The 17th edition of the African Economic Conference (AEC) entitled “Supporting Climate-Smart Development in Africa” was held in Mauritius earlier this week. The event was co-organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
During the event, experts shared a consensus that despite the continent’s share of global greenhouse-gas emissions standing at only 3.8 per cent, the African countries are the most vulnerable to climate change, a fact that calls for innovative solutions. The agricultural sector employs 50 per cent of the African workforce and is 90 per cent reliant on rainfall, for example, making millions of African farmers vulnerable to climate change.
It is expected that the vast majority of Africans and the African economies will suffer more from climatic extremes, as extreme weather events become more frequent and severe causing damage to agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure like water and energy systems.
“Africa suffers $7 to $15 billion per year in lost GDP because of the implications of climate change, which are projected to jump to between $45 billion annually by 2040. Africa has no choice but to adapt to climate change through climate-smart and eco-friendly development, which is one step in the right direction,” AfDB acting chief economist and Vice President Kevin Urama told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The bank estimates the cost of climate-adaptation efforts on the continent to hit at least $50 billion annually by 2050, yet Africa has the lowest per capita climate finance inflows in the world.
The conference participants said there was a need for the African countries to develop climate-change adaptation, mitigation, and transformation strategies by working with all key stakeholders, including farmers. Such strategies should focus on making progress regarding low-carbon industries that boost growth, foster alternative energy production, and reduce the energy deficit, especially in rural areas.
Urama said that the AfDB plans to double its climate-finance commitments to $25 billion through 2025, adding that the bank intends to establish an African Just Energy Transition Facility to help the African countries shift from heavy fuel oil and coal power plants to renewable energy systems.
Egypt earlier launched two of its home-grown products during the COP27 Climate Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh: the Egypt Country Platform for the Nexus on Water, Food, and Energy (NWFE) and the Sharm El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing, which represent a blueprint for the African countries to follow in accelerating climate action.
The AfDB with its partners also launched the Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa (AGIA) during the COP27 to speed up the development of green infrastructure in the African countries.
Urama said that green infrastructure is very limited in Africa, and this can be seen in terms of Africa’s total share of the global green bonds that support it. Of the total $522 billion of green bonds issued globally between 2007 and 2018, Africa accounted for only $2 billion, the lowest share of all the regions across the world, according to Urama, who added that Africa also accounted for just 1.9 per cent of all green loans in 2021 and just one per cent of global issuances of sustainability bonds and sustainability-linked loans and bonds.
A joint report by the African Union Commission (AUC), the AfDB, and the UNDP was released during the AEC entitled “Building Back Better from the Coronavirus Disease, While Advancing the Full Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
The report shows that five of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa have been affected negatively by the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and climate change, including Goal 4 (Quality Education), Goal 5 (Gender Equality), Goal 14 (Life Below Water), Goal 15 (Life on Land) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
Africa, noted the report, has made slow progress in the provision of quality education for all, and there is a need to raise funding for education infrastructure, especially for pre-primary and primary education as well as invest in the training of teachers, and digital connectivity.
It also showed slow progress being made towards gender inclusivity and recommended the enforcement of legal frameworks that protect women against discrimination, domestic violence, child marriage, and female genital mutilation.
It stated that despite women comprising a large proportion of Africa’s labour force, only 29.8 per cent of managerial positions in Africa in 2022, excluding North Africa, were held by women, which represents a modest increase from the 29.3 per cent recorded in 2015.
Furthermore, the report noted that organic and chemical pollutants from human activities continue to endanger Africa’s marine ecosystems, calling for institutional capacity strengthening to enforce laws and regulations for the sustainable use of marine resources as life under water is an important source of livelihood for many African countries, especially small island developing states.
In addition, the report noted that the loss of forest cover, biodiversity, and land degradation remains high and widespread in Africa, mainly due to the deforestation of land for farming and grazing and climate change.
Land degradation affects 46 per cent of Africa’s land and 65 per cent of its population, costing the continent $9.3 billion annually, the report warns. That said, it called for mobilising more public and private partnerships in order to channel funding to scale up the sustainable management of land, forests, and biodiversity towards a green and resilient recovery.
It also asserted the need to strengthen domestic resource mobilisation and curb illicit financial flows, calling for support from international actors to roll out innovative financial instruments such as green and blue bonds, as well as debt-for-climate swaps.
ECA Deputy Executive Secretary Hanan Morsi told the Weekly, that Africa needs to close huge development gaps by investing substantially in key sectors, chiefly energy, agriculture, transport, water, and cities, which are very vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.
“The annual economic costs of extreme weather events in the continent are projected to be equivalent to 70 per cent of Africa’s annual GDP on average by 2100. Climate change, the war in Ukraine, and the pandemic have put Africa in a difficult development position. The continent needs up to $170 billion per year, mainly from the private sector, for key infrastructure areas,” Morsi explained.
Additionally, the nationally determined contributions for climate action (NDCs) submitted by 47 African countries, part of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, require close to $3 trillion to implement.
UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa Ahunna Eziakonwa affirmed that climate-smart development was crucial for the continent in order to navigate the challenges it has been experiencing and to realise its SDGs.
“Digital technology and innovation will be key tools in our fight against climate change,” she said, adding that a just energy transition in crucial for the continent and explaining that the UNDP has committed to a bold target to bring electricity access to an additional 500 million people globally by 2025, about 300 million of whom are in Africa.
This year’s AEC also witnessed the launch of the Existential Priorities for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) report, which said that the AfCFTA remains on track to change the economic geography of Africa by establishing a single trade constitution setting out common rules for the trade in goods and services, investment, competition, intellectual property, digital trade, and women and youth in trade, and by launching education, innovation, industrialisation and financing programmes.
During the Conference’s closing day, the AfDB and the African Union Commission launched the seventh edition of the 2022 Africa Visa Openness Index that tracks the extent to which the African countries are open to visitors from other African states.
Egypt ranked 49th out of 53 African countries in terms of ease of access, according to the Index, which also showed that Africans could travel within the continent more easily in 2022 than in 2016.
“For 27 per cent of all intra-Africa travel, citizens of African countries can now travel visa-free (up from 20 per cent in 2016), while in a further 27 per cent of travel scenarios, a visa can be obtained on arrival (up from 25 per cent in 2016). The number of intra-Africa travel itineraries that still require a visa ahead of departure was 47 per cent of the total in 2022, a marked improvement from 55 per cent in 2016,” the report said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 December, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly