Innovation for Sustainable Development: Local Case Studies from Africa
This report aims to shed light on how innovative solutions have arisen at the local level to address sustainable development challenges in Africa. The case studies in the volume identify the determinants of success, ongoing problems and unfinished business, and the scope for replication. The report is a contribution to the background documentation for the 16th and 17th sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development, which has Africa as one thematic focus. Its preparation is the result of a fruitful dialogue and interaction between the UN Secretariat and practitioners in the field in Africa. Several of the case studies were prepared by people directly involved in and uniquely informed about the projects, their history, challenges, implementation experience, lessons learned and future plans.

This report shows that sustainable projects need to link environmental goals to income generation, draw upon local knowledge and ideas, ensure effective buy-in from stakeholders through local community involvement in project design and implementation, and employ financially self-sustaining business models (which are crucial for success but remain a challenge in some cases). External forces which impact on a project and affect conditions for success include international markets and national legislation. In some cases, though, local success can provide arguments for more accommodating national policies to facilitate replication and scaling up. Lastly, simplicity in project design, committed seed capital and integration of local traditions and cultural heritage appear to be important success factors for innovative local initiatives.

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May 2008