Climate change interventions have immense potential to unlock new development pathways on the African continent, which necessitates that climate change be brought to the forefront of development thinking and planning in Africa, says the African Climate Foundation (ACF).
The foundation, during a webinar on June 29, discussed how inequity remains a major threat to Africa’s development pathway – the challenges that Africa faces are different to those experienced on most other continents.
For example, although Africa is suffering increasingly extreme weather events, it has not been responsible for much of the emissions that caused climate change thus far, while it also has to incur higher costs for clean technology amid its industrialisation.
“For African countries and indeed the rest of the developing world, following the traditional route to development, as per the early and late industrialisers, is no longer an option.
“Not only do they have to navigate more restrictive international barriers to production and trade but they also have to deal with the climate change reality,” notes the ACF.
To effectively achieve a just transition in Africa, consideration needs to be given to addressing competing social and economic realities that are at the centre of the continent’s triple challenge - unemployment, inequality and poverty.
Failure to understand the needs of the African context and to address persisting inequity at the social and economic level risks a transition that is not just.
The ACF aims to inform ongoing debates around a just energy transition in Africa, by surfacing pan-African perspectives that will inform key policy proposals to strategically position the continent as a low-carbon investment destination, maximise equity and advance economic transformation to enable African economies to deliver on sustainable development priorities.
The ACF is the first African-led strategic climate change re-granting foundation on the continent. It was established to provide a mechanism through which philanthropies can contribute to Africa’s climate change response strategies.
Executive director Saliem Fakir says the role of private philanthropy on climate issues remains small in Africa, compared with bilateral overseas development systems.
“We want to use the climate development framework to build mechanisms and capability for more diversified African economies and lower its dependence on commodities, which are a major source of exports,” Fakir adds.
For example, oil and gas comprises close to half of the continent’s exports to the world and the future of these economies lies in the balance with all the decarbonisation activity going on globally.
The ACF is considering how it can propel countries reliant on oil and gas to unlock the economic potential of other sectors.
The African continent is home to vast energy resources, both renewable resources like wind and solar, as well as non-renewable resources like coal, oil and gas.
The question for African countries is how to exploit these resources in a way that can address both the short- and longer-term needs of their people, and indeed which of these resources to exploit.
In the short term, countries need to decide which resources, and accompanying technologies, enable them to deploy cheap energy to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
In the longer term, they need to decide which of these resources and accompanying technologies allow them, the regions to which they belong and the continent more broadly, to leverage industrialisation benefits, build climate resilience and position themselves geopolitically.
For those countries dependent on coal, gas and oil exports, domestic and regional renewable energy strategies present one avenue through which to begin diversifying their economies, the ACF explains.
“Just as fossil fuels have shaped the geopolitical map over the last two centuries, the energy transformation will alter the global distribution of power, relations between States, the risk of conflict, and the social, economic and environmental drivers of geopolitical instability,” the foundation states.