A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Environmental Degradation and the African Continent
By Ngozi Nwabineli
Africa is a jewel.  Unfortunately, not many tales of good exist when it comes to this beautiful continent.  Political instability, economic mismanagement, natural wastage and civil war and infighting have taken a heavy toll.  The result is what we see on the news – famine, injustice, death and environmental damage on a huge scale.  Indifference is worse than ignorance and that will ultimately be the downfall if this continues. 

North of Africa – Morocco

The country rich in culture, history and story-telling also has environmental problems on a monumental scale.  Why this should be, beats me because, like a lot of Africa, Morocco has a lot to offer...the largest phosphate reserves on the planet, a strong agricultural sector, a burgeoning tourist and clothing industry and fishing that any country would be proud of. Instead of rolling in, what should be considerable wealth, all it seems to be rolling in is polluted and degraded soil, dirty water and oil-slicked coastline.  The main issue for Morocco is the degraded land.  This has been caused by human activity as well as natural causes.  Pollution and overgrazing are just some of the reasons why the soil has become so bad. Because Morocco has a strong agricultural sector, this is bound to have a negative effect not just on the environment but on the livelihoods of so many people (40% of people are involved in agriculture in Morocco). 

Eye-watering statistics – Much of Morocco’s water are polluted.  This has been caused by human waste and exacerbated by the degradation of the soil.  At least, they are trying to do something about it.  In 2002, they received $15 million to help develop their water supply project helping to deal with water shortages and expanding the storage of the dam.  

Deforestation – You wouldn’t associate Morocco with having green space but in 1965, Morocco had huge national parks that would make any country or person proud.  Now they have become dumping grounds and many believe that the proposed solutions come much too late with one resident stating that “the damage done can never be repaired” which includes health problems of the residents affected by the pollution.  Having no   “environmental sense” does not help either.  It looks like Morocco has some way to go...and it may take more than a magic lamp to sort through this mess...


South of Africa – Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe.  A small country with huge natural resources, massive potential and major problems.  When you throw in hyperinflation and desperate mismanagement then you have serious problems.  But it is not only the country’s economy that is giving cause for concern.  The country has big problems of an environmental nature. The government’s overzealous resettlement of its white farmers has had an adverse impact on the country’s agriculture and environment.  Soil erosion and overgrazing has led to desertification of some parts of the country.  Let’s dig a little deeper...(pun intended).

Between 1990 and 2005, Zimbabwe lost over 20% of its forest and deforestation continues. It gets worse.  Heavy industrialisation (being the second most industrialised country in Southern Africa) means that pollution has literally, become a stench in the nostrils Emissions, dust and smoke has made the air quality in and around Harare extremely bad combined with the scarcity of decent water means that Zimbabwe can no longer hid its head in its exotic and mineral-rich sand. 

Mining – with the population at over 12.5 million and growing, Zimbabwe’s natural resources, plentiful as they are, are beginning to feel the pinch.  If they run out, there is almost nowhere left to turn...economically. 

East of Africa – Kenya


 They say a picture speaks a thousand words and I have three...Kenya.   A land full of unrealised potential...much like Africa.  It is rich in history as it is in natural resources – from gold to limestone and from ash to coffee.  It seems that Kenya can offer a lot to a lot of people from passionate beverage drinkers to avid wildlife watchers.  But the environment has taken a battering (and no, I am not referring to the elephants).  As well as illegal poaching, Kenya has had to deal with severe deforestation leading to soil erosion and water pollution resulting from heavy industrial waste and pesticides from the agricultural sector.

Those rich resources and the overexploitation has reduced the forest reserves by 50% and the there has been a decline in the fishing and mining industries.  The loss of the forest has exacerbated the problems with the soil and the rich biodiversity.  Time for something drastic much like the beautiful skyline...


West of Africa – Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is one of the most naturally diverse and rich countries in Africa.  It has cobalt, copper, iron, diamonds (a girl’s best friend...and mine), but it’s most precious resource is petroleum – liquid gold.  But its best asset is causing Cote d’Ivoire its biggest environmental headache.  Much like the rest of Africa, deforestation is a big problem.  Since 1960, the country has lost over 6 million hectares to illegal logging, fire and agriculture.  Now the soil is suffering, people’s livelihoods are suffering and now the environment has taken an even bigger hit – pollution.  It is still reeling from the Trafigura tragedy which caused deaths and many more to have long-term health problems from sores to respiratory disease.  The silence (caused by the company’s crass gagging attempts) has caused this terrible corporate crime to be covered up and its impact to be hushed.  This has killed more people and limited opportunities of finding an effective solution to this problem...

The potential of Africa is immense, just like its considerable size (it is the second largest continent after all).  However, years of abuse and mismanagement has seen its natural resources diminish and its environmental problems increase.  Many conservation and preservation projects have come and gone with limited success.  What is needed? Fewer words and more effective action and maybe we will be able to see through the smoke to the beautiful African sunset...here’s hoping...