Kofi Annan calls for reduction of interest rates …as an incentive for businesses to commit to reforestation
Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on African governments to create an enabling environment for businesses by reducing interest rates, which will serve as motivation for them to contribute in reforestation of the African continent.
Mr. Kofi Annan noted that the majority of Africa’s forests are under threat of deforestation due to activities of humans for economic and social benefits; hence, businesses must be provided with incentives and the right regulatory environment from government to inspire them into agricultural developments.
“Businesses must be encouraged with governmental policies and incentives; not just foreign companies but local companies too”.
He said this during a conference themed ‘Forest for the future, new forest for Africa’, which was held in Accra.
“I think one of the best ways we can do that is to find ways of bringing interest rates down or offer special rates for agricultural development, which other countries have been able to do and encourage people to go into that sector.
“Once you see agriculture as a business and we have the right environment and polices, businessmen will get on with it without relying on government for benefits. All that they need is good policies, and once they are respecting the laws they should be left alone to do their work. So what governments needs to do is come out with the right policies and right regulatory environment; and if they do, the businessmen will rise to the occasion,” he maintained.
According to the FAO, Africa loses an estimated 3.4 million hectares of forest every year.
Research also reveals that close to 130 million hectares of forest (an area almost close to the size of South Africa) have been lost since 1990; and more than one-fifth of earth’s potential forest cover has been degraded.
Thus, Mr. Kofi Annan says African governments must formulate strong policies which will protect the forests and prevent loss of biodiversity.
“African governments need to put in place ambitious forest policies and regulations to protect traditional forest cover and the biodiversity that it shelters. This must include strengthening legal frameworks for protecting forests, adopting effective measures to tackle illegal logging and introducing economic incentives for forest conservation,” he said.
He further encouraged businesses to build innovative partnerships with governments, civil society and multilateral institutions to develop and apply “sustainability criteria and to increase the area of certified forest plantation”, adding: “Consumers can support this initiative by patronising products of companies that respect land rights and advocate for ‘zero deforestation policies’.
The CEO of Forestry Commission, Ghana, Samuel Afari Dartey, assured participants of his outfit’s efforts and commitment in ensuring that the Commission lives up to its vision of “Leaving the future generations and their communities with richer, better more valuable forest and wildlife endowments than inherited”, saying: “In order to make Ghana an attractive destination for investment in forest plantations, we have amended our business processes to allocate degraded forest reserve land to the private sector and forest-fringe communities to develop commercial forest plantations -- in collaboration with the Forestry Commission under fair and transparent land lease and benefit-sharing arrangements”.
He added that the Forestry Commission, in line with the 2012 Forest and Wildlife Policy, has through an extensive multi-stakeholder consultative process developed a 25-year Forest Plantation Strategy that is considered a blueprint for landscape restoration in Ghana.
“The strategy sets targets and actions for achieving landscape restoration through commercial forest plantations; enrichment planting of degraded forest reserves; and promoting trees-on-farm or farm forestry. It also outlines measures to mobilise public, donor and private sector resources to finance these actions,” he said.