Green jobs offer hope for a better future for the African continent

Africa is the region that is hardest hit by the negative effects of climate change, and yet is the continent that contributes the lowest overall CO2 emissions per capita. The ILO’s Green Jobs programme offers an opportunity to make a difference in terms of mitigating the adverse effects of climate change, while at the same time reducing unemployment.

Article | 24 July 2020
In the context of the release a new policy brief, COVID-19 and the world of work: Jump-starting a green recovery with more and better jobs, healthy and resilient societies, Fayçal Boureima, ILO’s Regional Specialist for Green Jobs in Africa, talks about what the ILO is doing to protect the planet and create sustainable jobs on the continent in the context of COVID-19.

What could be the link between the environment, public health and the COVID-19 pandemic?

Most of the known infectious diseases such as Ebola, HIV, swine and bird flu are zoonoses, i.e. infectious diseases of vertebrate animals that can be transmitted to humans. By disrupting ecosystems through massive deforestation, climate change or the destruction of natural habitats, human activity has created conditions that increasingly allow viruses of animal origin to spread to humans. There is indeed an interdependence between the quality of ecosystems, animal health and human health. Research has shown that the risk of disease transmission is low where nature is best conserved with a multitude of species, due to what scientists call the “dilution effect”. In addition, this pandemic has highlighted the link between human health and air quality: patients are more affected in areas with higher air pollution.

How would a just transition to environmental sustainability contribute to economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis?

In many African countries, social enterprises, universities and individual inventors have developed low-cost and environmentally friendly solutions as part of the response to COVID-19. For example, various prototypes of non-contact handwashing systems using recycled and/or reused materials have been developed across the continent. Although the primary objective of all the observed innovations is to address COVID-19, they nevertheless have significant environmental benefits, such as the reorganization of supply chains by favouring local materials and suppliers, reduced transportation, the use of online or remote services, and so on.

However, the resulting reduction in emissions is only a temporary situation and these emissions may return to normal or even increase with the recovery of the economy from COVID-19 if a process of consolidating and maintaining these environmental benefits is not undertaken. A just transition to environmental sustainability is needed to provide the policy framework at the macroeconomic and sectoral level to consolidate these environmental benefits, but also the tools to promote entrepreneurship and green jobs that will make post COVID-19 economic recovery more inclusive and environmentally friendly.

What are the key regional priorities in Africa, which are addressed through the ILO Green Jobs Programme?

The 2020-2021 “Green Jobs” programme takes into account two policy frameworks of major importance for the region, namely Agenda 2063 and the Abidjan Declaration, which includes growth towards a green economy and just transition among its priorities. The main challenges facing the continent, such as demography, urbanization, migration, climate change, low productivity economies and the social protection deficit, are also addressed by the Green Jobs Programme interventions.

What are the key research tools, methodologies and approaches of the ILO Green Jobs Programme that are used in the Africa region?

The Green Jobs Programme has developed a programme cycle that includes research tools, development cooperation projects and programmes, capacity-building programmes and the development of sustainable development policies and strategies.

At the research level, three main tools are used in the region:

The Green Jobs Assesment Model (GJAM) is a modelling and statistical research tool for analyzing and quantifying the social benefits and green job creation potential of climate and sustainable development policies.

Rapid Situation Analysis (RSA) is an analysis of the best policy options for a just transition to environmental sustainability through an analysis of a country’s economic structure; the contribution of key economic sectors to employment; decent work deficits; and the linkages between the environment, the economy and the world of work.

The “Environmental Sustainability and Jobs” factsheets, which are half a dozen-page fact sheets for discussion and interaction internally with ILO colleagues and externally with our constituents and other agencies on opportunities for green job creation in countries.

In the area of policies and strategies, the ILO assists States in developing national strategies to promote green jobs and national plans for a just transition. For example, the ILO is currently supporting Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in the development of their national policies to promote green jobs. It is also assisting Côte d'Ivoire in the process of revising the National Determined Contributions (commitment to reduce CO2 emissions under the Paris Agreements) to better take into account opportunities for green job creation and just transition policies.

Finally, the ILO also provides support in capacity development, which includesvarious training initiatives, particularly in the area of green entrepreneurship, the formulation of just transition policies and the greening of existing operations.

Could you give us an example of one of the ILO’s ongoing development cooperation green jobs or just transition programmes in Africa and its key achievements?

In Senegal, an economic interest group called “Palette”, which benefited from a series of ILO training courses on green entrepreneurship and the Green Business booklet (part of the Green Jobs package and the Start and Improve Your Business series of products), has developed a project to build solar cookers with the following competitive advantages:
  • Fighting deforestation and carbon sequestration by avoiding the use of firewood;
  • Creating jobs for women; and
  • Improving living conditions by saving time, reducing women’s workload and improving the health of mothers and children by replacing charcoal and firewood with solar cookers.

Read the policy brief: COVID-19 and the world of work: Jump-starting a green recovery with more and better jobs, healthy and resilient societies

Watch the video: Jump-start a green recovery with more and better Jobs

For more information, visit theILO’s Green Jobs Programme.

The ILO’s dedicated portal on COVID-19 and the World of Work: