Why does ecological capacity matter to human development in Africa?

With recurring world food crises and energy scarcity, it is becoming clear, human welfare is critically linked to mankind’s use and stewardship of ecological assets. Nowhere is this more true than in Africa – a region with tremendous natural wealth, yet which often suffers first and most tragically when humanity’s demand on nature exceeds what nature can provide. In Africa, more than 75 percent of the population lives directly off the land, a higher percentage than any other continent. This makes Africa also more immediately and directly vulnerable to ecological shocks than any other region.

There are many issues facing the African continent that are linked to ecological assets, including population growth, food security, political instability, conflict, and inequitable access to resources. Despite these challenges there are many opportunities for nations to improve their quality of life while maintaining their ecological assets.

Global Footprint Network’s Africa Project

To explore how ecological limits apply and relate to human development, Global Footprint Network and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation joined forces on a multi-phase initiative focused on Africa.

  • Footprint Factbook: Africa 2009 – Published in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UNESCO, the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), the Africa Factbook reports key indicators on human development, economic and ecological performance. Data on 24 different countries across the continent are included, along with guest essays by local representatives exploring on-the-ground challenges in each country.

    Download the report:


    low resolution version (15.25 mb download)

  • high resolution version (60 mb download)


    low resolution version (15.25 mb download)

    high resolution version (60 mb download)

    Click here for a newsletter article with the key findings

  • Africa: Ecological Footprint and Human Well-Being – Published in June 2008, in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and WWF International, this release was the first-ever detailed look at the Ecological Footprints of African nations and the trends at play over the last few decades. The report examines Africa’s ecological resources and the role those resources can play in advancing the region’s human development goals – or, if mismanaged, in thwarting them.

    Download English version (1.73 mb download)
    Download French version (2.08 mb download)
    Download Italian version (8.42 mb download)

  • Global Footprint Network recently submitted articles to U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), U.N. Environmental Programme (UNEP) and OECD discussing Africa’s ecological trends and the risks and opportunities these present for the region’s future:

    Read the UNDP Newsletter article in English, Spanish or French
    Read the Feature Article on the Footprint in OECD’s DACnews
    Read the article in UNEP’s Environment and Poverty Times

  • Africa Ecological Footprint Report 2012

    Click here for dynamic view | Download the pdf New Report Looks at Africa’s Fast-Growing Ecological Footprint