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Act now to safeguard biodiversity, nature’s asset class in Africa – the Dasgupta Review

A UK Treasury-commissioned independent review on the economics of biodiversity has called for a change in the way the world thinks and acts with regard to nature. Africa, alongside the rest of the world, must heed the call to understand that our economies are embedded within nature and are not external to it, participants in a webinar heard.

Lawrence Nzuve, Philip Osano / Published on 25 May 2021

Professor Sir Dasgupta, the Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics at University of Cambridge, led the review, which was commissioned by the UK Treasury in March 2019 with support from an advisory panel drawn from public policy, science, economics, finance and business.

Professor Dasgupta spoke about the report’s findings at a virtual event hosted by the African Development Bank on Tuesday. The report’s implications for Africa were the focus of the afternoon’s panel sessions, co-organized with SEI and the United Kingdom Treasury.

The report, The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review, assesses the economic benefits of biodiversity globally. It looks at the economic costs and risks of biodiversity loss and identifies actions that can simultaneously enhance biodiversity and deliver economic prosperity.

In a conversation between Professor Dasgupta and African Development Bank President Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, the two experts highlighted the need to change approaches, actions, and measures of success in mainstreaming biodiversity in economics and finding a balance between “what humanity takes from nature, and what we leave behind for our descendants”. The responsibility to protect nature is a global, shared one.

“Biodiversity is not really an asset … it is a combination of assets … Nature is central in every decision,” Professor Dasgupta said.

President Adesina said: “We need to price what we value better, if we value natural capital. If we value biodiversity, we value ecosystems, then let’s make sure that the accounting price we put on biodiversity gives an incentive for its preservation”.

Africa, which contributes the least to global emissions, bears the brunt of the negative effects of climate change. Now, the African Development Bank president said, the added burden of the novel coronavirus pandemic means that countries have even less resources for biodiversity initiatives and to adapt to climate change.

Other speakers, Dr Pushpam Kumar, Professor Théophile Azomahou, Dr Al-Hamdou Dorsouma, SEI Africa Director Dr Philip Osano, and one of the two moderators discussed opportunities to implement Africa’s “options for change”.

One suggestion was that multilateral development banks like the African Development Bank could play a greater role in financing and developing a financial system that channels financial investments – public and private – towards economic activities that enhance the stock of natural assets and encourage sustainable consumption and production activities.

Ambassador Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission, outlined the many initiatives and programs that the Commission is already supporting to combat illegal poaching, conserve wildlife and the preservation of wild fauna and flora.

These initiatives include a regional cooperation framework on advancing the biodiversity economy. It will see transformation of raw materials and the enhancement of value chains, as well as scaled up investment in the sustainable utilization of biological resources as part of Africa’s transformation.

As part of the post Covid-19 response actions, the African Union has set up the African Green Stimulus Program. It addresses biodiversity conservation, combating illegal wildlife trade, revitalizing ecotourism and biodiversity economy, and the sustainable management of forests. The African Union counts the United Nations Environment Programme and the African Development Bank among its top champions, Sacko said.

The African Development Bank has a growing portfolio of initiatives focused on natural capital and biodiversity which are being channeled through its integrated approach to supporting a green and sustainable recovery from Covid-19 in Africa.

Dr Kevin Chika Urama, Senior Director of the African Development Bank’s African Development Institute, commended the Dasgupta Review for the strong business case that it makes for realigning investments and decision-making to integrate the values provided by nature.

Earlier, in opening remarks, Dr Åsa Persson, Research Director and Deputy Director at SEI, emphasized the role and duty of SEI to support policy recommendations with “evidence and data” before they reached the negotiating tables and treasury departments of governments.

Sandy Sheard, Deputy Director with the UK Treasury, said she hoped the report would spur new and ambitious commitments. Her important takeaways were the importance of science and data, doing things differently with what we already have, and walking the talk.

“The solution at one level is really simple … nature is our home and economics means that we manage it better,” Sheard said.

While opening the event, SEI Africa Director Dr Philip Osano underscored the strong connection between culture and biodiversity in Africa, noting that:

It is timely that this policy dialogue on the economics of biodiversity is being held on the occasion of the celebration of the Africa Day on 25th May, whose theme this year is on African cultural renaissance.

Dr Philip Osano, SEI Africa Centre Director

Interviews and further information

Philip Osano
Philip Osano

Centre Director

SEI Africa

Lawrence Nzuve

Communications Coordinator


SEI Africa

External contact

Amba Mpoke-Bigg, Communication and External Relations Department, Africa Development Bank Group. Email: [email protected]

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