SOCO Gives up Oil Licence, DRC Time to Build and Benefit from a Green Economy in Virunga

Green Economy as a cornerstone of national development

In a world of increasing environmental scarcities, economic uncertainty and widespread poverty, African leaders and countries across the continent have been undertaking policy reforms and promoting green investments aimed at addressing poverty and hunger, climate change and natural resource degradation, while simultaneously providing new and sustainable pathways to economic development and prosperity for all.

These countries are aiming at creating a more sustainable growth through a mix of policy reforms and economic instruments that not only build on Africa’s strong endowment of natural resources but also look at more diversified and sustainable models of economic growth. For example, the report shows that under green economy investment scenarios, the national real GDP in Kenya is projected to exceed a business-as-usual model by approximately 12 per cent by 2030.

Virunga Alliance reports in it is Vision for Virunga  that green investments in their 4 key sectors of renewable energy, agro-industry, sustainable fisheries and tourism are projected to create up to 60,000 new and sustainable jobs by 2025.

With its natural wealth and potential, DR-Congo could become one of the leading green inclusive economies that produces growth without eroding the underlying stock of its natural wealth, conserving its biodiversity and attracting major green investments.

Green Economy improving sectoral performance: agriculture, energy, water

Enormous sustainable and untapped resources exist in Africa’s renewable energy market. Africa receives 325 days per year of sunlight (at more than 2000 KW/h per square meter) and is using less than 7 per cent of its hydroelectric potential; less than 2 per cent of its geothermal potential and wind power is being tapped. Various African countries have already implemented green economy policies that encourage renewable energy deployment.

Virunga Alliance proposes a three-phase approach and identified four main sectors for development, including Energy, Tourism, Agro-Industry, and Sustainable Fisheries. Virunga possesses enormous hydrological resources and its renewable clean energy potential could be enough to power all the population of North Kivu, as well as reduce the use of wood fuel.

The park’s rivers feed Lake Edward which flows back into the Semliki river to form the source of the great Nile. Millions of people depend on the benefits of the park’s healthy rivers and lake as a major asset to their lives. In 2010, the park’s first hydro-electric program was launched. It is now fully operational and can generate 400kw for the benefit of the 3,600 homes.

Virunga Alliance intends to use the success of this project to scale up across the province. The park’s next  hydro-electric plant of  12.6MW will be for the benefit of the hard hit community of Rutshuru, some 140,000 users are expected to benefit.  Access to electricity will boost the local agricultural transformation industry. About 60,000 new jobs will be created as a result. (source)

“Green” investments preserve the natural capital and ecosystem services that support the lives of millions of people and economies in Africa. These investments often result in positive social impacts, particularly poverty eradication. When compared to traditional investments, green sectors frequently benefit the poorest in society, who rely on natural resources for their well-being (e.g. rural employment stimulated from renewable energy development projects; improved food security from higher agricultural productivity [and sustainable fisheries in Virunga]; reduced household expenditure from energy efficiency improvements). In Kenya, a shift in investment to green sectors would lead to an additional 3.1 million people being lifted out of poverty by 2030 (Figure 2) (UNEP, 2014b).

Reframing long-term national development planning in Congo around Green Economy

African leaders need to be supported when adopting a more green development model for their countries. National development planning processes should be reframed in the context of green economy, effective regulations with monitoring and enforcement mechanisms should be in place and new policy tools for financing green economy activities should be explored such as soft loan programmes, credit systems, social venture capital, conditional grants, carbon credits, sovereign wealth funds and microfinance among others.

There is a need for the identification and prioritization of some key green economic cases such as Virunga. Virunga Alliance offers a great opportunity to integrate and test an inclusive green economic model in DR-Congo national development planning.

Investing in Virunga is a valuable opportunity to conserve the natural basis on which the economy and livelihoods depend and an effective pathway to address poverty, create employment and improve the overall well-being of the population in Congo.

Give a chance to transform RD-Congo and Goma in “the green capital” of the world ahead of COP21!

This article is a synthesis and specific interpretation of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report on the transition to Green Economies in Africa and shows how green economy investments in Virunga can also benefit employment, poverty reduction and the sustainable use and management of natural resources in DR-Congo.

Building Inclusive Green Economies in Africa showcases the results of more than 5 years Green Economy Scoping Studies and Sectorial assessments carried out across eight countries in Africa. This article translates these results and lessons learned to the specific case of Virunga National park.

Sources: UNEP and  Virunga Alliance