From Issue Sustainuary 2016: Planning For A Sustainable Future
With economic growth after Independence, nations in Africa have seen the conversion of their lands from rural to urban. This development has paralleled the environmental degradation and decline in sustainability of the continent. Many African governments have made strides in sustainability but Africa’s development remains substandard to those of other continents. Several drawbacks have prevented Africa from progressing as a greener continent.
Population Growth & Urbanization: Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso’s infrastructure and sustainable development has not caught up to its population growth, leaving the country entrenched in pollution. Since the 1970s, Burkina Faso’s population has more than tripled. Similarly, it has a large urbanization rate of over 6 percent. This growth has caused Burkina Faso’s carbon emission to skyrocket; emissions have gone from zero to almost five hundred thousand metric tons from 1958 to 2010. In the capital city of Ouagadougou, the air was so polluted that an air quality machine failed when a scientist attempted to measure the air pollution.
Corruption & Foreign Debt: Somalia
Foreign debt, specialization and corruption distract governments from taking the extra steps towards sustainability. In 2015, Somalia’s foreign debt was ninety-three percent of the country’s GDP. Somalia suffers an external debt of $5.3 billion that will not be paid off by an economy weakened by fluctuations in the global market. Somalia specializes in livestock export while it continues to import many commodities, which has made it vulnerable to dropping prices; the country has a whopping trade deficit of $2.63 billion. Due to economic instability, Somalia has adopted unsustainable policies and undertaken actions such as extensive deforestation. Meanwhile, there have been few transparent transactions in the Somalia’s government, and corruption has kept the country from recovering from economic turbulence.
Lack of Education: South Africa
The South African mining industry’s contribution to environmental damage springs largely from lack of education and general ignorance. Several miners use environmentally harmful shortcuts and avoid paying for sustainable safeguards, while foreign companies overlook land-degrading methods in order to cut costs. Lack of education has also kept South Africa from reaping the economic benefits of sustainable models like large-scale recycling. Only 3.3-percent of urban residents recycle because most of the population is simply unaware of the potential value of recyclable products. Twenty-five percent of South Africa’s nineteen million tons of waste found in its landfills was recyclable.
A World Bank report suggests that a highly-educated African population would provide the continent with an empowered labor force that would ensure economic growth to finance sustainable development. Its seventh Millennium Development Goal has been to “Ensure environmental sustainability.” Efforts to implement sustainable infrastructures have the potential to birth new economic models and strengthen African nations’ economies.