other sources of finance.

This is particularly important for Commonwealth countries where natural disasters affect around 28 million people and cause economic losses of $8 billion each year.

To meet the demands of the SDGs and the commitments of the Paris Agreement, the world needs to invest $90 trillion in infrastructure by 2030. Developing countries – including many in the Commonwealth – will need 70% of this investment. The Global South will account for about two-thirds of all infrastructure investment (about 4 trillion dollars per year) over the next decade. The African Development Bank estimates that universal access to electricity in Africa by 2030 will require up to $40 billion per year.

However, very little of the available global funding is channeled to Africa. This makes the mobilization of $100 billion in climate funds per year by 2025 and separate financing for adaptation critically important for the transition of African economies.

Opportunities for inclusive green economies

Natural capital is a critical economic asset and a source of public benefits, especially for the poor whose livelihoods depend on natural resources. The transition to an inclusive green economy therefore creates huge opportunities for investment and job creation and has the potential to bring Commonwealth countries up to the level of their global peers in terms of responding to climate change.

Major Commonwealth countries like India, for example, have made significant investments in renewable energy generation and offer significant opportunities in sustainable urban transport.

In Africa, Namibia is embarking on a sustainable green hydrogen policy and implementation roadmap, in line with its long-term development framework (Vision 2030). Similarly, Zambia has embraced the green economy as the main pillar of its development path, with a dedicated green economy ministry established about a year ago.

Mauritius is preparing a circular economy roadmap to reduce waste generation, increase its share of renewable energy to 60% of production and “green” its tourism sector.

All of these countries, as well as other African countries, therefore present an opportunity for investors to partner with them to undertake a just transition and enable strong climate action in the Global South.

The Commonwealth recognizes the need for financing to enable the transition to a green economy. To this end, through the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Center (CCFAH), regional and national advisors are embedded within host institutions and national government line ministries, respectively, to provide technical assistance to ensure gender-responsive climate finance in support of a transition to climate change. inclusive green economy.

The Commonwealth also seeks to establish multi-stakeholder partnerships for the promotion of an inclusive green economy with other interested stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society, academia and other development partners.

If we are to avoid the calamities of global warming fueled by an economic growth-only paradigm, an effective transition to a green economy made possible by strong government and private sector leadership, strong and vocal participation and partnerships with grassroots organizations civil society, including women and youth groups and social movements, as well as adequate and sustained funding interventions is really the need of the hour.


Media contact

  • Josephine Latu-Sanft Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • +44 20 7747 6476 | E-mail