Libreville/Yaounde, 25 January 2020 (ECA) – In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has kick-started a process to enable Gabon reap unprecedented development gains from its rich rain forests and other natural resources. This, through the sustainable transformation of, and a methodical audit of such endowments.
Experts of ECA's Office for Central Africa and advisors in the Gabonese Ministry of Water, Forests, the Sea and Environment, on Friday rounded-off a two day online meeting to fully explicate the stakes of a US$1million two-year project in this regard, funded by the Joint SDG Fund (JSDGF), to involved parties from several other ministries, the private sector, development organisations and conservation NGOs.
It will support the Green Gabon pillar of the Strategic Plan for Gabon’s Emergence (PSGE 2009-2025).
The project titled “Gabon and the SDGs beyond Oil: Financing a rapid and sustainable transition from a Brown to a Green Economy” has two major programmatic streams:
Sustainable production and consumption
The first component aims to help Gabon transition from a Brown to a Green Economy. This would be achieved by sustainably exploiting its forest, mining and land resources to ramp-up economic diversification and structural transformation, developing value chains and setting up innovative production systems that will create jobs for young people and women.
So far, the Brown Economy (that of oil exploitation) has accounted for 45% of Gabon’s GDP as opposed to 4% contributed by the Green Economy ( that which is based on the sustainable exploitation of forests and their biodiversity). The PSGE, which the project supports, aims to move the Green Economy’s contribution to GDP to 22% by 2025.
Gabon banks around 700 million US Dollars per year from its 230,000 square kilometres of rain forests as opposed to Malaysia which makes over four times that figure (3 billion US Dollars) on a forest canopy of 200,000 square kilometres.
Getting its sustainable resource exploitation practices right, should project Central African nation to a similar pedestal.
Natural Capital Accounting (NCA)
The second component is based on a system of quantifying and granularly identifying units of the entire universe of Gabon’s ecological biodiversity and its mining and land resources in order to size up their true global monetary worth and rebase the country’s wealth posture. ECA and other partners have been arguing for the inclusion of such complex data sets on natural resources into GDP computations, beyond the conventional rubrics of the volume of economic production and consumption.
It is also about more exact calculations of how much carbon Gabon’s 230 000 square kilometres of almost virgin forests store as well as figures on the volume of unexploited fossil fuel its land and water territories hold, in order to rightfully solicit compensation for this ‘Global Public Good’.
The above approach, technically termed Natural Capital Accounting (NCA), holds the promise of expanding Gabon’s fiscal space, which literally refers to dealing with less public debt while having access to more cash to finance its development needs and move it to an upper middle income economy where growth can create jobs and moves people out of poverty once and for all.
The UN Country Team in Gabon has already been working with the Gabonese authorities to Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), which harnesses international partnership to maintain Gabon’s vastly virgin forest as a ‘Global Public Good’. A spin-off of this collaboration has resulted in Norway’s ground-breaking financing commitment to provide Gabon with 150 million US Dollars in “performance-based payments” to forego CO2 emissions through further safeguarding this essential “planetary lung”.
An additional instrument for financing the SDGs
“The consistent external shocks Gabon has suffered due to steep falls in global oil prices and the need to finance development in the post COVID-19 era demonstrate the importance of a transformation in Gabon that would move it from brown growth to green growth based on its natural capital,” said Antonio Pedro, Director of the Central Africa Office of ECA, during the project launch exercise.
He said this new approach will provide an additional instrument for the country in its strategies for financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to Aristide Kaas Kassangoye, Adviser to Gabon’s Minister of Water, Forests, the Sea and Environment – Prof Lee White, this ECA-UNDP joint project will help the country moderate the tension between the need for economic production and that for environmental protection as two sides of the same coin which should contribute to inclusive growth.
“It will be a shot in the arm of the Green Gabon development pillar, focused on harnessing renewable energy, thereby reducing carbon emissions, creating a sustainable wood industry and attaining food self-sufficiency through sustainable agriculture,” he said.
Abel Akara Ticha - Communication Officer
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
637, rue 3.069, Quartier du Lac, Yaounde, Cameroon
Tel: +237 222504348