Jean-Michel Severino
Jean-Michel Severino

Demographic growth, industrialisation and the increase of demand resulting from higher living standards is exerting growing pressure on the world’s natural resources. The effects of climate change are also showing their first impacts on some of the regions of the world that are least equipped to manage them. How can these pressures be handled on the long run? What role can public policies play to tackle this rising challenge?

On the occasion of the 6th AFD/EUDN conference on “Population and natural resources: managing pressure”, I evoked the dual challenge of mounting environmental pressure and demographic explosion in Sub-Saharan Africa – that I think has not sufficiently made its way at the front of the development community’s preoccupations.

Climate change is obviously, even among the environmental agenda, an issue which is underestimated because in a cross-cutting way it is going to change deeply the physical environment in which countries and poor countries will have to evolve. It is even very difficult to identify what type of problems those countries are going to be challenged with, and even more complicated to understand and describe what type of policies will have to be followed.

Development challenges are also specific to each and every part of the world. When it comes to Africa, which is probably the most challenging item in the hands of the international community, the way this continent’s population is growing is probably also deeply underestimated. Africa is going to grow from around 600 million people today to 1.2 billion people within 20 years. This huge and unprecedented increase in size of its population is creating a huge array of problems that are hardly identified as well. The way migration, equipment, politics are going to play into this movement is probably one of the most important, if not the most important challenge the international community, and Africans themselves, are going to be faced with.

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