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African Ecological Futures
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK

Africa is experiencing unprecedented economic and environmental change. This puts immense pressure on governments to provide citizens with jobs, food, water, energy and the infrastructure to meet these needs. The African Ecological Futures programme is a new approach to address these challenges and achieve an equitable, prosperous African future.

What is the issue?

Africa has the world’s highest rate of urban population, a fast growing middle class and a population which will double by 2050. The continent needs billions of dollars annually for a variety of development initiatives and as a result foreign investment is flowing in rapidly to answer some of these needs. These investments unlock opportunities but also bring with them risks — like the impact on biodiversity and ecological systems, together known as ecological infrastructure.

Investments that are not sustainable can also reduce the overall welfare of people on the continent if they increase pollution, sustain growth without poverty alleviation, and promote extractives and uneven development.

One of the problems with the investment in hard infrastructure projects like building dams, roads and mines, is that neither development finance institutions like banks nor governments consider that ecological infrastructure (like rivers, biodiversity, ecosystems, oceans and soil health) support the existence of all economies. And therefore, they do not factor in the careful management of these resources into their development plans.

What are we doing?

Together with the African Development Bank and the Luc Hoffmann Institute, WWF South Africa and the WWF Regional Office of Africa (WWF-ROA) have developed a programme to ensure that ecological infrastructure is factored into all development planning in Africa.

How do we do this?

The African Ecological Futures programme consists of four flagship projects.  These projects aim to understand the constraints holding Africa back from a sustainable developmental trajectory and find ways to minimise the tension between development and environmental goals. They encourage policy makers, investors, planners and development finance institutions to mainstream “futures thinking” into planning and investment decision-making in key institutions. The programme focuses on Africa, but recognises that global financial and trade links have a bearing on Africa’s development trajectory. The programme aims to ensure resilient engineered and ecological infrastructure systems.

Who do we work with?

We work with all of spheres government and development finance institutions such as banks and government investment institutions.

How did it start?

Recognising the trend of Africa’s growing economic development, WWF-ROA commissioned research to identify key drivers which are shaping Africa’s present and future.

The research developed plausible scenarios to identify how these drivers could influence ecological futures. It then explored guiding principles for decisions and particular interventions by decision makers that could create the opportunity for more robust and resilient development.   

The African Ecological Futures Programme was then created to catalyse developmental projects which could put this research into practice on the ground and to embed such thinking into every development decision in Africa.

What are the big wins?
  1. A 2015 seminal research report identified the key drivers which could impact ecological infrastructure in Africa. 

  2. The African Ecological Futures programme has been developed and is led by a global consortium of powerful partners. 

  3. WWF, the African Development Bank and the Luc Hoffmann Institute presented the African Ecological Futures thinking at key international environmental events on the global stage, including the African Ministerial Conference on Environment, COP14 Convention on Biological Diversity and COP24.