Forging Ahead Toward a Sustainable Africa

hippos in Okavango Delta, Botswana

Hippos at sunset in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. (© Rod Mast)

To some, the May 2012 summit in Gaborone, Botswana may have seemed like just another meeting of powerful leaders that was all talk and no action. October’s follow-up meeting proved the skeptics wrong.

Last year’s summit — convened by the government of Botswana with support from CI — gathered 10 African heads of state, together with public and private sector partners, to discuss how best to incorporate nature into development decisions. This meeting gave birth to the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA), within which participating countries (Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania) agreed that in order to ensure the continued contribution of intact ecosystems to sustainable economic growth and human well-being, the following actions are key:

  • Integrating the value of “natural  capital” — the goods and services that nature provides — into national accounting and development planning;
  • Building social and institutional networks and reducing poverty by transitioning from exploiting ecosystems to protecting them for long-term sustainable use; and
  • Expanding awareness efforts, research and influence on policy.

As is to be expected for any newly established entity of this nature, many questions often arise. How will the agreed terms be implemented, and how is progress measured? How often should the meetings be convened, and by whom? Where will funding come from?

meeting in Gaborone, Botswana

At an October meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, representatives from governments and some development partners discussed how to move forward with the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa. (© CI/photo by Tessa Mildenhall)

The October meeting in Gaborone aimed at providing answers to all these questions. Among the outcomes, participants:

  • Considered the role of the secretariat and possible location, proposed frequency of meetings and information learning and exchange mechanisms, as well as possible funding sources. The conference agreed that Botswana should be the interim secretariat, and will continue to move the process forward until all countries agree on a final operating plan. The countries also considered a framework for implementing and tracking progress on the GDSA.
  • Demonstrated best practices on sustainability and natural capital accounting. A number of case studies, some from areas where CI works, were presented in order to demonstrate best practice of the sustainable development discourse. Examples included natural capital accounting in Botswana and Madagascar; public-private partnerships and corporate planning in Liberia and South Africa, respectively; as well as community-based natural resource management in Namibia.
  • Solicited more signatories and partners to the declaration. In order to attract new partners and wider buy in, it was agreed that the GDSA be presented to the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN).

So what next? CI is committed to assisting nations to maintain healthy sustainable societies by securing their natural capital reservoirs, sustainable production and effective governance. Partnerships with the Gaborone Declaration signatories will go a long way in ensuring that CI fulfills its mission and vision, especially with regards to governance.

The first step thus will be for CI to continue as a partner to the GDSA and assist the government of Botswana in its role as the interim secretariat. As the CI government liaison and environment policy manager based in Botswana, I will be responsible for taking the lead in doing this, as well as leading fundraising efforts for implementation of the declaration at the regional and country level and analyzing relevant policies at both these levels for coherence.

As a Botswana national myself, I am proud to see the initiative my country has taken to help lead Africa toward more sustainable development. In my new role with CI, I’m excited to play a part in this critical movement.

Wame Hambira is the government liaison and environment policy manager for CI-Botswana.


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