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[Column]Environmental Problems in Africa



Discourses on the environment have headlined international conferences in recent years and have been an important subject for contemporary research. Environmental depletion has been topical amongst these discourses and this has led the international community to intensify its call for environmental sustainability. As the facts represent, global environmental degradation is caused by varying factors most of which are anthropogenic or human induced. Industrial and technological developments have enormously contributed to the environmental problems the world faces today. Ironically, some regions of the world that are technologically and industrially backward appear to experience more severe consequences of human activities that negatively affect the environment. The African continent represents a vivid example.

Environmental problems in African have been one of the most severe challenges faced by the continent in the 21st Century. Attention is gradually shifting from political crises, wars and poverty toward environmental problems. The roots of environmental degradation in Africa (like for the entire world) are founded on different grounds except for the fact that a majority of the environmental problems prevailing in Africa and affecting Africans are caused by non-Africans. This has to do mainly with the consequences of the development of new technologies which has led to the increased mining of solid minerals and the exploration of crude oil. In addition to these, has been the increase in the number of factories and industrial plants as well as a surge in the application of manufacturing tools. These activities amongst others have led to the pollution of marine and aquatic environment as well as freshwater and the atmosphere all of which are the results of the effect of chemical and human waste on all forms of ecological and human life.

Environmental concerns in Africa also result from activities such as deforestation and poaching. Deforestation in Africa is also a major call for concern. In Cameroon for example, the World Bank estimate shows that about 11.4 million hectares of tropical forests disappeared annually in the 1980s, and approximately 17 – 20 million hectares per year in the 1990s (World Bank’s World Development Report, 1992).Deforestation is known to result to soil erosion (especially erosion of arable soil) and a consequent decrease in agricultural yields. Deforestation in Africa results from the need to sell timber to local and foreign markets as well as from the need to use wood as local form of energy supply. Poaching on African reserves and parks has also been a notable problem that affects the environment considering the fact that endangered species are at risk of extinction.

Pollution of the environment (both inland and offshore) is another environmental issue in Africa. In recent years, Nigeria and Angola have grown to be two giant producers of crude oil in Africa. These large scale productions have not gone without effects on the environment and on the socio-economic lives of the local population. While oil deals turn to strengthen international cooperation, it is not doubtful that the technology employed in oil drilling is harmful to the environment especially the countless spills that occur from time to time destroying farming land or aquatic ecosystem.

The large scale exportation and importation of electronic devices in Africa (Nigeria notably) has also resulted to another form of environmental crises. Nigeria (Lagos) is a destination center for used (second-handed) electronic devices (computers, photocopy and fax machines, televisions, mobile phones and other gadgets) in Africa. In most cases than not, 70 percent of most of the imported gadgets end up irreparable and are improperly disposed of considering Nigeria does not have the necessary technology to manage electronic waste (e-waste).

While a majority of African environmental issues are anthropogenic or human induced, natural causes cannot be ruled out. Some environmental issues in Africa are known to have their roots from nature itself; desertification, erosion, drought and water shortages resulting from extensive periods of no rain in some parts of Africa, earthquakes (the Great Rift Valley of Africa is geologically active and susceptible to the phenomenon) and hot springs (found mostly in the volcanic far east section of the Great Rift valley).
The effects of environmental problems in Africa are far reaching; ranging from poverty and hunger to the continuous struggle for oil benefits in the Niger – Delta region of Nigeria that has led to the death of countless local inhabitants. There is therefore a need to redress the on-going situation and to promote sustainable development through the continent as well as stop the destruction of the African ecosystem.



Hene Claude Ayompe

*This is our intern’s column.  -KFEM-

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