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Factbook Charts Africa’s Footprint, Human Development Trends

If current population and consumption trends continue, Africa’s Ecological Footprint will exceed its biocapacity within the next twenty years, while a number of countries, including Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania, are set to reach that threshold in less than five years, according to a report issued today by Global Footprint Network and key partners.

The Africa Factbook 2009 reveals that while Africa’s population grew from 287 million to 902 million people between 1961 and 2005, the amount of biocapacity (food, fiber and timber resources that are renewably available) per person decreased by 67 percent during this same time period.


Though this is reflective of a global trend, it is particularly alarming for Africa, whose countries contain 12 percent of the world biocapacity, and whose population often suffers first and most tragically when humanity’s demand on nature exceeds what nature can renewably provide. As the world’s nations continue to deplete their own resources, demand on Africa’s raw materials continues to grow. Population growth and the impacts of climate change on crop production are exacerbating these pressures.

“Development that ignores the limits of our natural resources ultimately ends up imposing disproportionate costs on the most vulnerable,” said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. He noted that Africa is a region where ecological deficits can translate most directly into resource conflicts and shortages of food, fuel and other basic necessities for survival.

The Africa Factbook 2009 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. The Factbook is a culmination of research by Global Footprint Network, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and local experts, and is published in partnership with UNESCO, the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ).

Download the Africa Factbook.

To explore issues raised in the Factbook, Global Footprint Network will host a Webinar, Advancing Human Welfare Within the Earth’s Means, Tuesday Nov. 10th at 14:15 GMT. Facilitated by Dr. Wackernagel, the Webinar will include expert panelists from the African Development Bank, UNIDO and OECD, and other prominent institutions. Participation is free, but space is limited. Please click here to register

A print version of the Factbook in English and French will be available before the end of the year. For more information about the Africa Factbook, contact info@footprintnetwork.org.

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

Read the Feature Article on the Footprint in OECD’s DACnews.
Read the article in UNEP’s Environment and Poverty Times