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Statement by the Director, UNEP Regional Office for Africa

15th Ordinary session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN)

“Managing Africa’s Natural Capital for Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication”

Statement by the Director, UNEP Regional Office for Africa

Your Excellency Dr Khaled Fahmy, Minister of State for Environmental Affairs

The Representative of the African Union Commission

The Representative of the President of AMCEN

Your Excellency Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure and honour to address you all here at the 15th Ordinary session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) aptly themed: "Managing Africa’s Natural Capital for Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication".

Allow me first and foremost to thank the Government and the people of  the Arab Republic of Egypt  for this opportunity given to us to convene this workshop and for all the great assistance provided for  the successful deliberations of our sessions. We are deeply grateful to Egypt as this country convened our very first meeting of AMCEN here in Cairo thirty years ago , and we have come back to Cairo this year.

A lot has changed in those 30 years. Back then,  there were only around 500million people in Africa - today there are more than 1billion. Back then, growth was slow, progress sluggish and since the first AMCEN, Africa’s GDP has tripled.  In the last 5 years 7 of the 10 fastest growing economies were in Africa.

The central theme of the AMCEN 15 the Session is ‘Managing Natural Capital for poverty eradication and sustainable development’. Africa is endowed with immense natural capital and these invaluable assets needs to be used in the best way possible to foster economic growth, social welfare and sustainable livelihoods. The natural capital potential for the continent is indeed huge.  Africa is endowed of 40% of the biodiversity of the world and 60% of the uncultivated arable land. Renewable energy is immense as Africa is using less than 7 % of its hydroelectricity and less than 2 % of what geothermal energy can offer.  The majority of the African countries receive an average of 325 days/year of bright sunlight and more than 80 % of the landscape is receiving more than 2000 KW/h per square meter and per year. Wind power is available and still insufficiently tapped.  Economic growth is expected to remain strong (among the highest in the world).  

We are now preparing for the Post 2015 era. Africa is set for strong future growth, both in terms of its population, and its economy. By 2050, we are expected to be over 2bn people – double today number, with more than half who will leave in cities. The majority of the population is composed of youth and this will remain for the decades to come. This population increase will drive energy demand, food consumption and transport requirements, demand for jobs and social services, increased investments in infrastructure.   

The growth we want,  needs to continue to be robust, inclusive and we want it to be sustainable.  We are however still grappling with intractable challenges: climate change is threatening the development gains of the continent. We have not been successful in reducing poverty significantly and inequality is widening.  Eight (8) out of the 10 most food insecure countries are in Africa . 

Another environmental asset not well managed is the air we breathe (10 000 liters/day). According to the recent assessment of WHO, air pollution is fast becoming one of the leading causes of illness and death in developing countries, and  leads to  more than 700,000 deaths annually in Africa (from outdoor and indoor air pollution).  

While the continent is characterized by remarkable biodiversity, the diversity is declining. In 2014, a total number of 6,419 animals and 3,148 plants in Africa were recorded as threatened with extinction.  Illegal trade of wildlife is part of the constraints to development as it contributes to weaken the economy and serve also terrorist groups in some parts of the continent. In one African country, Rhino poaching increases by 7,700% between 2007 and 2013. This illicit trade of wildlife is contributing also to the illicit financial flow that is crippling our economies.  It is estimated that Africa loses in excess of USD50billion annually from IFFs including illegal trade of fauna and flora.

Then we cannot continue business as usual.  Research by WWF identifies that the Ecological Footprint of all African countries increased by 240% between 1961 and 2008.   Worldwide we are pushing the planetary boundaries to their extreme limits. Resource exploitation exceeds the earth biological capacity by more than 25%. Humanity has increased the global ecological footprint: 0.5 Earth in 1950 to more than 1’25 Earth today. We may soon need 2 or more planets to satisfy our needs unless we curb the trends of resource depletion.  But we have only one planet, one Africa. There is no plan B.

 It is gratifying and encouraging to note the great effort made by African countries in engaging in a sustainable development path. Transitioning to green economy provides an opportunity for Africa to harness the full potential of its rich natural resource endowments for domestic revenue sourcing to compliment global support in financing sustainable development.

The Post 2015 agenda and SDGs will offer great opportunity for a green growth scenario in the continent. I would like to take this opportunity to laud the effort of the African Union and NEPAD in providing leadership in this area and to thank African Development Bank, ECA, WWF, UNIDO, ILO, UNDP,  IUCN , our partners from the North and the South  and many others for the great cooperation in support to Africa in its effort to transition to green economy.

In light of the foregoing, 2015 is set to be a strategic year for Africa. This year marks a crucial shift in the way the world and Africa will deal with their own development, with three decisive conferences:  the 70th UN GA on post 2015 agenda in September, the financing for development in July , and climate change in December that should create a more conducive setting for sustainable development.

Environment is an important component of these agendas. It has to be adequately taken into account alongside the economic and social dimension.  At the International level but also at the regional, national and local level let’s work together with a sense of renewed commitment for effective sustainable development that will create the conditions for the ‘Africa we want’, the Africa  that provides peace and prosperity for all in sound managed environment.

I thank you 

Speech for Dr. Khaled Fahmy, Minister of Environment Egypt during AMCEN 15

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen

1.   Let me begin by welcoming you to Cairo, Egypt and more importantly to this 15th session of AMCEN. As the host of this important meeting, we have put at your disposal, all the necessary facilities, which no doubt, we believe will contribute immensely to the success of this meeting.

2.   May I also thank you all the experts, negotiators, partners as well as other participants from the civil society for sparing time, out of your busy schedules to join us here in Cairo for the 15th session of AMCEN.

3.   Our focus during this week will be to deliberate on how to manage and sustainably use our natural capital, taking into consideration the region’s diverse biodiversity and ecosystems and how this could help the region to achieve sustainable development and contribute to  the eradication of poverty.

4.   The issue of climate change remains on top of our agenda this year and we need to be ready as we prepare for COP21 in Paris, which will be a defining moment in the climate change negotiation process. And we must not forget that in September, the UN General assembly is expected to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, including the sustainable development goals (SDGs). And these issues are part of our agenda this week.

Ladies and gentlemen,

5.   I am aware that there are other pertinent environment and sustainable development issues that we must also address during our deliberations. Biodiversity, as you know is important for our continent but continues to be lost at alarming rates. Enhancing the implementation and effectiveness of environmental law in Africa and issues related to coastal and marine ecosystems are among other critical topics before us.

6.   For the last two days, there have been pre-session meetings looking at the issue of green economy and the Africa Ecological Futures as well as discussions by the civil society. I had the opportunity of participating in the green economy workshop where participants discussed and shared experiences and lessons learned in bringing a green economy focus and policies into the medium-/long-term development plans of our countries.

7.   On the other hand, the Africa Ecological Futures scenario workshop considered how best to reconcile and integrate the preservation of ecological resources with the rapid development being witnessed in the region. My friends from the civil society, of whom I was associated with for a long time, yesterday looked at most of the issues on the AMCEN agenda. All these pre-sessions have been organized with the view to providing inputs during your expert group discussions.

8.   I am informed that several working documents have been prepared by the AMCEN Secretariat for consideration by this expert group meeting and will form the basis for your discussions. These working documents are not only inspired by the challenges and problems facing the region, but also the opportunities that we should explore and the need for AMCEN to play more effectively its leadership role on the environment in Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

9.   I believe, as experts you are ready to do what must be done to ensure a better environment for the region and this is precisely your mission here for the next few days. It may not be easy, but I believe that your commitment to the environmental cause will guide your deliberations and that the recommendations you make to the Ministers will bear the fruits you want for the region, and that is, a better environment.

10.       I and my team as the host of this session, together with the AMCEN Secretariat, the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and other partners stand ready to assist and facilitate you as you ponder on your related decisions and actions to better meet the environmental and sustainable development challenges and opportunities in Africa.

11.       With those few remarks, I would like to wish you fruitful discussions over the next three days. I therefore declare this expert group meeting of the 15th session of AMCEN officially open.

I thank you all.

Southern African Utilities Strive for Switching the Region to Efficient Lighting, Appliances and Equipment

Johannesburg, 20 February 2015 – Southern Africa could reduce electricity consumption by more than 35 TWh by transforming its markets to efficient lighting, appliances and equipment, equivalent to saving 5,000 MW in power capacity, which could serve to electrify 16 million homes in the region. 


Under the leadership of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), the Southern African utilities have developed a roadmap to achieve a permanent and sustainable transition to efficient lighting, appliances and equipment in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). A number of priority actions have been identified, which, once implemented, will generate significant climate, environmental and economic benefits for the region.


Fifty participants from the public and private sector participated in the workshop SADC Regional Action Plan for Leapfrogging to Efficient Lighting, Appliances and Equipment held on 19 and 20 February 2015 in Johannesburg at the premises of the South African utility Eskom. The workshop was jointly organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Department of Energy of South Africa (DoE) and SAPP.


The workshop gathered representatives of SAPP’s Secretariat and its member utilities, members of governments and regulatory bodies from Southern Africa, national and regional key stakeholders working on appliance and equipment efficiency, and international actors such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Copper Association (ICA) and representatives of leading lighting, appliances and equipment manufacturers, including Philips, Osram, ABB and Arçelik.


In her opening speech, Cecilia Kinuthia, UNEP's Head of Sub-regional office, emphasized the need to move towards efficient lighting, appliances and equipment. Ms Kinuthia highlighted the coordinated approach Southern African utilities have been taking to energy efficiency as a means to address the extremely constrained and vulnerable power systems causing frequent black-outs and slowing down economic activity. She also commented that leapfrogging the region to more efficient products will be a major step for freeing additional generating capacity.


At the end of the two-day workshop, participants adopted a communiqué that will be submitted to the Ministries of Environment and the Ministries of Energy of the SADC, inviting governments to endorse the roadmap. The proposed regional roadmap for Southern Africa builds on the Integrated Policy Approach developed under the UNEP-GEF (Global Environment Facility) en.lighten initiative that is being successfully implemented in over 30 countries. It expands the activities from lighting to appliances and equipment to quickly and effectively reduce power demand. To address the electricity crisis, the establishment of these virtual power plants is as important as building the actual power capacity, but it comes at much lower costs.


Workshop participants suggested to prioritize lighting, refrigerators, air conditioners, water heaters and distribution transformers as high impact opportunities offering the most cost-effective and fastest way to save energy in the region. To implement the roadmap in the SADC countries, participants requested UNEP and UNDP to support the region in catalyzing technical and financial resources. Participants also encouraged all SADC countries to engage and share leadership in this initiative through their Ministries of Energy and Environment, and to identify sources of finance.






Note to editors:

This initiative is part of the Global Partnership on Appliances and Equipment, a global effort led by UNEP with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), to leapfrog global markets to high efficiency and affordable products, as a means to curb greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Along with its international partners, including UNDP, ICA, CLASP, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and various key players from private sector, this public-private partnership is a contribution to the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon


For more information please contact:


Sophie LORAN
UNEP  Energy Branch Information

 Tel: + 33 1 44 37 42 83 I Email: Sophie.Loran@unep.org


Angele Luh, Regional Information Officer, Regional Office for Africa, UNEP

+ 254-20-7624292, Angele.Luh@unep.org


Cecilia Kinuthia, Head UNEP South Africa Office

+271-23548092, Cecilia.Kinuthia@unep.org


Monica Morara, Information Assistant, Regional Office for Africa, UNEP

+254-20-7621396, Monica.Morara@unep.org




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