Principle of Sustainable Development; One of the Greatest Impediments to Africa Development


The UN Conference on sustainable development tagged Rio+20 commenced on 20th June 2012.

The idea of sustainable development is one of the major impediments to Africa development. The principle remains one of the most retrogressive philosophies for Africa promoted alongside such other bad eggs like the principle of comparative advantage. The principle of sustainable development is aimed at preserving the environment while attempting to meet the needs of a people simultaneously. According to the Bruntland report (1983), “sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”.

The problem with this principle is that it says too much but means very little. According to Lucy Ferry, “the term sustainable development sounds obligatory, but I find it absurd or so vague that it says nothing”.

The consequence of the application of the principle of sustainable devolvement to both developed and developing countries like African countries, is that already developed countries in Europe and North America, that developed by heavily exploiting world resources unhindered, from both at home and abroad are lumped as one homogeneous whole with wretched less technologically advanced places like Africa. Africa has not undertaken substantial development activities that would benefit its people and maybe warrant any form of restriction under the principle of sustainable development.

Places in Europe and North America earned greatness and life abundance by exploiting human and material resources unhindered by any restrictive theory like the theory of sustainable development. In essence developed countries like Britain and USA that pioneered the near destruction of the earth’s environment in their quest and hunt for greatness and prosperity, are being put at par with Africa – yet to wake from sleep and slumber.

The principle of sustainable development limits the potential of African countries. Africa is literally being asked and persuaded to hold on alongside these countries because the earth is at risk of serious harm because of the activities of human beings. This is wrong. This must have prompted Mary Jo Anderson (2002) to declare that “the real purpose of sustainable development is to contain and limit economic development in developing countries and in so doing control population growth”. Rousseau indicates that “the idea of sustainable development hides a will to protectionism from developed countries to impede the development of other countries”. Sylvie Brunel considers the principle “a pretext to protectionism”.

In addition to the exploitation of workers in their home countries, European countries travelled to Africa and enslaved them- cultural pollution at extreme and clear violation of the fourth principle of sustainable development- cultural sustainability. Furthermore western nations again colonised African countries fully, and exploited her resources with the least concern for the environment. The third round of exploitation came with the massive exploitation of African resources by the multi nationals – still with the least concern for the environment. In fact all environmental concerns in Africa today emanate as a direct consequence of the activities of multinational corporations operating in Africa.

African countries have not met the needs of their people including satisfying basic food, housing, water, and health needs. They are not even on track or in the process of meeting these needs in the nearest future. The magic year of 2015 will definitely elude the realisation of such targets.

Africans are dying of hunger, wallowing in disease and squalor and sub-Sahara Africa typifies and exemplifies the most negative and worst development statistics and indicators. In the face of the above and in the process of improving their situations, they are slammed and blackmailed with greater task of simultaneous chase of economic success, environmental protection, social balance, and cultural protection (whatever they mean). Environmental and social protection are good but the freedom and focus of initially pursuing only economic success without restrictions had led to the building of massive economic foundation and prosperity in developed countries. It is a situation of “we will come back later to sort the environment”.

African countries, on the other hand are facing a three fold struggle and pursuit of strong economic base, environmental and cultural protection and social justice. This is clear impediment to progress in Africa. While it used to be a lonely voice crying in the wilderness for protection of biodiversity; at the moment environmental protection has become a mini religion and crusade with semi binding targets; a lot of conditionality and highly effective campaigns that hurt developing countries.

The problem lies in western gluttony and insensitivity.

First published in Huffpost

Austin Aneke is the author of Technology and Corruption

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