The inaugural Africa Climate Summit 2023 kicks off today, September 4, 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya. Co-hosted by Kenya and the African Union (AU), the summit brings together African leaders, development partners, intergovernmental organisations, the private sector, academia, civil society organisations, and women and youth.
The summit’s main theme is “Green Growth and Climate Finance for Africa and the World.” It sets out to design and catalyse actions and solutions for climate change in Africa. According to the summit’s concept note, the goal is to make Africa a centre of global green growth initiatives.
At the core of the agenda is the host, Kenya’s President William Ruto, who is advocating for a new multilateral climate action financing mechanism buttressed by carbon taxes on fossil fuels, aviation, and marine transport to finance and protect nature generation.
The call stems from the African Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI) championed by Kenya alongside four other African countries and major carbon credit buyers and financiers. It forms part of Kenya’s ambition to become the leading exporter of carbon credits.
Therefore, the question remains whether the summit is truly African and meant to propel the continent’s efforts to manage the climate crisis or is simply a carbon marketing forum.
Huge price, negligible role
Africa is the continent that pays a huge price for the climate crisis but played a negligible role, if any, in creating it.
The continent receives the largest share of the worst climate hazards like recurrent droughts, flooding, and tropical storms. For example, Africa’s Horn region has experienced the worst drought in four decades since 2020.
The drought has left 23 million people acutely food insecure and five million children extremely malnourished. Worse still, the region is likely to be hit by flash floods from the forecasted El-Nino event toward the end of this year.
Besides, millions of people likely to be impacted by floods risk losing their livelihoods and succumbing to vector and water-borne diseases like malaria and cholera.
This is the reality of the climate crisis in Africa.
It calls for concerted efforts to build stronger adaptive capacity and the ability to recover from losses and damage caused by extreme climatic events. It requires enormous financial resources and technological solutions.
However, Africa still struggles to mobilise sufficient resources to build her adaptive capacity and resilience. Also, the continent has a low capacity, if any, to repair losses and damages caused by the climate crisis.
Most resources that Africa mobilises to manage the climate crisis are donor-driven and insufficient. Africa’s efforts to push Western donors to shoulder the burden they played a central role in creating have not yielded positive results.
For example, during COP15 in Copenhagen, developed countries collectively committed to mobilising US$100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries, which has remained a promise.
Similar commitments have been made to Africa, but nothing tangible has been realised. During COP27 in Egypt last year, Africa and other developing countries pushed rich countries to deliver on their promises and commit more resources.
Several achievements were made, including formally having ‘Loss and Damage’ on the agenda and an eventual commitment to put a Loss and Damage Fund in place.
Yet, a common thread in almost all donor-driven support is that it does not come free of charge. It comes with strings attached in the form of conditional grants, insurance schemes or soft loans, which can do little to help Africa in the long term.
A wake-up call
This should be a wake-up call to Africa to change her mindset and take matters into her own hands. Repeatedly, aid has failed to uplift Africa from a position of deprivation and vulnerability. If anything, aid has buried Africa deeper into poverty and debt. A similar situation will likely happen with current climate aid and financing mechanisms.
The summit in Nairobi should be a turning point for Africa to develop home-grown solutions to the climate crisis. One option could be channelling the continent’s vast resource wealth into funding green growth and carbon-neutral initiatives.
Instead of this summit being a platform for a handful of African countries to push their ‘green business’ agenda, delegates must push for the ‘Nairobi Declaration’ with Africa’s interest at heart. This is the only way for Africa to come out of the summit with one voice.
Dr Ronald B. Ndesanjo is a climate, environment and sustainability consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He is available at email@example.com. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.