Africa is the continent of the future – Interview with UNEP Deputy Ibrahim Thiaw

“In a way, climate change is a big challenge to the world in general. To the most vulnerable countries it is a huge burden on them. Take the situation in Africa where you have the Sahel area, which is very vulnerable to any change because people are generally poor and natural resources are degraded. At the same time it is a continent where you have a lot of hope; you have a lot of youth. Up to 70% of the population is actually around 25 or less. That is hope. And it is a great asset if you look at it from that perspective to Africa but also to the rest of the world.

What we need to do is to change the narrative in Africa, to stop saying that Africa is a continent that is poor, yes it is a continent where you can find a lot of people that are under the poverty line, but it is a continent that will have a lot of wealth, a lot of natural resources. These need to be exploited. They need to be valued, and they need to be basically transformed locally. You create job opportunities, you create value addition. And you have therefore a very powerful tool for development in the world.

Today, if you look at the GDP as an indicator, as a barometer for success, Africa is very low. But if you look at the inclusive wealth of a nation, which includes its natural resources at the same time at its human resources, then Africa is a powerful continent. So let us look at the future and see what we can do together, so as to promote the necessary investments that will help transform the economy of the continent and that will help transform the doom so that we see it as a bright side and actually have it as a win-win situation.

Invest in that continent! Invest in the youth that you have there! I am not talking about aid. I am talking about business investments to tap into the national resources. Stop the illegal trade that we see today and promote fairer trade that we give a longer term perspective to everybody. Either we grab that opportunity and take the world to the next level of development or we continue to loot the resources of the continent and continue to have a short term view. Then it will be doom for everybody.”