Africa often invokes thoughts of delightful landscapes, a diverse animal kingdom, and, most recently, the World Cup. However, Africa is also the continent where most of the world’s developing countries are located. As a matter of fact, around 50% of the population of Sub-Sahara African countries lives on less than US$ 1.25 per day. Thus, one might think that adopting and enforcing EHS legislation is not in the agenda of African legislative bodies and enforcing authorities. However, this perception is lopsided and missing the mark as most African countries have begun to develop and implement a modern and comprehensive EHS legislative framework.
Since the beginning of the 90s, Several African countries have begun to expand their legislative framework by addressing environmental and occupational health and safety issues, especially those impacting the industry. Deregulation and privatization program, the shift to a market-based economy and growing efforts to enhance political stability favored the promotion and the development of the private sector, including foreign direct investments. By the end of the 90s, most countries would have made environmental impact assessment processes mandatory for regulated business operations. Today, while EIA regulations are still being continously improved, their enforcement has gotten into its stride. At the beginning of this new millenum, African Countries endeavor to achieve the millenum development goals and make further law and policymaking efforts to address global issues suchas climate change, natural resource protection, productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people. In response to these challenges, some African countries have enacted new occupational health and safety laws. They start to tackle the issue of clean energy production and efficient energy use. New regulatory requirements are adopted and enacted with regard to air and water pollution, waste and hazardous substances management. Most importantly, drastic judicial reforms are undertaken to enforce the law. Good governance programs are established to fight against corruption and impose accountability and transparency on the Government and the . In Africa, EHS law is today an important planning and decision-making factor that Industry can no longer overlook.
The following actions taken by a variety of African countries to develop, adopt, and promote compliance with EHS laws and regulations cannot but clearly attest this reality.
Kenya – Evolving Energy Policy
With the adoption of the Energy Act, 2006, Kenya enacted a legal basis for sustainable short to long-term energy development. The Act requires a license for the generation of energy as in most developed countries. The proponent of any energy generation project must demonstrate the environmentally soundness of his project upon applying for a license.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) looks more closely at industrialoperations with a view of monitoring its immediate and long-term effects on the environment.
In 2007, Kenya also undertook a far-reaching review of its labor legislation, culminating to the entry into force of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2007 and the Labour Act, 2007 in June 2008.
Nigeria – Stepping Up Environmental Enforcement
Nigeria has a strong 18-year experience in the administration and enforcement of EIAs. Companies failing to meet the requirements of this environmental evaluation process face harsh penalties.
In March 2010, a telecommunication base station was shut down due to its failure to acquire an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Certificate before erecting a mast.
Environmental initiatives also created by the private sector. In June 2010, Nigerian professionals supported the Nairobi declaration on Green Building for Africa and committed to its goals. The Nairobi Declaration calls for commitment to promote green building practices from planning, design, construction and operation of buildings as well as the use of appropriate building materials, technologies, services and processes that minimize CO2 emissions in African countries. This support by Nigerian professionals, including representatives from the Nigerian Society of Engineers and the Nigerian Institute of Architects, signifies that greening building practices may begin to be incorporated as good business practice and a marketing tool which might not be underestimated.
Namibia – Sizzling Solar Energy Sector
Since June 2007, hot water supply in all Government buildings in Namibia has had to be met by solar water heaters only. This initiative aims to show the Namibian Government’s leadership in turning buildings greener. This obligation might be extended to newly constructed buildings in the near future since the revision of Namibia’s Strategy of Climate Change was announced to be finalized in summer 2010.
In addition, Nigeria spares no effort with regard to the enforcement of EHS legislation. In July 2007, a garment factory was closed down due to causing groundwater pollution.
Ghana – Punishing Non-compliant Facilities
Ghana is strict about compliance with EHS legislation. Earlier in 2010, a mining company was charged by a fine of about US$ 7 million for failing to prevent cyanide spill in October 2009 as well as inappropriate investigation and reporting to regulatory bodies. The spill resulted in water contamination and fish mortality.
Congo (DRC) – Environmental Framework Legislation On the Horizon
After several decades of policital instability, the DRC has recently achieved a bold milestone in modernizing its environmental law framework. In April 2010, the draft Environmental Framework Act has been passed by the National Assembly. Once this Act is adopted, it would significantly modify the Congolese environmental legal landscape and impact the way business is operated in Congo.
Egypt –Occupational Health and Safety Infrastructure Maturing
As of February 2010, Decree No. 25 of 2010 requires companies employing 50 or more employees to set up a functional agency and one or more committee specialized in occupational health and safety.
Since 23 April 2010, Industrial facilities have been required to comply with OHAS 18001
Morocco – Expanding Occupational Hazard Reporting
As of April 2010, Health and Safety Committees are required to establish an annual report which must describe the status of occupational hazards at the workplace. . The report must be sent to the Labor inspectorate and to the occupational physician..
Due to their competitive labor force, their invaluable mineral resources, African countries is becoming a promised land for foreign direct investments. The McKinsey Global Institute recently reported that “from 2000 to 2008, African economies grew at twice the pace that they did in the 1980s and 1990s” (Lions on the move: The progress and potential of African economies
– June 2010). In order to better sustain this growing economy, African countries improve their legislative framework and its governance. The field of EHS legislation is given a particular attention. To remain in competition, companies currently doing or planning business in Africa have no choice but taking advantage and moving forward with this evolution.