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Some critics argue that the Western countries are pushing Africa to check on the change of climate, like global warming, green house effect among others just for their own interest. They say the West wants Africa to provide the best conditions for them as they enjoy life. Even the push for Africans to grow organic foods is for them to have the best life on earth and this is already seen in the restrictions on goods imported from the black continent.
Environment and poverty in Africa are intertwined. To understand this better, I held an interview with the senior environmental Specialist from World Bank, Mr. Serigne Omar Fye, in Kigali Rwanda. Mr. Fye has worked at the World Bank headquarters in the U.S, moved to Tanzania and now is in Rwanda.
Pius. Africans seem not to own their problems and are entirely dependant on the Western donors. What’s your commend.
Fye. Yes so far that has been the case particularly in the area of environment. The lead has been taken by international donors simply because they have been contributing their funds. But in the recent past you have been seeing a number of national commitments both by governments and the civil society and non-governmental Organisations. So in as much as that’s true, there is a trend and its changing. They are actually demanding to sit on the drivers seat instead of being the passengers that they have been in the past. That is a hope!
Pius. How best do you think Africans should improve on their livelihoods?
Fye.That is a challenging issue. As you well know, development is dynamic and in the past the Africans have been very dependant on donor organisations for contributing to their various development activities in various sectors of the economy. Again now the new leadership in Africa is demanding to take that role to develop in agriculture, bring in foreign direct investors with conditions that the investments are suitable for Africa and the African people. So there is hope that the new leadership in Africa is helping change that so that Africa owns its own development process as opposed to depending on others. The linkage will always be there because one, there is the lack of technology, two, there is lack of appropriate funding and three, we need the human resources capacity and the right institutions to be able to forward this agenda and this takes time. So in the meantime we need to work with our donor partners to ensure that this happens.
Pius. How do you relate environmental management to poverty in Africa?
Fye. Now that notion has been defined several times by different schools of thought. I am not in any position to tell you that this is the right school of thought. But there is a clear linkage that where you have environmental degradation, it may eventually lead to poverty and vice versa. So what we need to do now is reduce the dependency on the natural resource base and provide other options. For example in the case of energy, if you want them not to degrade the forest, obviously you have to provide them with other energy options so that they will do away with fuel wood. Like wise in the water sector as well as in other natural resources areas. What is important particularly in the water is to recognize the importance of allocation. Up to very recently, the allocation policies have not been catering for environmental flows. Therefore it was more on providing water for domestic use, agriculture and industries, but nobody had actually looked at the importance of the environmental flow as one of the key areas that needs also to be allocated and allocated properly. Otherwise you end up having dry systems. Downstream activities will be affected; people who always depend on that resource for years will also be affected because the allocation is inappropriate.
Pius looking at the Millennium Development Goals, do you think they are meant to benefit Africans or to serve the interests of the West?
Fye. The government experts together with donor experts must have seen that these were suitable for the African countries, so you cannot blame the donors like the World Bank or any other institution. Neither can you blame it on the African governments because the consensuses have been built collectively. So we therefore have to look at ways and means of actually revising them if the need arises or working towards achievement of these goals, which at the end of the day will hopefully be the benefit of African governments and African people
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