Some critics argue that Africa has nothing to gain from the climate change and organic food debates. They hold that these are imported wars meant to benefit developed countries. Pius Sawa, a Ugandan Journalist interviews the Senior Environmental Specialist from World Bank, Mr. Serigne Omar Fye, in Kigali Rwanda on the interplay between environment and poverty. Mr. Fye has worked at the World Bank headquarters in the U.S, Tanzania and is now in Rwanda.
Pius: Africans seem not to own their problems and are entirely dependant on the Western donors. What’s your comment?
Fye: That has been the case particularly in the area of environment. The lead has been taken by international donors simply because they have been funding Africa. However in the recent past, we have been seeing a number of national commitments by governments, civil society and non-governmental organizations. Africans are demanding to sit on the driver’s seat instead of being the passengers they have been in the past.
Pius: How best should Africans improve their livelihoods?
Fye: That is a challenging issue. Development is dynamic. In the past, Africans have been dependant on donor organizations for contributing to their various development activities. The new leadership in Africa is demanding to take that role to develop agriculture, bring in foreign direct investors with conditions that the investments are suitable for Africa and the African people. The new leadership in Africa is out to own its development process. However, the linkage will always be there because there is the lack of technology, human resource capacity and the right institutions to forward this agenda.
Pius: How do you relate environmental management to poverty in Africa?
Fye: That notion has been defined several times by different schools of thougt. Environmental degradation eventually leads to poverty and vice versa. We need to reduce dependency on the natural resource base and provide other options. For example, in the case of energy, other energy options have to be provided to curtail forest destruction through use of wood fuel.
What is important particularly in water is to recognize the importance of allocation. Allocation policies have not factored in environmental flows. It was more on providing water for domestic use, agriculture and industries, but nobody had actually looked at the importance of the environmental flow as one of the key areas. This leads to dry systems and downstream activities being affected.
Pius: Looking at the Millennium Development Goals, do you think they are meant to benefit Africans or to serve the interests of the West?
Fye: The government experts together with donor experts must have seen that these were suitable for the African countries, so you cannot blame the donors like the World Bank or any other institution. Neither can you blame it on the African governments because the consensus has been built collectively. We therefore have to look at ways and means of actually revising them if the need arises or working towards achieving these goals, which at the end of the day, will hopefully benefit of African governments and their people.