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Harnessing Africa's Rich Natural Capital Tops Agenda at High-level African Conference on the Environment

Sustainable use of Africa's natural capital could result in savings of up to $103 billion every year and drive Africa's economic growth.

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The need to sustainably harness Africa's vast reserves of natural capital will be among the top issues discussed by the ministers of the environment and high level officials from more than 40 African countries at a major conference on the environment this week (16-19 April in Cairo).

Sustainable use of Africa's natural capital could result in savings of up to $103 billion every year and drive economic growth to help Africa achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the continent's Agenda 2063.

Africa holds 30 per cent of the world's mineral reserves, roughly 65 per cent of its arable land and 10 per cent of its freshwater resources. Its fisheries are estimated to be worth $24 billion and the continent boasts the second largest tropical forest in the world.

The sixth special session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) takes place in Cairo from 16-19 April under the theme: "Agenda 2030 and Paris Agreement: From policy to implementation in Africa".

At AMCEN, ministers and government representatives are also expected to come up with ways for Africa to engage in the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), which will be held in Nairobi next month.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw said: "The AMCEN meeting comes at a critical point in time for the environment. With the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has agreed upon a roadmap that charts a better future for humanity and the ecosystems that sustain it. At UNEA-2, the world will set the stage for the implementation of these goals and drive the world towards a better, more sustainable future.

"Key to achieving the vision laid out in the 2030 Agenda will be finding ways to make the most of Africa's rich reserves of natural capital while protecting the environment and lifting people out of poverty."

According to conservative estimates, the continent loses as much as $195 billion every year from resource plunder, illegal logging, illegal trade in wildlife, unregulated fishing, illegal mining practices, high food imports and degraded ecosystems.

Topics of discussion

At AMCEN, high level officials will discuss ways to reverse these losses and redirect the revenue into African economies to drive the continent's transformation, alleviating poverty, reducing hunger, providing access to clean energy and improving education and health.

African ministers are also expected to agree on the key steps needed to speed up the region's efforts to combat climate change, following the landmark Paris Agreement adopted by 195 countries in December.

In particular, the ministers will focus on the Africa Adaptation Initiative, which provides means for African countries to build resilience to the impacts of climate change, and the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, which seeks to foster renewable energy capacity on the continent by 2020.

In addition, ministers will look at how Africa can benefit from the finance, adaptation, and loss and damage provisions agreed upon in Paris.

The meeting is also expected to produce strategies for tackling key issues facing the continent, such as the illegal trade in wildlife. It is estimated that the loss of elephants - a key tourist attraction - costs Africa up to $1.9 billion annually.

Other participants at AMCEN - including the European Commission

Representatives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), sub-regional economic communities, the African Development Bank, civil society organizations, United Nations agencies as well as other bilateral and multilateral partners will also participate in this special session.

Mr Roberto Ridolfi, Director for Sustainable Growth and Development, Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, of the European Commission, is attending the Conference and will address the high level segment on 18 April on behalf of Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. On the same day he will take part in a side event on Africa's Natural Capital Management.

About AMCEN

AMCEN was established in 1985 in order to promote regional cooperation in addressing environmental issues affecting Africa. UNEP serves as the Secretariat of AMCEN and also provides both technical and financial support to the Conference.

Regular sessions of AMCEN are convened every second year, with the most recent one being the 15th session that was held in Cairo, Egypt in March 2015. In addition, several special sessions have been convened to consider specific issues of concern.

AMCEN is critical in providing strong leadership on environmental and sustainable development matters in Africa. Through its strong convening power, it brings together African Governments to deliberate and craft common positions on important environmental issues for the region.

About UNEA-2

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is the world's most powerful decision-making body on the environment and the de-facto "Parliament for the Environment" responsible for tackling some of the most critical issues of our time. The assembly holds the power to dramatically change the fate of the planet and improve the lives of everyone, impacting everything from health to national security, from the plastic in our oceans to the trafficking of wildlife. Thanks to UNEA, the environment is now considered one of the world's most pressing concerns alongside other major global issues such as peace, security, finance and health.

This year in May, hundreds of key decision makers, businesses and representatives of intergovernmental organizations and civil society will gather at UNEA 2 at the United Nations Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi, for one of the first major meetings since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. The resolutions passed at UNEA-2 will set the stage for early action on implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and drive the world towards a better and sustainable future. UNEA 2 is also inclusive, with myunea.org/ allowing citizens to feed their concerns into the meeting and take personal ownership of the collective challenges we face.

For more information, please contact:

Mohamed Atani, Regional Information Officer for Africa, Mohamed.atani@unep.org, +20 195 600 504

More information on the AMCEN 6th Special Session is available at: http://web.unep.org/regions/roa/amcen/6specialsession/home

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