In the face of the growing degradation of natural resources assets, climate change and low rates of job creation, it is more crucial than ever to scale up and accelerate efforts towards resource efficiency, minimization of waste generation and resource degradation, and low carbon and sustainable consumption and production patterns, while creating decent jobs in the region. To this end, and given the right policies and adequate investment, pursuit of green growth pathways is recognized as an important and essential response. Studies show that the private sector including both large and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) has a crucial role to play in the path to green growth and job creation due to a range of reasons. The private sector in the region is growing rapidly and is responsible for large economic output as well as jobs. For example, in low-income countries such as those that dominate Africa, SMEs account for 78 per cent of all employment. They contribute to both employment level and employment growth. Moreover, the private sector is both an investor and a source of finance and a driver innovation and technology transfer. Yet, the private sector has been associated with a large environmental footprint particularly in contexts with weak safeguard systems and environmental governance and poor incentive schemes. Therefore, there is a vast scope for the private sector to drive green growth that creates jobs.
It is against the above backdrop that the United Nations Economic Commission (ECA) has commissioned a study on “Unleashing the potential of the private sector to drive green growth and job creation in selected countries in Africa.” The study is designed to respond to the key question of what is required to unlock the potential of the private sector to drive green growth and job creation in Africa.
This study is also timely in the context of the current COVID-19 crisis, which is truly cross-sectoral. The crisis has among others, undermined growth and led to erosion of many jobs, and the private sector, particularly SMEs have been disproportionately impacted. This evolving crisis has revealed and underlined the need for integrated and holistic interventions at large scale to create inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies and societies capable of avoiding and withstanding similar shocks. This points to the importance of ensuring that the recovery from COVID-19 is greener and more inclusive. This study will therefore also contribute to the identification and articulation of measures needed to enable the private sector to play its part in a green recovery geared to foster green growth, job creation, inclusion and resilience to future shocks.
The study is intended to generate evidence and strengthen the knowledge base on green business. It will identify measures, incentives and conditions to spur green investment and green growth, create jobs and ensure resilience to shocks including those related to climate change, resource depletion, and pandemics. In so doing, the study seeks to inform and orient private sector decision making and investments; and influence the design and implementation of public policies, programmes and other interventions to upscale private green investments that can generate green growth while creating decent employment.
The study, followed by the outreach and operational support activities, is expected to lead to following outcomes:
- Strengthened national strategies to expand private sector investment that will increase green growth while creating jobs.
- Increased knowledge and appreciation of the benefits and opportunities for private sector to invest in green business and increased ability of the private sector to seize business opportunities offered by green growth pathways in selected sectors.
- Strengthened knowledge, skills and overall capacity of the private sector to identify, design and expand investment in green business thereby contributing to green growth and job creation.
- Strengthened knowledge and capacity of the policy makers to design and implement policies and incentives for private green business to drive green growth and employment. In this regard the study will contribute to strengthening the capacity of countries to develop, reform and implement their green economy frameworks and nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
- Strengthened platforms or networks to increase peer learning and collaboration among the private sector and between the private sector and governments.
The study entails the preparation of in-depth case study reports in five selected countries (Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia); and a regional study. It also includes five national validation meetings and a regional experts group meeting. Read More...
 For this study, private sector refers to organizations or firms that engage in profit-seeking activities and have a majority private ownership (i.e. not owned or operated by the government). It includes financial institutions and intermediaries, multinational companies, small, and medium-sized enterprises, cooperatives, individual entrepreneurs, and farmers which operate in the formal and informal sectors. This definition excludes actors with a non-profit focus, such as private foundations. This is adapted from Morgado and Lasfargues (2017).
 In this study, green business refers to a profitable business activity that is low carbon, climate resilient, and contributes to efficient use of natural resources, reduces or eliminates waste and pollution or contributes increased availability, quality, or productivity of water, forests, land and other natural assets. As such, green business could also reap benefits including supply chain, input or market stability, climate resilience or tapping into green market opportunities.