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Africa's top priority

Africa's top priority

New studies point to extreme environmental disruptions in store for Africa, prompting leaders to seek regional remedies.

At each African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) meeting Ministers of Environment across the entire Africa file into one room and dedicate themselves to discussing key regional policies and initiatives related to the environment. There were criticisms of the previous talks held in Doha, Qatar where the commitment to climate change adaptation was seen as mutedEmerging reports now document extreme environmental disruptions and crippling costs associated with failing to implement adaptation options.

According to these reports, Africa will experience no shortage of climate change impacts.Africa’s coastline is expected to undergo a sea-level rise 10 percent higher than the rest of the world. Arid areas in Africa are expected to increase in size by 4 percent, and north, west, and southern countries in Africa will see declines of 50-70 percent in groundwater recharge. Under current plans damages are expected to comprise about 4 percent of African GDP. In a case without adaptation measures, damages are expected to hit 7 percent of African GDP or about $350bn per year by the 2070s.

Held in October 2013 in Gaborone, Botswana, the 5th Special Session provided a platform to "get it right”. The session provided the opportunity for African countries to further consolidate and enhance Africa’s common negotiating position for the climate change talks that will take place in Warsaw, Poland, in November. With this special session, AMCEN took it upon itself to address previous inadequacies in supporting adaptation approaches to climate change.

What adaptation achieved

The African Adaptation Technical Report likely provided the impetus that strengthened support for adaptation. The report builds on the Emissions Gap Report as the adaptation gap is a direct function of the emissions gap. It documents a future where curbing emissions is not enough and adaptation to climate change is a must; demonstrating that in a "3.5-4°C World” costs are overwhelmingly high and may reach about $45-50bn per year within the next 27 years. The ministers registered their commitment in theGaborone Declaration by urging member states to use the report in decision-making and requested that the report be updated on a yearly basis.

The ministers also recognised the growing dialog on climate change adaptation that bridges the continent by highlighting a conference attended by nearly 800 participants including farmers, development professionals, policymakers, and private sector leaders amongst many others. The 1st Africa Food Security and Adaptation Conference held in August, clearly demonstrated the link between adaptation and food security, and the resulting conclusions and recommendations from the conference were endorsed and supported by the ministers.

AMCEN also took a bold step forward and adopted a decision to "recognise and support the Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network as the continental network for co-ordinating, facilitating, harnessing and strengthening the exchange of information and knowledge for climate change adaptation.” A cohesive network to facilitate adaptation expertise has long been overdue.

Fostering regional methods to solve interstate issues is now a readily obtainable option. Climate impacts rarely stop at national borders and wise policymakers will continue to grow regional approaches already in place.

Policy implications

What does this newly strengthened commitment to adaptation mean for Africa? More than one thing. The report suggests that the biggest challenges will be securing political will, technical know-how, and adequate funding. With political will now on the rise, countries can focus more on acquiring the technical expertise and funding. These undertakings will be accompanied by the necessity to prioritise adaptation activities, make cost-benefit judgment calls, and find low cost solutions.

Adaptation activities include a spectrum of options ranging from the environmentally-preferred early warning systems and ecosystem-based adaptation approaches to hard infrastructure development. National priorities for adaptation have already been set by several countries in their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) but for projects to have the largest effect at curbing climate change impacts in the long-term, efforts should be made to promote the right mix of the most effective activities. The Adaptation Gap Report suggests the most effective adaptation activities include the development of more drought-resistant crops, early-warning systems for floods, droughts or fires, and urban infrastructure protection measures such as seawalls, dykes, and wave breaks. Countries will then have to determine which national agencies will be the most effective at implementing these strategies.

Securing technical expertise in often uncharted territory has been and will continue to be a tall order. That’s why a political commitment to streamlining adaptation expertise via the Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network was a much needed advancement. With this opportunity, now having the highest political backing, practitioners should utilise the platform to its fullest potential to engage in scientific and data exchange, share practical adaptation actions, learn about the experiences of others and use best practices, and locate available experts.

Finally, fostering regional methods to solve interstate issues is now a readily obtainable option. Climate impacts rarely stop at national borders and wise policymakers will continue to grow regional approaches already in place. In showing support for the First Africa Food Security and Adaptation Conference, AMCEN has illuminated at least one clear path towards regional collaboration. The conference demonstrated that continental dialog on food security and climate change adaptation which promotes ecosystem-based adaptation tactics have broad appeal in Africa as a low cost, flexible solution - already seen as successfully operating in many sectors.

By letting the ink set on the Gaborone Declaration, the ministers cement a new ambition for the continent and provide it with a solid foundation for success. The decisions adopted in Warsaw will need to come to fruition for Africa to experience an authentic leap forward in combating climate change.


Needed billions leaving Africa yearly

Needed billions leaving Africa yearly

Africa needs financing for development projects that will operationalise the development strategies.


This year, 2015, is a strategic make or break year for Africa's development. With the launching of the post-2015 development agenda, the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be pivotal towards ensuring socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth in Africa.

The common African position towards the post-2015 development agenda and the AU agenda 2063represents Africa's own blueprint towards poverty eradication and human development. The alignment of these frameworks to the global developmental priorities as spelled out in the SDGs constitute a defining moment that Africa should collectively capitalise on and craft strategies to ensure socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic development. 

Capturing this defining moment means Africa must mobilise adequate financing for development projects that will operationalise the development strategies. The funding needed is however colossal.

Africa development strategies

For instance, in climate adaptation, the IPCC AR5 records that Africa is expected to invest in excess of $70bn to $100bn annually until 2050 in order to deal with hazards such as rising sea levels, storms, droughts, and other climate change effects. Under a below 2 degrees celcius warming scenario, the Africa gap report notes that Africa is still confronted with considerable impacts with long term adaptation costs estimated at around $35bn annually by 2050 and $200bn annually by the 2070s.

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The highest adaptation costs are projected to be needed in the water supply, coastal zone protection, infrastructure, and agriculture sectors.  

On infrastructure, the Africa Competitive reportobserves that Africa needs $93bn annually until 2020 for infrastructure development.

Regardless of this great need, Africa can no longer rely on external public financing.

Official Development Assistance to Africa is declining and unreliable. A 2005 pledge by the G-8 to increase aid by $50bn by 2010 (half of which was destined for Africa) did not materialise. Instead, aid increased by $30bn and only $11bn went to Africa.

On climate change funding, UN's green climate fund capitalisation only reached $10bn at COP20. On actual disbursement, the gap report observes that funding for the years 2010 and 2011 amounted to $743m and $454m respectively.

It is projected that to meet the adaptation costs for Africa by the 2020s, funds disbursed annually would need to grow at an average rate of 10 percent to 20 percent annually from 2011 going into 2020, and so far this has not been achieved.

Africa losing billions

All this external financing however pales in magnitude when contrasted with annual illicit financial flows (IFFs) from Africa.

The 2015 joint AU/ECA high level panel report on IFFs in addition to the 2014 Africa progress report and the New African magazine, demonstrate how much Africa is losing in IFFs. The progress report observes that that Africa loses in excess of $50bn annually from IFFs, representing 5.7 percent of the region's GDP and exceeding the region's spending on health.

The report observes that Africa loses $50-60bn annually, and cumulatively, over the last 50 years, Africa has lost amounts estimated to exceed $1 trillion.

The report observes that Africa loses $50-60bn annually, and cumulatively, over the last 50 years, Africa has lost amounts estimated to exceed $1 trillion; a sum roughly equivalent to all of the official development assistance received by the continent during the same timeframe. This is an amount that could have covered Africa's external debt four times.

These losses lay the case by the joint AU/EAC high level panel, that by stemming these IFFs, Africa can recoup enough resources to leverage external sources of funds and finance its development.

Africa revenue cash cow?

The high level panel goes further to make recommendations on how IFFs can be stemmed by taking targeted actions on the main contributors - the commercial sector (the largest contributor at 60 percent through profit shifts and tax evasion by corporates), organised crime and public sector activities, with corruption playing a key role in facilitating these outflows.

Building appropriate capacity, improving accountability and strengthening the independent institutions and agencies of government responsible for preventing IFFs in order to curtail IFFs occurring specifically through trade mis-pricing, transfer pricing, base erosion and profit shifting and lack of transparency on ownership and control of companies, partnerships, trusts and other legal entities that can hold assets and open bank accounts.

The setting of specialised financial intelligence units who should share pertinent information with counterparts across the continent is further recommended to counter cross-border criminal activity.

As the world looks into implementing the post-2015 SDG agenda as well as Africa implementing its agenda 2063, the potential source of financing these grandeur agendas could come from curbing IFFs.

These resources as articulated in the 2015 high level panel report on IFFs, can help leapfrog Africa's development.

Implementing the recommendations that comes with the report provides a good starting point for internal revenue generation for inclusive growth and development for all.

How Africa can feed itself in the face of climate change

How Africa can feed itself in the face of climate change

With climate change exacerbating the food insecurity crisis, the solutions to feeding Africa lie with itself.


With the global population approaching 9.6 billion by 2050, huge demands will be placed on states and the environment to provide sufficient food.

Already, leaders are searching for solutions to a series of global challenges unprecedented in scale and complexity. Food insecurity, malnutrition, climate change, rural poverty and environmental degradation are at  the top of the list.

Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change threats because both supply-side and demand-side challenges are putting additional pressure on an already fragile food production system. Current systems of production will only be able to meet 13 percent of the continent's food needs by 2050, while three out of every four people added to the planet between now and 2100 will be born in the region. In the coming half century, the land we grow our food on will change.

This will make feeding the world's growing population a complicated task. Higher temperatures could cause total farm yields to drop by 15-20 percent across all African regions. All at once, the 65 percent of the African work force who directly depend on agriculture as their life blood will become the most threatened by climate change and affected food patterns. These stark statistics present a resounding reminder of where the continent is headed, and if nothing is done millions of people in Africa will be pushed back into food insecure situations potentially fueling food riots as was the case in 2007-2008, when prices of maize and soybean peaked fuelling food riots in more than 30 countries.

Avoiding the unavoidable

The chief science adviser to the British government, John Beddington, has cautioned that by 2030 the combining trends of climate change, population increase, and resource scarcity could present "major destabilisation", including street riots and mass migrations as people flee food and water shortages. But this terrible prediction is not without a solution. Indeed, across Africa, the solutions for feeding a post climate-change world are already taking hold. To succeed in feeding the planet the solution must use a robust, two-fold strategy.

Let's not squander the opportunity to "avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable" effects of climate change. This is the only way that Africa will be able to achieve the envisaged food secured society in which its population does not experience the fear of want.

First, future agricultural practices must drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit to prevent further devastation, and second, they must build resilience against climate change impacts already made inevitable by previous human-environment interaction.

Old versus new

The prevalent system of industrial agriculture misses the mark on both targets. The sooner we fix the global approach to agriculture, the better. Current practices emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases, because they utilise oil-powered machinery, massive quantities of manufactured fertilisers, and shipping food across the globe.

Additionally, the system's preference for monoculture rather than crop diversification makes food supplies incredibly vulnerable to the effects of hot, dry weather. The chemicals it uses disrupt and discourage natural soil processes and even add to global climate change.

The planet needs an approach that improves the local environment. In this context, building resilient and highly productive food systems in agriculture-dominated landscapes is imperative. Achieving food security in the context of Africa is unimaginable without climate change adaptation and practices that not only support food production to meet people's nutritional needs, but that also prevent soil erosion, conserve and provide clean water, recycle nutrients, and support the pollinators and biodiversity that underpin agricultural productivity. This calls for solutions based on ecological foundations and approaches.

The Ecosystem based Adaptation (EbA) approach, which makes use of ecosystem services to help people adapt to climate change can also help tackle issues such as resource scarcity and ecological degradation. The EbA approach eschews applying chemical fertilisers to soil; rather, it favours compost and manure, which increase the soil's fertility and ability to retain water - key advantages against hot, dry weather

Ecosystem based approaches - the panacea?

In fact, many of the ecological based practices and technologies we need are already in use in the African continent and elsewhere. What's needed is to bring these isolated success stories to scale, to make them the rule rather than the exception. In Mozambique, for example, an investment of $120 per person in ecosystem-based actions provided continuous food security for 490 people, in addition to rehabilitating mangroves and reducing overfishing through the construction of crab cages and fish ponds to supplement catches.

With relatively little inputs, ecosystem-based adaptation can increase yields and profits, while climate-proofing local ecosystems and improving community well-being. For the world to succeed in feeding its future population, this relatively new approach must become better understood and more frequently utilised by communities and policymakers.

At the global level, the answer to whether ecological approaches can provide results in a world where it is getting more difficult to grow food is still "Yes". The Rodale Institute completed a 30 year study spanning the United States and Europe. The study found that after 3-5 years the crop yields of ecological agriculture matched yields of industrial agriculture. EbA is justifiably the optimal approach that Africa (and indeed the developed world) can use to combat climate change thus far. EbA can replenish ravaged systems, increase soil fertility, improve ground water supply, and produce less CO2 all the while encouraging more biodiversity and generating greater food production.

However, as successful as such initiatives may be, their scale is limited. Sizable increases in capital are needed to expand the reach of such EbA projects. Development groups should thus invest their dollars, euros, yens, etc., in upscaling what has already worked as illustrated by the examples. This will not only be a good value for money but will enhance sustainable long-term food security.

Rising food prices do not have to mean greater food insecurity in Africa under the changing climate. Communities across the continent are already building resilience to climate change by stimulating their existing ecosystems. Let's not squander the opportunity to "avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable" effects of climate change. This is the only way that Africa will be able to achieve the envisaged food-secure society in which its population does not experience the fear of want.

Volunteerism: A prerequisite for Africa's progress

Volunteerism: A prerequisite for Africa's progress

The continent's future lies in the hands of the youth who can successfully harness agriculture and clean energy.


"Africa will write its own history and, both north and south of the Sahara, it will be a history full of glory and dignity." These profound words of the Congolese leader, Patrice Lumumba in the 1960's have haunted the continent for over five decades, and working towards its fulfilment is surely on the shoulders of each succeeding generation.

It is no longer tenable to keep talking about Africa's great potential; rather, it is time to fulfil that potential for the benefit of present and future generations. Knowing fully well that Africa's past has long been defined by natural resources, its future should be defined by bringing together the collective strengths of its people's skills and talent.

And there is a formula of how this can be done: Leveraging catalytic sectors for which the continent holds comparative advantage, through dedicating resources available to the continent. These resources, both physical (such as technological, institutional, financial, and the demographic dividend, where the majority of sub-Saharan Africa is under the age 25) and non-physical (including intellectual, partnerships, policies, networks), could all be utilised for a comparative advantage with a global competitive edge.

Harnessing catalytic sectors: Agriculture and clean energy


In agriculture, not only does the continent hold the majority of global arable land, but it is also home to 10 percent its inland fresh water resources.

The World Bank reports that, in Africa, a 10 percent increase in crop yields translates to approximately a seven percent reduction in poverty. Growth in agriculture is at least two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than in other sectors.

Furthermore, agriculture remains the most inclusive sector, employing about 64 percent of the population and 70 percent of the rural poor, and women produce up to 80 percent of the food. This means that Africa stands out as the most potent continent for enacting inclusive, poverty-combating growth, and pulling the base-of-the-pyramid populations out of desperate poverty.

In clean energy, Africa holds the best solar power potential in the entire planet. A mere 0.3 percent of the sunlight that shines on the Sahara (with the Middle Eastern deserts) could supply nearly all of Europe's energy needs.

Other abundant renewable sources include hydropower, with a potential of three times more than the continent's current demand, as well as wind and geothermal energy (PDF).

To maximise the potential of these two sectors, they need to be considered as complementary. Integrating clean energy and sustainable agriculture requires applying a carefully planned formula, and this is what Africa should prioritise.

This means linking sustainable Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) driven agriculture (which stands out as the most accessible to and compatible with smallholder farmers who make up 80 percent of the continent's food producers) to clean energy based value addition.

Volunteerism has been tested and results are emerging and paving the pathway to building a future, from which Africa's glorious history will be written.

The linkage of these two key sectors will help eliminate inefficiencies, such as post-harvest losses, which currently account for a loss of an average of $4bn annually. This integration can also potentially create as many as 17 million jobs, earn an additional $20bn annually from agro-trade and catalyse an agro-sector projected to be worth $1trillion in less than 15 years.

And given the carbon offsetting and climate resilience potential of clean energy and EbA driven agriculture, this integration will have the added advantage of simultaneously meeting the continent's climate objectives under the Paris Agreement.

Therefore, sustainable EbA driven agriculture (allied with clean energy powered industry), manufacturing and processing equal economically inclusive, climate-resilient development and wealth creation; unlocking multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This integrated approach that converts the continent's comparative advantage to a competitive edge is Africa's winning formula.

Pockets of success and move from talk to action

Across Africa, pockets of successes demonstrate a potential for this formula.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of graduate youthful "agripreneurs" have channelled their skills, networks and capital to optimise the cassava value chain.

These young people process cassava into flour, package it, standardise it and sell to bakers. With this integration, the youth generate up to $4,000 as weekly income, translating to $16,000 monthly and $196,000 annual income.

Pockets of success are not enough for impactful progress across the continent. Rather, it is an urgent imperative to leverage relative strengths of diverse stakeholders towards a shared objective of bridging policy and fixing the operational gaps in the integration of clean energy and agriculture to realise sustainable agro-industrialisation.

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And for sustainability, this should be through voluntary, state-driven processes, taking into account unique country contexts.

A number of examples are demonstrating that the strength of this paradigm can be channelled through voluntary state-driven partnerships.

For example, in Nigeria, the spirit of innovative volunteerism mobilised youth groups through the Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA). This is a policy action framework to volunteer their skills and partner with farmer cooperatives with the aim of developing EbA farming and expanding reach of EbA actions in Nigeria. This farm is being linked to markets and other commercial value chains to increase earnings. Over 1,000 youth are currently engaged.

In Malawi, innovative volunteerism partnerships engaged the Malawi Bureau of Standards to develop quality standards for the sesame crop, a high value and drought resistant crop.

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This partnership enhances the marketability of the sesame crop and incentivises its wide-scale growth. This and other market actions are increasing farmer revenues, combating poverty and food insecurity, and building bio-physical resilience given that the crop is drought-resistant.

In Kenya, other creative volunteerism partnerships have been fostered with the private sector to encourage solar-powered irrigation. Thanks to the spirit of volunteerism, a solar-powered irrigation enterprise has partnered with farmer groups in the country to enhance its use.

These attempts in Kenya are helping realise the country's priorities of climate-smart, resource-efficient agriculture, while also offsetting carbon emissions and catalysing progress towards clean energy-powered agro-industry (PDF).


Do not be left behind

The formula to engendering an inclusive Africa and ensuring collective progress and prosperity is on the move.

Volunteerism has been tested and results are emerging and paving the pathway to building a future, from which Africa's glorious history will be written.

Now, more than ever before, is the time for each and every citizen, stakeholders in the continent, governments, private sector, academia, NGOs and individual citizens to pull together and take advantage of voluntary, inclusive, mutual partnerships as a powerful mechanism towards bridging implementation gaps and realising the dream of a prosperous Africa.

Let's seize the moment and start creating the 21st century we so desperately want. Together, we can.


Adapting Africa to changing climates

Adapting Africa to changing climates

To avoid potentially massive human suffering, countries must improve their climate change policies.


The changing climate is no longer an abstract issue, and the realities of its impacts are being felt across the world. The long awaited IPCC Assessment Report (AR5) summary for Policy Makers was released on September 27. The report predicted the impacts of climate change will lead to more flooding, famine, drought and disease which could have a negative impact for millions of people in the poorest parts of the world, especially Africa.

Climate change is already affecting millions of people, thwarting their efforts to escape poverty. Building climate risk considerations into policy is vitally imperative to ensure that development proceeds along pathways that are resilient to climate change. Against this backdrop, several African nations have already embarked on steps towards building societal resilience and have completed successful demonstrations of pilot projects which are providing answers for coping with climate change. However, a common framework is needed for effective adaptation. Currently, most responses are either ineffective or spur large disagreements. But one fact is certain: If countries want to avoid massive economic and human injury, then climate change policies must improve.

Science, action and policy:

The gap between science and policy explains some of this disagreement. Policymakers need demonstrable evidence so they can build support at the national level. Evidence and examples can translate complex concepts into understandable lessons. Illustrations can be found worldwide, and Africa, in particular, has already taken innovative steps towards advancing adaptation actions. The Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness stresses that countries should take the lead in defining and implementing development programmes that address their national priorities.

Water access in Togo

Throughout Africa, 97 percent of agricultural production is currently rain-fed, which means agriculture is particularly vulnerable to changes in rain patterns.


With less than 4 percent of cultivated land being irrigated this could spell disaster for many small farming communities. The government of Togo's pilot project addressed this water insecurity issue by rehabilitating community water reservoirs. The project increased the storage capacity at Damone Reservoir from 9,000 to 24,000 cubic metres of water and from 50,000 to 70,000 cubic metres of water at Timbou Reservoir. Community members with access to water increased by 82 percent, from 1,460 to 8,000 people, in Timbou and by 25 percent in Damone. For the foreseeable future Damone, Timbou, and surrounding communities have insulated themselves from the threats of climate change while the Togo government obtained workable results which will be used to implement similar projects country-wide.

Direct savings in Seychelles

In Seychelles, a rainwater harvesting project in schools provided students a practical demonstration of adaptation to climate change, with harvested water used for school gardens, cleaning, and flushing toilets. It also enabled the schools to save up to $250 per month on water bills, permitting the saved funds to be invested in other areas such as teaching and learning resources. Legislation is now under consideration to include rainwater harvesting systems in building codes.

Reforestation in Rwanda

Endless streams of refugees fled to the wetlands and forests of Rwanda, displaced by the post-colonial civil war. To begin their lives again, these communities had to carve an existence out of fragile ecosystems like that of Gishwati. With an investment of only$150,000, the project mapped and developed a comprehensive plan for suitable land use. Seeing that the land use plan fit into a country’s national development policies, the government of Rwanda allocated $25m from the national budget to relocate vulnerable populations, preserve and replant 2844 hectares of fragile forest..

Experience shows that small but well-timed and targeted interventions can have a significant impact on moving policy forward or spurring the development of larger efforts.

Lessons from African projects:

As the importance of climate change adaptation policy continues to grow, it is critical to chart a course for better adaptation policies. It is often difficult to make changes to policy when countries lack clear examples of success. The African pilot projects map a clear path for doing this and teach us three hard-won lessons on including ecosystem-based methods into national policies.

1- If projects are to be effective, then actions must provide evidence and the appropriate tools for up-scaling successful practices into national policy. They must also build the sense of ownership felt by the community and allow for flexibility in its design.

2- Technical assistance should strive to serve, not mandate. Each ecosystem is as different as each community. Solutions must address the needs that the community views as most important, as well as adapt their practices to the many different environments threatened by climate change. If policymakers want solutions to stick, communities must retain ownership over their community action.

3- If projects are to be taken up nationwide, then the timing and relevance of the projects must align with national policies and priorities. Pilot projects are meant to spur grander action and should be timed and implemented accordingly. Additionally, climate change adaptation activities need not operate in isolation. They can and should aim to achieve multiple goals like the alleviation of poverty and the strengthening of community voices.

Policy implications:

Provide evidence: The use of evidence-based practical interventions in the form of projects plays a crucial role in un-packaging these complex concepts, building capacity, and developing appropriate tools for up-scaling the interventions to a local government level or national level.

Build ownershipEnsuring the ownership of interventions so that the local community, and in turn the country, is in the driver's seat right from the conceptual level is key. External factors should be directed at helping local communities identify their priorities and develop interventions suited to their unique circumstances.

Allow for flexibility: Technical and financial assistance to respond to nationally defined needs by providing targeted yet flexible and rapid interventions that turn complex adaptation measures into practical action. This organic approach ensures that projects are iteratively modified to better suit and respond to local realities.

Give options, no “one size fits all” approach: By promoting the diversification of adaptation actions across sectors and thematic environmental areas, the project results in co-benefits such as enhancing resilience of the national adaptation strategy to addressing future climate change impacts.

Appropriate timing of interventions: Experience shows that small but well-timed and targeted interventions can have a significant impact on moving policy forward or spurring the development of larger efforts. If successfully executed, demonstrative actions have a big potential to inform polices and contribute information and data that are valuable for assessment processes.

Relevance and link to national priorities: Activities to strengthen climate change adaptation policies at the country-level cannot run in isolation. They should link, for instance, to efforts to tackle poverty, and must be conceived from the local level as part of a broader development strategy based on an understanding of the livelihoods of vulnerable households/communities, how they perceive risk, and what social and political constraints they face.

Climate change poses dramatically large consequences for communities at all levels. Steadfast political will, armed with demonstrable actions, will be absolutely crucial to prevent the undoing of present progress and to protect people and ecosystems.

What we need to learn from Freetown's landslide tragedy

What we need to learn from Freetown's landslide tragedy

Last week, disaster hit Sierra Leone, one of the jewels of Africa. At least 500 people were killed after a mudslide tore through a suburb of the capital Freetown. Hundreds of people are still missing and thousands more are left homeless. This is a moment of pain that will forever be etched in our memories as Africans, but simply remembering this tragedy is not enough. We need to learn from it. 


Let's put things in perspective. In Sierra Leone and across Africa, the science is unequivocal: Climate change, alongside other man-made elements like deforestation and encroachment, is a contributing factor in such disasters.

According to the US National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, Sierra Leone has received three times the normal seasonal rainfall this year and such torrential rains are a direct consequence of climate change. This extreme rainfall, combined with the encroachment of creeks and wetlands that act as a natural drainage system for flood water and construction on flood-prone areas cumulatively precipitated this disaster.

n early 2017, new data from the UK Met Office and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) showed that earth's temperature has increased to about 1.1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is dangerously close, just 0.4C away from, to the 1.5C threshold set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement to prevent worsening climate change effects.

Coastal vulnerability

In this trend, the vulnerability of Africa's coastal cities, such as Freetown, is unprecedented. The sea-level-rise caused by climate change is projected to expose millions of Africans, who live in the continent's coastal cities, to an increased risk of flooding.

By around 2050, five million people in coastal cities of Mozambique, two million in Tanzania, two million in Cameroon, one million in Egypt, and another million people in Senegal and Morocco are going to be exposed to the risk of flooding if the current climate trend continues.

Such flooding would significantly reverse economic and development gains in the region with the ensuing health impacts and damage to infrastructure. Also, several touristic sites would be lost and the food supply chain disrupted, exposing thousands of people to elevated food prices, loss of livelihoods and strife.

The science on climate change is clear. To avoid witnessing a repeat of last week's devastating disaster, and the demise of Africa's coastal cities, countries across the continent need to take urgent action.

Successful projects

The good news is that practical solutions have already been successfully applied across Africa. In Rwanda's Geshwati area, a UN project that mapped and developed a comprehensive plan for land suitability is helping vulnerable communities to relocate from previously encroached high-risk natural environments to safer habitation areas. As agriculture is the main livelihood of these communities, this plan is also helping them learn about Ecosystems Based Adaptation (EBA) techniques, which allow them to safely work the land without degrading the area. Simultaneously, the plan is guiding the restoration of previously degraded catchment areas using EBA techniques such as agro-forestry. These efforts have already eradicated landslides that were a common phenomenon in the area.

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A similar two-pronged strategy has also been successfully applied to build resilience in Mozambique's coastal communities. Here, coastal communities have long been encroaching on mangroves to harvest fish and vegetation. They were depending on fish activity for their survival and experiencing months of food shortage every year. These activities were also harming the mangroves  - a natural buffer against flooding - and putting the region at an elevated risk of coastal floods. To help save the mangroves and ensure food security, UNEP invested in a community-led fish-farming, crab-farming and mangrove reforestation project. The project proved to be highly successful in increasing local communities resilience to climate change.

Sierra Leone and other at-risk countries can benefit from similar strategies combining restoration of degraded ecosystems to buffer against the compounding climate change effects and allocation of sustainable alternative livelihood activities away from risk prone areas. Such projects will prevent possible future encroachment, thus prevent degradation of natural ecosystems that are our best bet against mounting climate change driven disasters.

But such projects alone will not be enough to provide a long-term solution to the climate change threat Africa is currently facing.

A collective undertaking

Africa has the fastest pace of urban population growth globally. This growth, however, does not reflect positively on economic growth, which is a key enabler to building climate resilience. For example, the World Bank notes that African cities are almost 30 percent more expensive than other countries at similar income levels. Housing is 55 percent more costly and food prices are 35 percent higher than in other low and middle-income countries. Unemployment is also high and, as a result, over 50 percent of urban dwellers are Africa is living in slums.


Sierra Leone is facing an urbanisation rate of 2.9 percent, and 75.6 percent of its urban population is currently living in informal settlements. These urban poor stand out as most vulnerable to climate change and this needs to be urgently addressed.

To address this, we need to diversify and decentralise socioeconomic growth opportunities and eradicate the allure of cities as the only areas where one can access income opportunities. It is vital to decongesting African cities and curtailing the growth of informal settlements that are vulnerability hot spots. 

By focusing on EBA-driven, agriculture-led industrialisation projects powered by clean energy we can create an opportunity to diversify income opportunities. Cumulatively, this amalgamation can create an agro-industrial sector worth up to $1 trillion by 2030 while ensuring ecosystems are taken care of. It is such diversification that will open up rural Africa  - where 70 percent of the continent's agricultural activity takes place - to industrialisation and create economic opportunities that would relieve the pressure off of urban areas.

Actualisation of this paradigm is a collective undertaking. It will take the intervention of both state and non-state actors as called for in section five of the Paris Climate Agreement, forming mutual partnerships to bridge policy and operational gaps. 

Through an inclusive pan-African framework and platform, the Ecosystem-based adaptation for Food Security in Assembly (EBAFOSA), country stakeholders are already engaging to bridge critical gaps.

EBAFOSA is currently working towards policy harmonisation in agriculture, industrialisation, energy, roads and trade across the continent to ensure that all actors are contributing to the establishment of clean energy powered agro-industrial zones in rural Africa. EBAFOSA is also bridging financing gaps to spur entrepreneurship in these catalytic sectors in rural areas. 


"Traveling is learning", says an African proverb. Sierra Leone and other at-risk countries stand a real chance of forestalling similar disasters by domesticating above solutions successfully applied by their counterparts across Africa. EBAFOSA through its modus operandi of Innovative Volunteerism offers an opportunity for country stakeholders to convene their respective capacities for mutual partnerships towards a common end. The solutions are known and we have the means to implement them. Let's arise to act in the best interests of Africa's present and future generations. 

Africa's action plan for climate change

Africa's action plan for climate change

Africa should not wait to take action on global warming.


In a first ever report, presented by the United Nations Environment Programme, the challenges of adapting to the changing climate in Africa are pinpointed. The report titled "Africa Adaptation Gap Report" confirmed that Africa is already committed to spending $7-15bn to adapt to climate change each year as a result of historical emissions.

The finding highlights an important question: What is being done in Africa to prepare for and respond to climate change? What should preparedness and response involve?

Adaptation costs can only grow from the bottom rung of $7bn, moving up the ladder as the world gets hotter. If the world continues moving towards 3-4 Celsius, funding for adaptation will need to increase by 10 percent each year by 2020. In other words, by 2040 adaptation could cost $45-50bn each year - a price Africa can hardly afford, as showcased in the Africa Adaptation Gap Report.

Modernising the approach to climate change adaptation is no simple task, but as one of the most affected regions in the world, Africa cannot afford to wait.

The report opens by determining that "Africa is a "vulnerability hot spot" for the impacts of climate change". It's no surprise that this is the report's highlighted conclusion. Africa will experience a 10-percent higher rise in sea levels than the global average; if the world exceeds 3 Celsius globally, "virtually all of the present maize, millet, and sorghum cropping areas across Africa could become unviable." And if the world reaches 4 Celsius, 20- and 30-percent reductions in precipitation will occur in northern and southern Africa, respectively. This is what spells disaster in a continent where 240 million are already malnourished and 96 percent of agriculture is rain-fed.

A full-spectrum approach

What needs to be done is modernising and streamlining the current approach to climate resilience. This includes partnerships, information sharing, and collaborative planning. Africa has a great opportunity to make large strides because environmental resources and climate impacts do not stop at national borders - a truism Africa understands all too well. This could be done through the facilitation of strong partnerships and information sharing across all countries; decision-making that incorporates risk analysis; demonstration projects and lessons learned; and adaptation planning.

Riding on the momentum ignited at the Africa Ministerial Conference for Environment (AMCEN) 5th Special Session and more broadly at the First African Food Security and Adaptation Conference, Africa is well-positioned to develop an interstate programme to respond to climate change. Africa has tried this avenue in the past - on a smaller scale - and would be wise to build and strengthen previous efforts across the continent. A modernised Africa adaptation programme could equate to a panacea for Africa.   

Proposed details include embedding climate change risk management approaches into all levels of investment and planning; facilitating access to adaptation, financing and maximising returns from international and regional financing mechanisms. Also, it calls for facilitating a knowledge database (based on rigorous monitoring and evaluation) that will enable knowledge sharing in formats to allow comparisons across borders, sectors, and circumstances. It is also imprtant to aggregate lessons learnt from demonstration projects in countries into capacity development programmes and mainstreaming them to support national programmes on climate change, as well as to use regional approaches to catalyse the integration of adaptation to climate change into national planning and fostering greater institutional linkages. And finally, it is key to include utilising emerging opportunities (eg, "green jobs") resulting from the implemented actions to guide countries in their transitions to low emission carbon, resilience development and green growth.

Modernising the approach to climate change adaptation is no simple task, but as one of the most affected regions in the world, Africa cannot afford to wait. Collaboration, shared learning, and open-sourcing data are good places to start. Africa, beyond any other continent, may very well be the best poised region to take on climate change adaptation where it starts at coastlines and tree lines, not national boundary lines.

Africa and climate change: What's at stake?

Africa and climate change: What's at stake?

Climate change predictions show a very bleak future for Africa. Funding for adaptation should be on the global agenda.


The Warsaw climate change conference in November this year is the next milestone towards the 2015 deadline for adopting a new climate change agreement.

With many issues to resolve and the deadline approaching, negotiations are likely to be intense. Africa does have much at stake, but also much to bring to the negotiations.

A climate-stressed continent

Severe droughts in the Horn of Africa in 2011 and in the Sahel region in 2012 highlighted Africa's vulnerability. The threats to people and development will worsen as warming is projected to be greater than the global annual mean, with an average increase of three to four degrees over the next century. These continental changes will affect the livelihoods of millions and permanently displace many thousands. Agricultural losses are forecasted to result in the loss of between two and seven percent of GDP and, by 2050, average maize, rice and wheat yields will decline by up to five percent, 14 percent, 22 percentrespectively. These stark statistics are the evidence of a growing realisation of what is at stake for the continent.

Was Doha enough?

The Doha climate change conference in December 2012 made only limited progress and failed to set more ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That failure increases the risk of a rise in average global temperatures by two degrees Celsius by the end of this century. Studies by the World Bank indicate that even with the current commitments and pledges fully implemented, there is roughly a 20 per cent likelihood that temperature increases would top four degrees by the end of this century, potentially triggering a cascade of cataclysmic changes - including extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a rising sea level, affecting hundreds of millions of people.

What should Warsaw deliver?

Africa hit by drought

African countries have for long held positions in favour of an ambitious global climate agreement. The Warsaw climate change conference, followed by the 2014 climate conference in Peru, will be important stages in finalising the current round of negotiations scheduled for completion in Paris in 2015. The aim is to adopt a future climate change agreement, but many issues need to be resolved before that. The key issues that will have to be resolved to give Africa a chance to avert potentially catastrophic climate impacts need to include the following: 

A new legally binding agreement in 2015: A fair new agreement that brings into effect equitable access to sustainable development, and an equity reference framework. It needs to include rules that make it clear what parties need to do and, most importantly, ensure that emission reductions are sufficient in light of scientific knowledge.             

Adaptation: Greater adaptation efforts in Africa are essential, and they should be supported financially and politically by many different stakeholders in Africa and around the globe. Not only should long-term climate finance from developed countries be accountable and transparent, but it should also be directed as a priority to the most vulnerable developing countries.

Agriculture: Agriculture should be part of the future international climate change regime. The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) recommended that adaptation in agriculture should remain the primary objective for Africa and that a comprehensive work programme on agriculture be established under the Cancun Adaptation Framework. Key issues of focus include: the critical impact of agriculture as it contributes to sustainable development in Africa, the adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture in countries, technology transfer, appropriate breeds, how to support farmers address the impacts of climate change affecting their production and the entire value chain and the livelihood connection. During the 14th AMCEN session in September 2012, the ministers provided guidance on the common African position on agriculture.

Loss and damage: The increasing likelihood of severe climate impacts in Africa makes loss and damage a priority issue. Adaptation is a priority, but it will not be enough. Establishment of a dedicated institutional mechanism on loss and damage is crucial. Emphasis on the Climate Change Convention principles, considering adaptation as the core, and means of implementation to link agricultural adaptation to technology transfer and finance for capacity building should be part.

Finance, technology transfer and capacity building are imperative. African countries are among those least likely to have the resources needed to withstand adverse impacts from climate change. At the 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference, developed countries agreed to work towards mobilising $100 billion per year by 2020 to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation. They also pledged to deliver "fast start finance" approaching $30 billion by 2012. Disappointedly, a report by the African Climate Policy Centre of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) shows that, of the $29.2 billion pledged since 2009, only 45 per cent has been "committed", 33 per cent "allocated" and about seven per cent actually "disbursed". Currently, "fast start" finance, however slow in arriving, is largely directed toward "mitigation" projects, which tackle the causes of climate change, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Seyni Nafo, the spokesperson of the African Group at the Doha talks, insisted: "In Africa, we need to know how much is new, where it is coming from, and whether it will be directed to the adaptation projects that are desperately necessary."

Priority for adaptation

Africa has experience and lessons to share that others can learn from. For example, the First Africa Food Security and Adaptation Conference, which took place in Nairobi in August 2013 - with the theme "Harnessing Ecoystem based Approaches for Food Security and Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa" - showed a wealth of experience.

Almost 800 delegates from across the continent backed Ecosystems-Based Adaptation Approaches as the first step towards enhancing food security and adapting to climate change. Many of the ecosystem-based practices and technologies we need are already in use in the continent and elsewhere. For example, in Uganda, a project promoting agro-forestry and conservation agriculture resulted in more fertile soils and increased yields. This in turn reduced time and cost in preparing land for farming, leaving more time available for diversification, for instance, into livestock rearing.

The project also resulted in lower use of agrochemicals and improved biodiversity. It is estimated that 75,000 people benefited from the project. Around 31,000 tree seedlings have been planted to harness the ecosystem and boost household investment in the short and medium term. The encouragement of chili (capsicum annum) production, earns poor households about $60 per week during the off-peak season and about $240 per week in the peak season. The ability to generate surplus incomes from their agricultural practices has dramatically contributed to the food security of these households, all while improving efficiency and encouraging better agroforestry practices.

Effectively meeting the challenge of climate change will require a compromise of monumental proportions by all countries. Communities across the African continent are already building resilience to climate change by stimulating their existing ecosystems. Bringing these isolated success stories to scale and making them the rule rather than the exception could chart a better course for the continent.

Positive or negative signals for Africa from Warsaw?

The climate negotiations face considerable challenges. Tensions between expectations that developed countries take the lead in combating climate change, as they have committed to doing, and expectations that large developing countries with rapidly growing emissions do more will continue to be at the centre of the talks. Finding ways forward in areas such as adaptation and loss and damage will test the willingness of countries to find compromises.

Lack of progress in Warsaw will raise significant concerns for Africa. With the 2015 deadline approaching, it is crucial for African countries that there is enough progress in Warsaw to help generate greater political momentum towards the final meeting in Paris in 2015.

Was Warsaw enough to address climate challenges in Africa?

Was Warsaw enough to address climate challenges in Africa?

Much needs to be done before the 2015 climate change conference in Paris.


The Africa Adaptation Gap report put the spotlight on the frightening climate change impacts that African countries are facing.

According to the report, Africa is already facing adaptation costs in the range of $7-15bn per year by 2020. Even if the world does manage to get on a pathway of keeping average global warming below 2°C, Africa's adaptation costs are likely to be in the range of $35bn per year by the 2040s, and $200bn per year by the 2070s - with total costs reaching 1 percent of the continent's GDP by 2100.

The report emphasises how extremely urgent emission reductions are for African countries. Expectations were low, with Warsaw widely expected to be a stepping-stone towards more substantive decisions in 2014 and 2015. However, with  24 months left to finalise a new climate change agreement in 2015, the Warsaw negotiations should have made more progress, reinforcing momentum towards Paris. Many observers noted anabsence of urgency in Warsaw.

The next steps towards the future climate change agreement may call into question whether it will be possible to finalise the agreement in Paris. Countries have been invited to communicate their intended contributions to the future agreement by the first quarter of 2015, for those "ready to do so". This will leave little time to consider such contributions and the emission reductions they amount to, in advance of the Paris conference.

Wide gap

This is worrying for African countries, as the likely gap between the intended national contributions and the emission reductions required to limit warming to below 2°C, is likely to be very large. This is the challenge now: How to reconcile nationally determined contributions with the emission reductions that are required globally, to reduce the risks of catastrophic impacts?

The $7-15bn needed by 2020 to adapt to climate change impacts will go up as the world warms. In 2009, countries committed to providing $30bn in "fast start" financing between 2010 and 2012, and to provide $100bn a year by 2020 to help developing countries deal with the effects of climate change.

With uncertainty surrounding climate finance throughout the process, Africa will need to look for home-grown solutions that include information sharing and collective response.

Africa's way forward

With uncertainty surrounding climate finance throughout the process, Africa will need to look for home-grown solutions that include information sharing and collective response. Many cost-effective adaptation examples are already being shared through the Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network (AAKNet). AAKNet is a platform aimed at building a shared knowledge base intended to help enhance actions through sharing lessons, knowledge and information for adaption to climate change. 

Many African countries share similar abilities and difficulties so, Africa, more than most other regions, is in a particularly unique position to collaborate, share resources, and ultimately lead the world in employing a continental approach to respond to climate change.

Africa knows first-hand that climate hardships do not respect political boundaries. A drought in the Sahel caused more than 550,000 refugees to move into neighbouring countries to seek basic food, water and shelter, on the other hand, many countries share similar opportunities for collaboration like rich biodiversity and vast watersheds. These events will continue and will worsen if climate change is not mitigated and adaptation actions not pursued.

"Africa cannot risk failure of implementing serious adaptation measures, especially with Africa's predicted population rise of 2 billion by 2050 and the current ecosystem degradation trajectory," said Dr Terezya L Huvisa who is the president of AMCEN and the Tanzanian Minister of State for the Environment. "An African Adaptation Programme to Climate Change (AAPCC) would allow the continent to pool its resources, avoid duplication of efforts, and coordinate responses and knowledge sharing," she added. Such a programme would offer a way to better utilise regional resources, and expedite use of international funds. AAPCC could build upon the opportunities present within Africa, and provide a second, cost-effective opportunity for the continent to lead the charge against climate change.

As the Gap report showed, the scale of the adaptation challenge for Africa is overwhelming. Unless the UNFCCC negotiations achieve deep emission reductions in the short term, the continent's adaptation needs will rapidly expand. Africa needs to step up its adaptation efforts, as fast as possible. For this to be possible, financial support, technology and capacity-building are essential. Africa is committed to making the most of its own resources, including human resources, knowledge and experience, to meet the growing adaptation challenge. However, to succeed it will need the international community's support - and it is time to step up that support to meet the growing adaptation challenge.

Positive steps

Warsaw resulted in five achievements that should be applauded:

First, developed countries agreed to work to close the ambition gap (ie, the difference between what countries have pledged, what is required by science and their historical outputs) by 2020, through intensifying technical work and more frequent engagement of ministers. Advancements towards this goal will need to take place rapidly as the 2015 deadline approaches.

Africa is doing its share - some would argue more than its share - in the face of the increasing threat that climate change poses to the continent.

Second, developed countries agreed to prepare biennial statements discussing how they plan to increase climate finance to meet the $100bn per year by 2020 commitment. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) board will also begin its first ever resource mobilisation process. Developed countries were asked for "ambitious" and timely contributions to the GCF by COP 20 to be held December 2014.

Third, National Adaptation Action Plans (NAPAs) were submitted by the 48 poorest countries - a 100 percent submission rate. NAPAs are country-prepared plans that describe priority projects that the country data suggests will assist it in responding to climate change. Contributions of over $100m to the Adaptation Fund to finance projects included in the NAPAs were announced by Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, German, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. Several other countries including Norway, UK, EU, US, Republic of Korea, Japan, Sweden, Germany and Finland also pledged to support public climate finance.

Fourth, governments have responded to developing countries' request for guidance by setting up the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). Developing countries will need to appoint coordinators and move forward with available transfers to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Fifth, "REDD +",  which is REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) with conservation and sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks, received $280m in contributions. 

Towards Paris 2015

Africa must make the most of the progress made at Warsaw, utilise cost-effective solutions at home and efficiently collaborate if adjustment is to be enough for its growing population. This extends beyond Africa and to the rest of the world.  many African countries share similar abilities and difficulties

A potential question mark now hangs over the future agreement. If UNFCCC parties submit information about their intended contributions that does not add up to sufficient emission reductions (which is a likely scenario in current circumstances), what will be the next step? Designing an agreement that can strengthen emission reductions is already extremely challenging from a legal perspective, and doing so from a weak starting point will be even more so.

Africa is doing its share - some would argue more than its share - in the face of the increasing threat that climate change poses to the continent. The window of opportunity to keep warming to below 2°C is closing rapidly. Africa will come under increasing - possibly intolerable in some areas - pressure, unless the international community can accelerate its efforts to tackle climate change.

However, there is still time to build common ground through the UNFCCC negotiations. All countries should make this a priority between now and 2015. Steps must be taken to ensure an equitable, balanced and fair 2015 agreement. A good place to start is by mobilising the resources already available and fostering greater regional and international cooperation.

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