As the world grapples with the impact of climate change, Africa presents unique opportunities since it has the largest reserves of minerals and renewable energy potential required for the world to transition to a green economy. Africa also currently sequesters more carbon than it emits, thanks to ecosystems like the Congo Basin. However, global targets will not be met if we continue “business as usual”.
Africa has the raw materials needed for batteries powering next-generation energy and the most arable land to feed the world’s growing population. Harnessing this potential sustainably, while protecting resources like the Congo Basin crucial to all of us, is the most urgent challenge today.
However, to fully capitalize on these natural advantages and opportunities, Africa needs the right policies and regulations in place. While decisions made at the local level will be critical, national governments must implement tailored regulations that maximize Africa’s potential while safeguarding natural assets.
More “strings attached” to resources and markets will be needed to ensure Africa’s growth helps fight, not fuel, climate change. Rules governing resource extraction, land use, and supply chain accountability can spur innovation and competitiveness if designed to promote sustainability and efficiency gains. With the proper regulatory frameworks, Africa’s private sector will rise to the challenge of sustainably meeting global green demands.
From our experience, it is clear Africa must implement policies addressing climate change’s urgency. We see Western countries enacting major regulatory shifts.
In the US, new climate policy drives efficiency gains in new and used vehicles. Rules govern sourcing materials powering those vehicles—most from Africa. Are we in Africa preparing, through regulations and private sector practices, to lead the energy transition we could?
In the EU, zero deforestation rules require agricultural products sold there avoid deforestation. Are African operations poised competitively to supply products like palm oil, rubber, cocoa and coffee? Others are. If we want continued economic growth meeting youth needs, we must compete.
These examples show decisions today shaping extraction, renewable energy production and food growth will determine if we create a livable world. Decision-making at all levels matters – local, where value is created; national, through policy and trade; and within business, through innovative models.
Regulations are not an end in themselves but a means to an end – catalyzing the structural shifts that must occur for Africa to power the green transition in a way that also delivers prosperity. From renewable energy growth to increased agricultural yields, the right “dose” of regulation can prompt the innovation, technology transfer, investment and smart coordination needed across scales.
As Africa now must compete on the global green market, focusing solely on minimizing regulations will not maximize the continent’s potential contributions to climate solutions. Instead, we must embrace tailored policies that reconcile economic growth with safeguarding our natural wealth, enabling Africa to transition from carbon sink to climate champion. With the right prescriptions in our regulatory rulebook, Africa can become a renewable powerhouse and solution provider for the planet.
Success requires a different view of growth: leveraging Africa’s natural wealth as an asset to renew, not exploit. This demands innovation, technology exchange, but also smart leadership, rigorous planning maximizing nature’s value over time.
Kaddu Sebunya is the CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation.