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UNEP says valuing Africa's natural wealth key to propel growth

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UNEP says valuing Africa's natural wealth key to propel growth

NAIROBI, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- African countries must place economic value on natural resources including forests, arable land, fresh water and biodiversity to catalyze green growth, senior officials of the UN Environment Program (UNEP) said on Wednesday.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner urged African governments to mainstream natural wealth accounting in national development policies.

"Natural accounting and valuation is not a fringe activity, but a cornerstone of the wealth of nations upon which sustainable, equitable and prosperous societies will be built," Steiner told an international conference in Nairobi.

Steiner emphasized that Africa's vast natural assets if prudently managed could accelerate the continent's socio-economic transformation.

The global environment body in its earlier reports stressed that sustainable development in Africa hinges on optimal management of the continent's vast ecological treasures.

"Africa stands to be a key player in the framing of a landscape of more intelligent management of the natural world, because Africa still has many of the resources that elsewhere in the world are increasingly in short supply," Steiner said.

He challenged governments to design smart policies and legislation to profit from natural assets.

African ministers, experts and policymakers attended the conference on promoting valuation of natural capital to power green growth in the continent.

The Commissioner, Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union, Rhoda Peace Tumisiime, emphasized that Africa is the next frontier for green growth thanks to commitment from top leadership.

"Natural resources are a critical asset to many African communities and nations who depend almost entirely on ecosystems for their survival and economic development," said Tumusiime.

She added that appreciating the value of natural wealth will inspire governments and communities to promote their conservation.

African governments have gradually mainstreamed natural wealth valuation in the development programs.

The Ethiopian Minister for Environment and Forestry, Belete Tefere revealed that his country has already implemented a program to assess the contribution of the forestry sector to the GDP.

"As we embark on a transition to a green economy, there is increased appreciation on the role of forests and renewable energy to achieve this goal," Tefere said. Rational utilization of natural resources could convert African countries into green economy powerhouses.

The Permanent Secretary, Rwandese Ministry of Natural Resources, Caroline Kayonga said that her country has established policy incentives to promote a low carbon transition.

"Rwanda's vision 2020 recognize the role of natural resources to promote green growth. We have established friendly policies to boost sustainable management of natural wealth," Kayonga told Xinhua.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/131204/unep-says-valuing-africas-natural-wealth-key-propel-growth