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Africa Skies: An untapped, underutilised glaring opportunity

Africa Skies: An untapped, underutilised glaring opportunity

Under the changing climate no stone need to be left unturned. A liberalized African commercial airspace and developed airports represent an authentic, relatively affordable under exploited route for enhancing transport connectivity in the region, growing domestic and international trade, including trade in agriculture and affordable transportation in the continent, thus contributing toward inclusive socio-economic development for Africa

Africa’s growth trajectory for over a decade has been impressive as reported by the World Bank, the African Competitive Report and the African Economic Outlook. This impressive course is projected to sustain and even rise to 5.5% in 2015.

However, leaders in the continent worry, and rightly so, that without adequate road and railway networks, the translation of this growth into real socioeconomic development for Africans may not happen. Indeed countless socioeconomic activities depend on reliabletransport connectivity.

Changing climate creating an imperative?

The 2nd Africa Adaptation gap report projects among impacts to Africa’s cities, increased risk of flooding and sea level rise potentially displacing millions and damaging infrastructure and disrupting road, and rail transportation. This could spiral down to impacting trade infrastructure and routes, with potential losses to African economies that could range in the millions or billions of dollars. In such a scenario, affordable air transport could go a long way in ensuring intra-regional connectivity and mobility is not completely paralyzed.

Other than damage to infrastructure, climate change is also projected to affect agricultural productivity, with significant yield reductions of key staples in some areas being offset by increases in others. For instance, while yields in maize, a staple in most of Africa, are projected to decrease by 11% in Southern Africa, 13% in Central and the Sahel and 7% in West Africa between 2030 – 2050, East Africa may experience 15 – 18% yield increases over the same period. This would mean affordable air transportation could be vital in distributing maize from high yielding surplus areas to low yielding, high demand areas and boost food security and intra-Africa trade in the process.

.Source:manna-anglican
Climate change can cause increased risk of flooding potentially displacing millions and disrupting road, and rail transportation. Source:manna-anglican

Good Transport Network – A delivery tool for good Economic and Social Benefits?

good transport network will deliver economic and social benefits by connecting firms to international and regional markets, and by enabling individuals to reach water, fuel, schools, clinics, jobs, and relatives. It will boost the transportation of goods and raw materials, facilitate transactions and negotiations, boost tourism and positively impact ordinary lives in diverse ways. For instance, it will ensure people get to hospitals quickly during emergencies. At national and regional level, without reliable and competitively priced transport connectivity, nations have little hope of trading their goods on the most advantageous terms. Transport makes markets work. Inadequate connectivity for Africa is impacting negatively on a number of fronts.

Poor transport network hampering Africa intra and inter competitiveness?

In trade, lack of adequate roads is translating to high transportation costs and trade barriers. As a testament, transport costs alone are 63% higher in Africa than in developed countries, hampering the continents competitiveness in the international and local markets. Transport costs represent between 30 – 50% of total export value in Africa, meaning profitability of exports is greatly hampered. Development experts believe poor roads and railways are having a negative impact on intra-African trade, which is currently at a lowly 11%, relative to similar developing regions, such as trade among Southeast Asia’s 10 countries, at 37%. Indeed the Africa Competitive report observes that Africa’s infrastructure deficit is limiting regional integration and intra-regional trade, currently lowest in Africa at 12% compared to 25% in South East Asia, 45% in North America and 65% in Western Europe. To quantify this loss in trade in monetary terms, the World Bank reports that while Africa currently produces staple food worth USD 50 billion annually, the region could add an extra USD 20 billion per year if it dismantles barriers to trade in agriculture, among them inadequate transport connectivity.

Intra-African trade suffers from poor international transport infrastructure and high communication costs. Source:hsrc
Intra-African trade suffers from poor international transport infrastructure and high communication costs. Source:hsrc

 Infrastructural deficit- compounding a precarious crisis under the changing Climate

In the agriculture sector, which has been reported by the recently launched 2015 2nd Africa Adaptation gap report as among key sectors in Africa that will be adversely affected by climate change, with up to 40% yield reductions in major staples across the continent hence serious implications on food and nutritional security, inadequate infrastructure threatens to compound this scenario, by contributing significantly to postharvest losses and limiting access by populations to available food. In rural Africa, less than 50% of the rural population lives close to adequate roads, which compounds transportation of inputs and produce. While the need to invest in infrastructure is appreciated, ‘high upfront costs’ required in such investments constitutes a major barrier. For instance, in the transport infrastructure gap, Africa needs to invest up to USD 11billion annually to bridge this gap.

Africa Airspace – an untapped, underutilized glaring opportunity

Analysis of costs is however not homogeneous. Investments needed to develop the continents airports are relatively cheaper than what would be spent on road and railway developments. Estimates of aggregate development costs for the year 2006 – 2015 document that rural roads cumulatively would require an investment of about USD 43billion, urban roads USD 20billion, railways USD 10billion while airports are at USD 8billion. While this is a glaring opportunity, the level at which the continent has tapped to this potential is dismally low. Currently, in Sub-Saharan Africa, road transport is the predominant means of connectivity and movement for passengers and freight averaging over 80% and over 60% respectively, the highest in the world. While this is the case for road transport, the intra-African airline market is at less than 1%.

.Source:airliners
The level at which the continent has tapped into its airspace potential is dismally low.Source:airliners

Regardless of Africa’s high dependence on road transport, only a third or about 30% of Africa’s rural population, which constitutes about 70% of total population, has access to these roads. The socio-economic benefits of transport connectivity earlier elucidated therefore evade a majority in the continent. In some countries, the situation is worse. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Africa’s second largest country sprawling over 905,000 square miles, has no roads connecting one end of the country to the other, 54 years after its independence. This makes air transport the only means to travel between two distant points. Such a scenario could be the case in several Sub-Saharan African states given that some are reported as having similar low human development or even ranked lower than DRC in the human development index (HDI).

Consequently, developing the aviation sector in Africa could represent a hitherto under-exploited, cheaper alternative to enhancing transport connectivity and ensuing benefits to the continent.

The potential benefits of affordable intra-Africa airline transportation

While inadequate road, port, and railway infrastructure often constrains the rapid and efficient transportation of export goods as well as passengers, and the high costs needed to address this deficiency constitute a bottle neck, in addition to cheaper costs of developing African airports discussed earlier, reforming air transport policies, to facilitate an ‘open sky’ model for the African commercial airspace could offer an additional alternative, least costly route to reducing connectivity barriers to trade and development in a shorter time space. This can be done by implementing the Yamoussoukro decision. This decision provided a framework that became fully binding in 2002, for implementing the Yamoussoukro declaration of 1988 that sought to create a liberalized intra-African aviation market. Implementing the decision would mean a harmonization of air transport policies throughout the continent and a creation of an ‘open skies’ policy – a non-restricted, deregulated air services market open to transnational competition, liberalized tariffs and fair competition, and reaping the market benefits of liberalization. These include affordable fares, increased traffic, improved competitiveness and quality of service, all enhancing trade including in agriculture that could be worth an additional USD 20billion annually and tourism where 20% of tourism related jobs in the continent are supported by tourists arriving by air. By extension, considering that agriculture and tourism are underpinned by ecosystem services such as water and biodiversity, promoting earnings in these sectors through a competitive airlines industry will create a great incentive to sustainably manage these ecosystems in Africa.

As of 2013, air transport in Africa had grown by 6.6% over a decade to become the most rapid growth region globally. Source:arabia
As of 2013, air transport in Africa had grown by 6.6% over a decade to become the most rapid growth region globally. Source:arabia

As of 2013, air transport in Africa had grown by 6.6% over a decade to become the most rapid growth region globally. The Word Bank projects that with a potential market of about 12% of the world population, African air traffic can potentially grow at 5.7% annually, over and above the global average of 4.9%.

Unlocking aviation potential in Africa- operationalizing the Yamoussoukro Declaration and Decision

To fully unlock aviation potential in Africa, the need to implement the Yamoussoukro Declaration and Decision has been further buttressed by the AU agenda 2063 as among key priorities. Jointly, the Yamoussoukro Declaration and Decision set the legal basis for a liberalized commercial air space in Africa, which will see Africa reap short-run benefitsincluding affordable fares, increased flight routes and frequencies, and lower travel times, benefits similar to European open skies, that have seen flying to an African city via Europe being cheaper and easier than a direct Africa flight. In the medium term, a liberalized air space results in air traffic growth, which has wide ranging benefits including expanding investments, trade, and tourism that translates to enhanced economic growth, productivity and job creation in the long run.

For instance in Europe, liberalization greatly increased competition on many routes, resulting in many more new routes operating, and a 34% decline in discount fares. The benefits of a liberalized African air space are immense. For instance, open skies in only 12 African countries could encourage tourism thereby create more than 150,000 jobs and add USD 1.3billion to the continent’s gross domestic product. Additional analysis of the potential benefits of open skies in Africa can be cited. For instance, an agreement of a more liberal air market between South Africa and Kenya in the early 2000s led to 69% rise in passenger traffic. Ethiopia’s pursuit of more liberal bilateral has contributed to Ethiopian Airlines becoming one of the largest and most profitable airlines in Africa. It is reported that on intra-African routes with more liberal bilateral, Ethiopians benefit from 10-21% lower fares and 35-38% higher frequencies (compared to restricted intra-Africa routes). The 2006 Morocco-EU open skies agreement led to 160% rise in traffic and the number of routes operating between points in the EU and points in Morocco increasing from 83 in 2005 to 309 in 2013.

Ethiopia’s pursuit of more liberal bilateral has contributed to Ethiopian Airlines becoming one of the largest and most profitable airlines in Africa. Source: centreforaviation
Ethiopia’s pursuit of more liberal bilateral has contributed to Ethiopian Airlines becoming one of the largest and most profitable airlines in Africa. Source:centreforaviation

Under the changing climate no stone need to be left unturned. A liberalized African commercial airspace and developed airports represent an authenticrelatively affordableunder exploited route for enhancing transport connectivity in the region, growing domestic and international trade, including trade in agriculture and affordable transportation in the continent, thus contributing toward inclusive socio-economic development for Africa.   Africa is rising and this should not be a hype cliché but one that betters prosperity and abundant life for majority of her people. The last 30 years have been phenomenal in human history and there is no doubt that Africa is set to converge. But it should also be known that this is not pre-ordained. It will depend upon, not the declarations of intent but the willingness to operationalize what has been declared for the collective benefit and prosperity of all African people.

What Kenya’s Big Four Agenda can do for the country and the continent

What Kenya’s Big Four Agenda can do for the country and the continent

Sustainable, nature-based agriculture and clean energy can be the cornerstone of development that starts at community level,

“Having rain clouds is not the same as having rain.” This proverb reminds us that potential remains valueless unless harnessed. Kenya’s Big Four priorities, as they are fondly referred to, are potent and ambitious, providing an opportunity for Africa to drive transformational change. The Big Four are food security, manufacturing, health and housing, and they represent the pillars of the Kenya that we all strive for: a middle-income, industrialised nation with a climate resilient, inclusive economy, offering a high quality of life for its people.

A Sense of Urgency

Just as “aiming isn’t hitting”, achieving this ambition in the set five years will take more than its fluent articulation, especially considering the low base from which Kenya (and many other African countries) are starting. Consider  food insecurity, for example: Despite the eloquence of Article 43 (1) (c) of Kenya’s constitution – which guarantees to every Kenyan the right to food – the number of food-insecure persons is projected to increase by half a million in 2018, while postharvest losses (PHLs) top US$500 million each year. This is not only a loss of food but of manufacturing and job opportunities. Another case in point is climate change, which is costing Kenya up to US$0,5 billion each year and is projected to escalate to an annual loss of 2,6% of GDP by 2030. This hamstrings the long-term growth of the entire economy. This low base is our resounding call to action – we must do things differently.

Tea pickers in Kenya’s Mount Kenya region, for the Two Degrees Up project, to look at the impact of climate change on agriculture.
Image Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

What is the paradigm shift that is needed to make the Big Four a reality?

Kenya, and other countries in the region, must maximise productivity of the sectors in which they hold a comparative advantage in resources. Sustainable, nature-based agriculture and clean energy stand out. To maximise productivity, developments in these sectors should be done hand in hand, and not in separate silos, as is usually the case. This amalgamation of the various sectors is an approach that has been endorsed at the highest levels of policy making on the continent – the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the AU Agenda 2063, and by up to 80% of the African continent’s commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement. These commitments are officially referred to as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Read:  Climate Change, Resource Scarcity and Conflict

There is much empirical proof of the potency of nature-based agriculture that uses clean energy. In Makueni County, Kenya, the use of minimum tillage, a nature-based ecological farming technique, on a one-and-a-half acre plot increased yields by over 300%. There were also the additional benefits of reduced labour and improved soil fertility. This is already in line with one of the Big Four – food security. In Ijara sub-county, processing of the aloe plant, an indigenous drought-resistant crop, is not only restoring degraded land to ensure climate adaptation (which is in line with Kenya’s NDCs), but is resulting in viable enterprises that are recording a net present value of US$4 000. This is a formidable step towards positioning enterprises at the community level. This empowers local communities, helping them to deliver a better quality of life and to finance not only their food security but health and housing. That is the Big Four actualised in one go. What is needed now is new and innovative policies that support the ground-level catalysts just described.

New and innovative financial policies that will drive change

“If ten cents does not go out, it does not bring in one thousand dollars.” This common saying in Ghana sums up the principle behind risk-sharing mechanisms that Kenya should urgently embrace to finance the Big Four – the multiplier effect. This means that financing is not a social expenditure in “flagship” government-run projects, but an incentive for enterprises based on sustainable, clean energy-powered agro-industrialisation. Returns on this kind of industrialisation will not only be social, but economic, financial and environmental. The vibrant Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) sector in Kenya, which forms 90% of the country’s private sector and employs the majority of Kenya’s skilled labour, provides fertile ground to establish and grow this enterprises-driven approach to the implementation of the Big Four. Government should focus on incentivising cooperatives and micro-finance institutions to lend affordably to enterprises that are aligned with the catalytic sectors – rather than directly financing projects. The structure for such a move is already taking shape at community level.

Feed the Future Kenya AVCD Regional County Launch and County field tours Photo Credit Flickr

Through the Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) policy-action framework, stakeholders are forming market-driven partnerships. In Kenya, a farmer’s cooperative is working with a clean energy company to develop flexible and affordable clean-energy financing for cooperative members so that they can acquire clean energy systems which they would use communally to power agro-processing. For now, the focus is on solar-powered micro-irrigation and solar driers. The result is beneficial socioeconomically and in terms of the climate. Socioeconomically, farmers have improved their income and community food security because the solar irrigation and driers have reduced crop failure and postharvest losses. Higher incomes for the members of the cooperative means they can afford better healthcare and housing. In addition, creating such work opportunities in the rural areas reduces the influx of people into cities, which is driving the growth of informal settlements.

Different ministries must work together

Successfully driving the implementation of the Big Four through sustainable, clean energy-powered industrialisation will require that policies across relevant ministries be implemented in a complementary manner. For example, energy policies that decentralise clean energy will need to be implemented in synchrony with agricultural policies that address climate-smart agriculture approaches. Agriculture needs to work with transport infrastructure to make sure that produce gets to the market efficiently. This would maximise the farmers’ income. Agriculture needs to work with the ministry of trade to secure markets for what is produced. The resultant sustainable agro-industrialization would mean that, for instance, the more than US$500million that is currently lost through PHLs in Kenya is instead channelled into enterprises, income savings and job opportunities – all factors that would drive the Big Four.

Read: Reaping Africa’s demographic dividend

Market incentives are all-important

In today’s market-driven economies, implementing the Big Four will need to be market driven to safeguard its long-term sustainability. The recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), represents the most robust market enabler we have. It is set to consolidate an over 1,2 billion people-strong market with a combined GDP of over US$3,4 trillion. Kenya has gone ahead to become the first country to ratify this deal. Turning this deal into a market pull factor to drive implementation of the Big Four is an urgent priority for Kenya.

Already, the “EBAFOSA compliance standard”, which is a quality standard that will be applied universally in the 40 countries across Africa – is being put in place. This standard builds on already existing approved standards across Africa by merging them into one consolidated standard – one that takes care of quality, health and environmental aspects. This standard will open up access to the markets of all 40 countries.

Conclusion

It is clear that achieving the glorious promise of the Big Four calls for a paradigm shift away from the conventional approach, where importance is put on “budgets” and upfront financing – to leveraging on what Kenya already has: its people and the diversity of the skills, talents and ongoing work they represent. This is truly the paradigm shift that can see Kenya set an example in a way never seen before to the entire Africa to drive transformational change for people and planet.

Revelation: ushering a needed energy revolution for millions in Africa

Revelation: ushering a needed energy revolution for millions in Africa

Africa’s challenges are enormous but not insurmountable. There is therefore no need for despair. Solutions to enhance economic inclusivity abound through the low carbon pathway powered by clean energy of which the continent has in abundance though untapped. By making the right policy investments building institutions, capacity and technology, Africa can unleash its latent clean energy potential and leapfrog to being a global leader without adding a single tonne of planet warming gases while simultaneously creating income opportunities for millions of its citizens

Energy is a key enabler of inclusive growth, and unavailability constricts development. The just-released 2015 Africa Progress Report documents that an estimated 621 million Africans have no electricity and the gap is expanding Africa’s poor living on less than USD 2.50 daily pay up to 20times more, an estimated USD 10billion annually on unclean sources than rich households connected to the grid spend on their lighting. Due to energy poverty, this marginalized group is impacted on health, where indoor pollution due to biomass fuel used by 80% in Africa kills 600,000 annually, and 60% fridges used to store vaccines lack access to reliable power, in education where electricity access in primary schools is at 35%, and in some countries, 80% primary schools have no electricity. The implication being impaired learning as these pupils are denied light they need to study which affects their performance in school and hence later in life. This perpetuates the poverty cycle for this segment of society.

Energy Insecurity:  A Poverty Multiplier

70% of Africa’s poor reside in rural areas where access to energy is estimated at 1% – 8%further constricting development and prosperity for millions. The strong correlation between energy access and poverty is validated at country level. For instance, Mozambique which has 7.2% electricity access records about 84% of population living on less than USD 2per day. Kenya, Ethiopia, Lesotho all with less than 10% access record over 60% poverty levels. On the contrary, Tunisia with 94.3% records only 10% of population living on under USD 2per day.

Africa’s Energy Paradox of Plenty and Poor

Africa’s abundant clean energy potential remains underexploited. The continent’s hydro-power potential is estimated at 1852TWh annually3 times the continent’s current demand of 554TWh per year. However, currently only 10% of the continent’s potential is being exploited. This is in huge contrast to Western Europe which uses 85% of its available hydropower potential. On Solar it is estimated that a mere 0.3% of the sunlight that shines on the Sahara and Middle East deserts could supply all of Europe’s energy needs. However, currently only about 5% of African households use some form of solar. In geothermal, the East Africa region has an estimated 15,000MW in potential. Kenya, ranked the 8th largest global producer of geothermal power, has potential of 10,000MW against current production at 579MW. On wind power, SSA has estimated 1300GW wind potential against total deployed capacity of 190MW. All this is excluding significant natural gas potential.

Kariba-Dam-in-Africa
Kariba Dam between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Photo: Reuters

Capitalising on the continent’s renewable energy to sustainably improve access to energy and hence combat poverty is an untapped opportunity. Tapping it now could change the continent’s narrative for good.

Untapped Energy a gold mine for jobs, and poverty alleviation in Africa

Documented tangible benefits of the low carbon pathway are immense. Off-grid solutions like solar can enhance access to power in marginalised areas and power households, schools, hospitals, businesses as well as rural agro-industries, hence enhance inclusive economic growth. In Bangladesh, an LDC, solar has enhanced electricity access to an additional 20 million persons, provided in excess of 115,000 direct jobs and an additional 50,000 induced in downstream business due to availability of solar in rural areas.

Africa can replicate this success by ensuring financial and technical support from governments and private sectors aligned to new business models, hence achieve scale.

Current success stories in Africa also abound, though at a lower scale. By upscaling, the continent can potentially create a thriving electricity supply industry with an estimated 2.5 million temporary and permanent jobs.

On savings, Africa’s poor households, which spend up to 20 times more on energy for lighting than high-income households connected to the grid can make plausible savings of up to USD 8 billion by making grid power and off-grid renewable options like solar more accessible to them. In total, switching to a clean and accessible grid can reduce poverty in SSA by 16 – 26 million people.

In agriculture, growth is two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than in other sectors, and it can create many jobs along its value chain. The rice sector alone can potentially employ many of the 17 million young people who enter the job market annually in S-Saharan Africa. In addition, the sector employs up to 64% population and 70% of Africa’s poor reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and women produce up to 80% of the food. Enhancing productivity of the agriculture sector, currently contributing only 25 – 34% to continental GDP,  can lift a significant population out of poverty and enhance economic inclusivity.

Groundnut_harvesting_in_Malawi
Groundnut harvesting at an agricultural research station in Malawi. Photo: Steve Walling

Off-grid solutions which are the most economical solution for electrification in remote areas can power rural agro-enterprises and optimize agricultural productivity by enhancing value addition thereby cutting food loss and creating more jobs along the value chain. SSA lost food worth USD 48 billion in 2010, and yet its annual import bill is a whopping USD 35billion. These represent potential income opportunities lost. In addition, without value addition, food is sold in its unprocessed form and fetches lower prices, translating to loss in potential incomes.

By scaling clean energy for rural economies, then African agriculture will go a long way in enhancing income opportunities for youth, women as well as marginalised rural folk, hence enhance economic inclusivity without piling on emissions.

Existing policy enabling Environment for Africa to revolutionise Low carbon pathway

Global and continental policies are in synchrony in calling for low carbon development as a potent strategy out of poverty. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which Africa has embraced through its common Africa position on the post-2015 development agenda on the overall give more weightage to economic and environmental factors. Goals 7, 8, 13 and 15 jointly address environmentally sustainable, socially inclusive economic development.

The Common African Position (CAP) on post-2015 and the AU Agenda 2063 two key continental blue prints also revolve around environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive industrial development leading to economic growth, powered by at least 50% clean energy. The alignment of continental and global priorities toward low carbon development represents a defining moment of hope, and Africa should capitalise on this momentum to actualise a low carbon agenda.

Leapfrogging Africa into a global energy leader: The needed Policy enablers

The 2015 Africa Progress report documents that, current SSA’s desperate energy shortagerepresents an opportunity to leapfrog the continent into low carbon pathways and become a global leader with no or minimal transition costs.

There is need to up-scale the success achieved at micro-scale. Consequently the means of scaling up is an urgent action area. Scaling Africa’s low carbon inclusive growth will require enablers including financing, knowledge management & action research on means of implementation, capacity building, technology transfer & business innovation, educational reforms, institutional, regulatory and policy reforms. Actualising these is within reach if commitment is fostered by African governments, the international community, and the private sector investors and multinationals.

Moving money
Africa’s energy sector needs investment of USD 55 billion annually until 2030 to achieve universal access to electricity yet the continent bleeds USD 69 billion every year in illicit financial flows. Photo: GA Hussein

The upcoming monumental climate talks in Paris present an opportunity through which commitment in all these issues can be garnered and legislated.

For instance, on the key financing component, the report documents that Africa’s energy sector needs investment of USD 55 billion annually until 2030 to achieve universal access to electricity. This figure is less than the continent hemorrhages in excess of USD 69billion annually as illicit financial flows. Stemming IFFs will recoup more than the required amount. Additional financing proposals made in the report include boosting tax collection, cutting corruption, ending subsidies for unprofitable utilities, where an additional USD 21billion can be recouped. These are actions in which African countries should take a lead.

The upcoming 3rd financing for development conference should build on these innovative financing proposals including those documented in other key continental blue prints such as the 2nd Africa Adaptation Gap Reportthe 2014 Africa progress report, the AU/ECA high level panel report on illicit financial flows as well as the Cairo declaration on natural capital

Africa’s challenges are enormous but not insurmountable. There is therefore no need for despair. Solutions to enhance economic inclusivity abound through the low carbon pathway powered by clean energy of which the continent has in abundance though untapped. By making the right policy investments building institutions, capacity and technology, Africa can unleash its latent clean energy potential and leapfrog to being a global leader without adding a single tonne of planet warming gases while simultaneously creating income opportunities for millions of its citizens. In the words of Nelson Mandela – ‘it always seems impossible until it’s done’. So let us begin to make this a possible for the collective prosperity of all!

Africa Day 2018: Leveraging on our strengths to drive transformational change

Africa Day 2018: Leveraging on our strengths to drive transformational change

As we celebrate Africa Day 2018, let this be the start of accelerated progress to energise us to leverage the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement and beat hunger, malnutrition, youth unemployment, poverty and climate vulnerability.

Africa Day on 25 May 2018 is an opportunity to reinforce one of the most critical pillars of our continent; one of our roots as a people: continental unity. Envisioned by our founding fathers over half a decade ago, it was on this day in 1963 that the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner to the AU, was founded. This was meant to be the embodiment of a united Africa, the vessel for delivering shared continental prosperity, achievable only through a united Africa.

Why “united”?

One of my favourite African proverbs proclaims: “Cross the river in a crowd, and the crocodile won’t eat you.” Today, the river to an economically inclusive and prosperous Africa is filled with fierce crocodiles: mothers burying their 5-year-old children for lack of food; more than 240 million people going to bed hungry; up to 12 million young people joining the labour market each year to compete for just 3 million jobs – and the number projected to reach over 350 million in less than 17 years, competing for far fewer jobs, a situation that some are describing as a ticking time bomb; our youth – the embodiment of Africa’s sovereign capital, the tip of the spear, the change-makers of Africa socioeconomic transformation – currently wallowing in hopelessness and despair, risking all – life, limb and dignity – to cross the treacherous Mediterranean Sea in search of elusive greener pastures overseas. In the process, many are swallowed up by the Mediterranean. Others are held captive under inhumane conditions and sold in modern-day slave markets.

And then there is climate change – the elephant in the room – projected to shrink the economies of developing countries – most of which are in Africa – by a whopping 75%. And robbing the content of the little income it currently generates. 

These crocodiles are fierce. The only way we can defeat them is by adopting a new paradigm; one premised on collectivism rather than individualism; on selflessness rather than selfishness; on commitment rather than treachery and disloyalty; on synergy and complementarity rather than silos; on leveraging human capital – the skills, talents, ongoing initiatives, passion, energy, commitment of our youth and the entire collective of our people – as the most critical ingredient of development, rather than putting money first. These are the essentials of what I call “innovative volunteerism”.

On 21 March 2018, African heads of state and government demonstrated commitment and collectivism to sign the ground-breaking Africa Continental Free Trade Area. This agreement is set to consolidate a 1,2 billion-strong market with a combined GDP of over US$2,3 trillion. It is projected to increase intra-Africa trade, currently at a mere 12%, the lowest of all continents globally, by a whopping 52% by 2022 – taking it to 70%.

Read: Africa Day: Youth participation, the power is in our hands

Rural farmers in Binga, northern Zimbabwe, welcome the AusAID Program team into their village. Photo:Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

This agreement puts at our disposal a 300 million-strong middle class representing a US$150 billion agro-market. Coupled with our abundant sunshine – free energy – this is fuel for the creation of clean energy-powered agro-value addition industries that can create up to 17 million diverse jobs – from agriculture, to ICT, finance, energy and transport/logistics, to name just a few. It can fuel the creation of a US$1 trillion agro-industrial sector on the continent in less than 12 years from today. It will totally vanquish the crocodiles of hunger, malnutrition, youth unemployment, poverty and climate vulnerability that are endlessly stalking the continent.

The agreement also contained a protocol on the free movement of people. The dream of an African passport – the epitome of our identity as Africans – is within reach.

But achieving this calls for a paradigm shift. A common excuse used to justify underdevelopment on the continent is that African countries are still “young nations”; “young civilizations”. Truth is, age does not matter. What really matters is the mind-set of the people. As citizens of this planet, we must always know that our skills, commitment, talent, ongoing initiatives and sense of responsibility are our greatest resources with which to transform countries and continent – not only upfront financing. We must know that we have what it takes and that we must start with what we have – and not only depend on the benevolence of others. Failing to take leadership and responsibility can never be substituted. This mind-set change is urgently needed in Africa today. 

Some of the African leaders at the United Nations climate change conference Photo: COP21

It is a change from individualism to collectivism; from silos to complementarity and synergy; from treasuring money to pricing human capital. Where the skills, experiences, talents, plans and ongoing initiatives of diverse complementary stakeholders – state and non-state; individual and institutional – are engaged in mutual partnerships towards the common end-goal of sustainably industrialising our agriculture, using clean energy. Agriculture is Africa’s catalytic area and the engine of development. This is a break from traditional approaches premised on upfront financing of silo development projects.

Read: Africa Day 2017: Context, Consciousness, Action (Not Dividends)

Thankfully, we are comforted by what we see happening across Africa, where, from the coastlines of west Africa to the highlands of east Africa to the savannahs of southern Africa and across all the regions of the continent, this mind-set change is gradually taking root. With it, transformative climate action is becoming visible. Many people are taking the initiative, demonstrating tangible leadership. They are doing it themselves through the inclusive policy framework called the Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA). They are doing it not because they have money but because of passion and a commitment to a cause bigger than themselves. This is a remarkable moment. We must not wish it away but build on this moment to drive truly great transformational climate action for ourselves and those yet to be born. Through EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism many are finding connections and common cause – across languages, cultures and borders. This is so because our destinies are all inextricably linked and there is more that unites us than divides us. We must join hands to drive transformational change for people and planet, because that is the only way we can ensure no one is left behind.

So, let Africa Day 2018 energise us to leverage the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement and beat the fierce crocodiles of hunger, malnutrition, youth unemployment, poverty and climate vulnerability.

As we celebrate Africa Day 2018, let this be the start of accelerated progress in building the shining city on the hill, which is the Africa we deserve. It starts with you. It starts with knowing what you can do with the skills, talents, ongoing initiatives and networks you have.

For a copy of Dr Munang’s book, Making Africa work through the power of innovative volunteerism, follow this link:

https://www.authorhouse.co.uk/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001182104

Educationalizing and institutionalizing reforms for energy uptake in Africa

Educationalizing and institutionalizing reforms for energy uptake in Africa

With favorable educational and institutional reforms, the potential in Africa’s budding energy sector can be unleashed and leveraged to enhance sustainable and inclusive growth in the continent. Only by doing this can Africa ensure an economic freedom and its assertive place and space in the global arena

The cost of electricity in Africa is estimated at 3 times more than that in the USA and Europe, and frequent power shortages cost African economies 1 – 4% in lost GDP annually. This severe shortage is undermining efforts to achieve more rapid social and economic development. As the Sustainable Development Goals replace the Millennium Development Goals in less the 90 days, there is an urgent imperative to look at what needs to be done to reverse this spiral trend, as well as to adapt to climate change and spur inclusive economic growth for all.

Fossil Fuels vs Renewables: a Cost Perspective

Fossil-fuel based power generation represents the single largest source of electricity generation in Africa. However, fossil fuels are the most expensive means for generating electricityThis high cost is reflected at community level. While kerosene lighting systems cost households USD 4–15 per month to run, renewable sources are increasingly economically feasible. At a national level, the cost of fossil fuels is tremendous. For instance, in 2010, African countries imported USD 18 billion worth of oil, a figure more than the entire amount Africa received in foreign aid. In this context, the implication of instituting renewables is massive cost savings to African economies. 

A barman preparing drinks by candle light during a rolling blackout in Johannesburg, South Africa. Image: Kim Ludbrook, EPA
A barman preparing drinks by candle light during a rolling blackout in Johannesburg, South Africa. Image: Kim Ludbrook, EPA

Leapfrogging Africa to the Clean Energy Model: a Financial and Climate Imperative

Decarbonizing Africa’s energy and inclusive socio-economic growth are not mutually exclusive. The current low installed capacity represents an opportunity to leapfrog Africa into the clean energy model with zero or minimal transition costs. Just as Africa managed to skip past reliance on landlines and leapfrogged straight to mobile phone use, so it can entirely leapfrog fossil fuel reliance currently targeted for phase out by 2100, as advocated by the UN. It is projected that energy de-carbonization globally could result in net energy savings of USD 71 trillion by 2050. 

Ecologically, a transition to clean energy provides huge savings through the prevention of significant air, soil and water pollution, and avoids ecological degradation by conserving ecosystems. While Africa’s emissions are negligible, the 2015 Africa Adaptation gap reports that Africa is projected to suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change, primarily because its key economic sectors — among them energy, agriculture and tourism— are highly climate sensitive. With adaptation costs for Africa projected to rise to USD 100 billion by 2050 under a  20C window, taking steps to curtail any future emissions will be in the continent’s self interest. Putting all this in perspective, it becomes clear that a clean energy future makes sense for the African continent.

Smog in Cape Town. Image: Cape Town Government
Smog in Cape Town. Image: Cape Town Government

The Role of Educational and Institutional Reform for Renewables Uptake: An Urgent Policy Imperative 

In Africa, it is not necessarily a lack of ideas or innovations, but rather the enabling environment for implementation. Adequately empowered human capacity to seize opportunities in green energy, as well as institutionalizing best practice, is an area that will need to be fostered if the continent is to actualize a carbon free energy future and accelerate inclusive economic growth. 

Revolutionalising Africa’s Education: A Fit for Purpose Necessity

Lack of skilled manpower has limited the success of renewable energy technology (RET) development in the continent. Africa’s higher education system needs to be reformed to be more inclusive, and align to contemporary opportunities in sectors such as renewable energy, while not compromising on the competitiveness of its scholars. Ideologically, Africa’s education system must be reformed to be Africa-centered and globally competitive — adapting best global practice to solve the continent’s challenges, while also creating products and services for export to the world markets.

 The lack of alignment of the education sector to contemporary areas is limiting the employability of African graduates. It is documented that most educated people in Africa confront a mismatch between their training and available opportunities. In South Africa, for instance, firms report 600,000 vacancies, while 800,000 young university graduates are unemployedSpecifically in the RE sector, Africa is losing out in this budding sector because there are “very few” African higher institutions offering renewable energy programmes. Appropriate education sector reforms will be vital in expanding skills and training in this area to ensure adequate human capacity. This will incentivize private sector investment, seeing that adequately skilled labor is a key prerequisite to attracting investments.

Curriculum Reform

Education curricula across the continent need to be reformed to reflect an African ideology; contextualized to Africa’s accurate history and circumstances, Africa-centric, centered on solving the continent’s contemporary challenges, while technically benchmarking against global best practices, thus becoming globally competitive. Universities and colleges should introduce programmes that directly contribute to solving contemporary developmental challenges, such as infrastructure and healthcare deficits, with the social sciences and arts building the right mental attitude to enable Africans define an intellectual cause for their education. 

Image: World Bank
Image: World Bank

Education Finance Reform

National governments as well as the private sector should come up with scholarship and grant policies that ensure financing is targeting programmes that reflect the greatest developmental needs for countries and business so as to attract students to these programmes and ensure adequate and skilled manpower to confront these challenges. Private sector participation fosters sustainability of such initiatives. For instance, companies in Africa are offering corporate scholarships to outstanding students to study in fields relevant to their business.

Policies Restructuring Tertiary Institutions’ Research and Capacity Building

At a tertiary level, there is a need for policies that promote continuous improvement in the quality of training and research. Institutions of higher learning should institute policies that promote continuous capacity building of the academic staff. These can be policies offering periodic grants for fellowships to top universities across the globe, policies governing institutional collaborations with benchmarked global universities as well as academic exchange programmes. To promote research, institutions can formulate policies paving way for external research funding. These can be through partnerships with the government, private sector, NGO sector or with other research oriented academic institutions.  

Creating an Enabling Institutional Environment  

Lack of institutional capacity for Africa’s RE sector is reported as disadvantaging progress in this sector.

Tax Waivers for RE Technologies

Government should develop policies zero-rating taxes on all necessary imported RE technologies, including relevant equipment, tools, spares etc. This will spur the development of institutions, industries and enterprises around this ecosystem and along its value chain. Examples of tax based incentives to accelerate renewables can be cited globally. In the USA, the state of Washington has constituted several tax incentives for manufacturers, research and development firms, and certain high technology companies intended to spur growth and job creation in sectors including renewables.

Mobilizing Sources for Funding Africa’s Renewable Energy Development

While education and institutions are paramount, financing these developments is central. The cost of financing Africa’s energy development as a function of time and population growth to year 2040 is astronomical. It is projected that the region will require investment of up to USD 490 billion by 2040, for new electricity generation capacity alone. An aggressive focus on renewables will require 31% additional investment by 2040, but result in 35% higher installed capacity base. Factoring in transmission and distribution costs of USD 345 billion over the same period yields a total cumulative capital requirement of up to USD 800 billion by 2040. This could translate to about USD 32billion annually. In light of diminishing official development assistance (ODA) (as share of total external financing, declined from 38% in 2000 to 27% in 2014) to the continent, the need to look internally and consider domestic fund mobilization to leverage international support as part of long term financing is increasingly becoming an attractive option.

Bottom Line

With favorable educational and institutional reforms, the potential in Africa’s budding energy sector can be unleashed and leveraged to enhance sustainable and inclusive growth in the continent. Only by doing this can Africa ensure an economic freedom and its assertive place and space in the global arena.

Climate change and the challenges in the Sahel

Climate change and the challenges in the Sahel

Effective climate action can turn challenges in the Sahel into opportunities, say Dr Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi

An effective response to climate change in the Sahel is long overdue. The vulnerability of this region cannot be overstated, with temperature increases here projected to be 1,5 times higher than for the rest of the globe. The increase will exacerbate the effects of climate change, which is projected to deplete the Sahelian GDP by up to 10%. This will compound an already precarious socioeconomic scenario, with food and nutritional insecurity affecting 30 million people and poverty affecting 50% of the population. In addition, young people make up 75% of the population but they lack income and job opportunities – job seekers exceed the available opportunities by an estimated 10 to 1. The unlucky ones become part of the familiar story of the Mediterranean Sea: Nearly 50% of migrants who died on the central Mediterranean route from Africa to Europe in 2015 were from the Sahel region. The region’s response to climate change must therefore accelerate socioeconomic transformation that will ultimately ensure food security, creating income and wealth opportunities and expand macroeconomic growth.

Sustainable agriculture-led industrialisation as the strategic thrust for climate action

The UN Environment Facilitated Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) policy implementation framework provides a paradigm shift that could see climate action act as an accelerator of socioeconomic transformation in Africa. It is of central importance that the productivity of Africa’s catalytic sectors – which the Sahel shares in plenty – is maximised. These are the sectors in which the Sahel holds a comparative advantage in resources. Such sectors are economically inclusive and accessible to create income for most of the people, and they can create these socioeconomic opportunities at the same time as ensuring climate resilience. Accordingly, sustainable, ecosystems based adaptation (EBA)-driven agriculture and clean energy stand out. To maximise productivity, developments in these sectors should be amalgamated – as opposed to them being developed in sectorial silos, as has historically been done. We must generate synergy to build sustainable industries around these two sectors (agriculture and clean energy), ensuring that returns go beyond the environment to include social, economic and financial benefits. The focus on these sectors has been endorsed at the highest policy level on the continent, namely the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). These sectors also feature prominently in the AU Agenda 2063. They also constitute up to 80% of Africa’s commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement – officially referred to as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The Sahel region in Africa: a belt up to 1,000 km (620 mi) wide that spans the 5,400 km (3,360 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Photo-map CC BY-SA 3.0

The Sahelian countries are not only part of the AU and AMCEN but also of the Paris Agreement: 85% of them have ratified it. As is the case with the rest of the continent, prioritising clean energy developments, such as solar, in which the Sahel is bountifully resourced, is one of the leading commitments. The other is sustainable, nature-based agriculture, which is compatible with the approaches used by smallholder farmers, who produce nearly all the food in the region.

Proof of the efficacy of focusing on EBA and clean energy as the drivers of climate action can already be found in the Sahel.

Proof of the efficacy of focusing on EBA and clean energy as the drivers of climate action can already be found in the Sahel. Niger rehabilitated 300 000 hectares of crusted and barren land by promoting simple soil and water conservation techniques, such as zai traditional planting pits, contour stone bunds, half-moons and stone bunding. The Word Bank acknowledges that zai, a native, cheap and accessible EBA technology widely used by countries in the Sahel, enhances soil structure, water retention capacity and organic content. Zai reverses degradation and can increase yields by up to 500%, with minimal fertiliser use, hence reducing fertilizer-related emissions and costs.

Read: Why clashes are on the rise between farmers and herdsmen in the Sahel

A group of women farmers using solar-powered micro-irrigation in Benin has increased their socioeconomic standard of living by 80%. Yields have increased by 100% and water savings by 40% to 80% relative to conventional irrigation systems. This means that socioeconomic and climate benefits have been achieved simultaneously. In the northern part of Kenya, which shares climate and environmental context with the Sahel, processing enterprises that target the aloe plant, an indigenous, drought-resistant crop, is not only restoring degraded land to ensure climate adaptation but is resulting in viable enterprises, recording a net present value of up to US$4 000. Through such sustainable industry, the Sahel will not only restore its degraded lands but ensure food security and create income and job opportunities.

Market-driven incentives

Production and processing alone is not enough. What is produced needs to be competitive in today’s market-driven economies to ensure that such sustainable agro-industry can weather market forces. The recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) represents the most robust market enabler so far. It is set to consolidate a market of 1,2 billion people, with a combined GDP of over US$3,4 trillion. Turning this deal into a market pull factor for sustainable agro-industry in the Sahel is an urgent imperative. 

African leaders meet in Kigali to sign the continent’s free trade agreement.
Paul Kagame/Flickr

Already, the UN Environment, through EBAFOSA, is supporting countries to establish market quality standards that will regularise processes, products and services along the EBA-driven, agriculture-led, clean-energy powered agro-industrialisation continuum. This is being achieved through the “EBAFOSA compliance standard”, a quality standard that will be applied in all 40 countries across Africa. The efficacy of this standard is that it builds on already existing approved standards within countries and across Africa by merging them into one consolidated standard. Through this standard, certified agro-produce in the Sahel will compete on a quality par for the local consumer market. This standard will also open a US$ 150 billion consolidated continental market for Sahelian produce. As the AfCFTA takes root, this standard provides a practical mechanism by which the AfCFTA market benefits can be domesticated to fuel the growth of such sustainable industry in the Sahel.

Read: Climate action is everyone’s business

Financial innovation to drive the catalytic area

Annual remittances from the Diaspora to the Sahel exceed US$20 billion. How the remittances can be leveraged to finance investment in sustainable agro-industry in the Sahel is critical. The answer lies in risk-sharing facilities, where some of this money is invested to de-risk enterprises engaged in the sustainable agro-industrialisation continuum and attract private sector financing for these enterprises. Such risk-sharing facilities build on the concept behind the Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing Facility for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). Through NIRSAL, an investment of Naira 45 billion in public sources unlocked 10 times that amount – up to Naira 450 billion – in private finance. Channeling just 50% of these Diaspora remittances could unlock up to US$100 billion in market-driven financing for these sustainable agro-industrialisation enterprises. The monies could be targeted at incentivising farmer cooperatives to finance the acquisition of clean energy systems by members so that they can add value to what they produce, earn more and repay their debt to the cooperative. This would create a virtuous cycle of sustainable financing of transformative climate action at community level in the Sahel.

File picture: Feed the Future Kenya AVCD Regional County Launch and County field tours Photo Credit Flickr

Policy innovations that would boost catalytic sectors

Driving transformative climate action through sustainable, clean energy-powered industrialisation will require that policies across relevant ministries be implemented in a complementary manner. For example, energy policies on the decentralisation of clean energy will need to be implemented in tandem with agriculture policies on climate-smart agriculture approaches to ensure that these energy infrastructure investments target the areas where climate-smart agriculture is practiced to power such farms. Agriculture needs to work with transport infrastructure to ensure that what is produced can be efficiently linked to markets to maximise incomes. Agriculture needs to work with trade to secure markets for what is produced. The resultant sustainable agro-industrialisation will mean not only food security and restored degraded lands but also enterprises, income savings and job opportunities to enhance the quality of life for ordinary citizens. It will position climate action as a solution to illegal immigration, which is a global challenge. Countries in the Sahel are already on track to bring about this coherence in policy implementation through the EBAFOSA interagency policy taskforces.

Conclusion

Given the multiplicity of socioeconomic and climate challenges that need to be solved, the region needs to be strategic. It will take a divestment from socially driven development financing to a new paradigm of market-driven investment financing. It will, in fact, be an investment in the people of the Sahel and the diversity of the skills, talents and ongoing work they represent.

Climate change and the challenges in the Sahel

Climate change and the challenges in the Sahel

An effective response to climate change in the Sahel is long overdue. The vulnerability of this region cannot be overstated, with temperature increases here projected to be 1,5 times higher than for the rest of the globe. The increase will exacerbate the effects of climate change, which is projected to deplete the Sahelian GDP by up to 10%. This will compound an already precarious socioeconomic scenario, with food and nutritional insecurity affecting 30 million people and poverty affecting 50% of the population. In addition, young people make up 75% of the population but they lack income and job opportunities – job seekers exceed the available opportunities by an estimated 10 to 1. The unlucky ones become part of the familiar story of the Mediterranean Sea: Nearly 50% of migrants who died on the central Mediterranean route from Africa to Europe in 2015 were from the Sahel region. The region’s response to climate change must therefore accelerate socioeconomic transformation that will ultimately ensure food security, creating income and wealth opportunities and expand macroeconomic growth.

Sustainable agriculture-led industrialisation as the strategic thrust for climate action

The UN Environment Facilitated Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) policy implementation framework provides a paradigm shift that could see climate action act as an accelerator of socioeconomic transformation in Africa. It is of central importance that the productivity of Africa’s catalytic sectors – which the Sahel shares in plenty – is maximised. These are the sectors in which the Sahel holds a comparative advantage in resources. Such sectors are economically inclusive and accessible to create income for most of the people, and they can create these socioeconomic opportunities at the same time as ensuring climate resilience. Accordingly, sustainable, ecosystems based adaptation (EBA)-driven agriculture and clean energy stand out. To maximise productivity, developments in these sectors should be amalgamated – as opposed to them being developed in sectorial silos, as has historically been done. We must generate synergy to build sustainable industries around these two sectors (agriculture and clean energy), ensuring that returns go beyond the environment to include social, economic and financial benefits. The focus on these sectors has been endorsed at the highest policy level on the continent, namely the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). These sectors also feature prominently in the AU Agenda 2063. They also constitute up to 80% of Africa’s commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement – officially referred to as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The Sahel region in Africa: a belt up to 1,000 km (620 mi) wide that spans the 5,400 km (3,360 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Photo-map CC BY-SA 3.0

The Sahelian countries are not only part of the AU and AMCEN but also of the Paris Agreement: 85% of them have ratified it. As is the case with the rest of the continent, prioritising clean energy developments, such as solar, in which the Sahel is bountifully resourced, is one of the leading commitments. The other is sustainable, nature-based agriculture, which is compatible with the approaches used by smallholder farmers, who produce nearly all the food in the region.

Proof of the efficacy of focusing on EBA and clean energy as the drivers of climate action can already be found in the Sahel.

Proof of the efficacy of focusing on EBA and clean energy as the drivers of climate action can already be found in the Sahel. Niger rehabilitated 300 000 hectares of crusted and barren land by promoting simple soil and water conservation techniques, such as zai traditional planting pits, contour stone bunds, half-moons and stone bunding. The Word Bank acknowledges that zai, a native, cheap and accessible EBA technology widely used by countries in the Sahel, enhances soil structure, water retention capacity and organic content. Zai reverses degradation and can increase yields by up to 500%, with minimal fertiliser use, hence reducing fertilizer-related emissions and costs.

Read: Why clashes are on the rise between farmers and herdsmen in the Sahel

A group of women farmers using solar-powered micro-irrigation in Benin has increased their socioeconomic standard of living by 80%. Yields have increased by 100% and water savings by 40% to 80% relative to conventional irrigation systems. This means that socioeconomic and climate benefits have been achieved simultaneously. In the northern part of Kenya, which shares climate and environmental context with the Sahel, processing enterprises that target the aloe plant, an indigenous, drought-resistant crop, is not only restoring degraded land to ensure climate adaptation but is resulting in viable enterprises, recording a net present value of up to US$4 000. Through such sustainable industry, the Sahel will not only restore its degraded lands but ensure food security and create income and job opportunities.

Market-driven incentives

Production and processing alone is not enough. What is produced needs to be competitive in today’s market-driven economies to ensure that such sustainable agro-industry can weather market forces. The recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) represents the most robust market enabler so far. It is set to consolidate a market of 1,2 billion people, with a combined GDP of over US$3,4 trillion. Turning this deal into a market pull factor for sustainable agro-industry in the Sahel is an urgent imperative. 

African leaders meet in Kigali to sign the continent’s free trade agreement.
Paul Kagame/Flickr

Already, the UN Environment, through EBAFOSA, is supporting countries to establish market quality standards that will regularise processes, products and services along the EBA-driven, agriculture-led, clean-energy powered agro-industrialisation continuum. This is being achieved through the “EBAFOSA compliance standard”, a quality standard that will be applied in all 40 countries across Africa. The efficacy of this standard is that it builds on already existing approved standards within countries and across Africa by merging them into one consolidated standard. Through this standard, certified agro-produce in the Sahel will compete on a quality par for the local consumer market. This standard will also open a US$ 150 billion consolidated continental market for Sahelian produce. As the AfCFTA takes root, this standard provides a practical mechanism by which the AfCFTA market benefits can be domesticated to fuel the growth of such sustainable industry in the Sahel.

Read: Climate action is everyone’s business

Financial innovation to drive the catalytic area

Annual remittances from the Diaspora to the Sahel exceed US$20 billion. How the remittances can be leveraged to finance investment in sustainable agro-industry in the Sahel is critical. The answer lies in risk-sharing facilities, where some of this money is invested to de-risk enterprises engaged in the sustainable agro-industrialisation continuum and attract private sector financing for these enterprises. Such risk-sharing facilities build on the concept behind the Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing Facility for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). Through NIRSAL, an investment of Naira 45 billion in public sources unlocked 10 times that amount – up to Naira 450 billion – in private finance. Channeling just 50% of these Diaspora remittances could unlock up to US$100 billion in market-driven financing for these sustainable agro-industrialisation enterprises. The monies could be targeted at incentivising farmer cooperatives to finance the acquisition of clean energy systems by members so that they can add value to what they produce, earn more and repay their debt to the cooperative. This would create a virtuous cycle of sustainable financing of transformative climate action at community level in the Sahel.

File picture: Feed the Future Kenya AVCD Regional County Launch and County field tours Photo Credit Flickr

Policy innovations that would boost catalytic sectors

Driving transformative climate action through sustainable, clean energy-powered industrialisation will require that policies across relevant ministries be implemented in a complementary manner. For example, energy policies on the decentralisation of clean energy will need to be implemented in tandem with agriculture policies on climate-smart agriculture approaches to ensure that these energy infrastructure investments target the areas where climate-smart agriculture is practiced to power such farms. Agriculture needs to work with transport infrastructure to ensure that what is produced can be efficiently linked to markets to maximise incomes. Agriculture needs to work with trade to secure markets for what is produced. The resultant sustainable agro-industrialisation will mean not only food security and restored degraded lands but also enterprises, income savings and job opportunities to enhance the quality of life for ordinary citizens. It will position climate action as a solution to illegal immigration, which is a global challenge. Countries in the Sahel are already on track to bring about this coherence in policy implementation through the EBAFOSA interagency policy taskforces.

Conclusion

Given the multiplicity of socioeconomic and climate challenges that need to be solved, the region needs to be strategic. It will take a divestment from socially driven development financing to a new paradigm of market-driven investment financing. It will, in fact, be an investment in the people of the Sahel and the diversity of the skills, talents and ongoing work they represent.

Calling Africa’s youth to action

Calling Africa’s youth to action

The youth represents Africa’s now, not just Africa’s tomorrow. Young people must wear the crown of leadership today, as the change-makers of today and tomorrow and as future leaders. It is time for young people to step up to the plate and not shy away from taking responsibility and receiving the baton of driving Africa’s development in a positive spirit.

This might seem like a daunting task, but we must remember that “he who fears the sun will not become chief”. This is how you earn your stripes as responsible leaders. And then, to your determined actions, add selflessness, not selfishness. Add collectivism, not individualism. Add synergy and complementarity; not thinking in isolated silos; leveraging on your skills and building on ongoing work; not being primarily driven by financial reward or falling for whoever parades the most of it.

As you move forward, be guided by the words of Martin Luther King Junior, who said that life’s most urgent and persistent question was, what are you doing for others.

Do not dare stop at your dreams

As the biggest stakeholders in Africa’s future, dreaming – and dreaming big – for Africa is what all of you should do. And do not dare stop at your dreams – arise from slumber, roll up your sleeves, create the dreams and make them happen. You are endowed by our creator with inherent capacity to dream and create your dreams. And by doing so, take leadership in transforming Africa to be at the apex of global development, where it ought to be. The message is simple. It is time to passionately engage in innovative volunteerism.

Read: The future of Africa rests with the youth

File picture: A primary school student decodes letters. The Gambia GPE/Dan Petrescu Photo: Globalpartnership

The world may seem to be in a terrible mess today, but what I have learned has shown me that there is hope. Hopelessness destroys the will to live. It is only by holding onto hope, and promoting hope in others, that we can change Africa and the world.

My personal story

I was not born into wealth and opportunity. I grew up herding goats in my village and the only hope and inspiration was provided by my parents, who believed everyone’s dreams were valid and, through hard work and perseverance, they could be realised. I went to school without shoes but the message was simple: with hard work, passion and perseverance, there can be a better tomorrow.

Read: Slogans for a doomed African youth?

When I finished university, I did one year of volunteering to gain skills. Through perseverance, I won a scholarship to study at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Later I attended Harvard University Kennedy School of Government to pursue an Executive Education on Climate Change and Energy Policy Making. This experience taught me a lot of what I share with you today. The first is this: Never be afraid to dream big. Secondly, dreaming is not enough; to achieve anything, you must apply discipline and consistency every day. Set goals and plan every day. Work hard every day. Thirdly, never forget that how much you have is what you do with what you have. Finally, do not just aspire to make a living; always aspire to make a difference. It is now the turn of all the young people of Africa to make their own effort. Most of us have the blessing of an education – and knowledge is power. Use your knowledge and your pens to promote hope and change Africa and the world. Write about Africa. Tweet about Africa. Always know that the difference between “impossible” and “possible” lies in one word: determination. Let’s seize the moment!

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement – making it count for people and planet

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement – making it count for people and planet

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, coupled with the implementation of the EBAFOSA Compliance Standards, offers Africa an opportunity like never before, says Dr Richard Munang.

“Speak softly and carry a big stick, then you will go far.” This amusing African proverb captures what African heads of state and government did on 21 March 2018. With the stroke of a pen, they signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) deal, which some pundits have characterised as the largest free trade agreement since the World Trade Organization. This signing comes at an opportune moment, given the compounded socioeconomic challenges facing the African continent.

Africa’s reality check

Amidst the pomp and ceremony in Kigali, unanswered questions continue to confront these African heads. They are, after all, leaders on a continent where mothers lose their young children because of the lack of adequate nutritious food and more than 240 million people go to bed hungry every day. It is a continent of low economic productivity – an estimated 2000% lower than that of developed regions – primarily due to the lack of value addition to commodities for which the region holds a comparative advantage. For example, the continent earns a mere 10% of the total extractable value from its agro-value chains due to low value addition. In the cocoa value chain, where the largest producer is in Africa, of the over US$100 billion in revenue made from chocolates alone, Africa receives a dismal 2%. This means that US$98 billion of potential revenue and jobs are lost.

Related to low productivity is unemployment. As much as 12 million young people join the labour market every year to compete for just 3 million jobs – and this number is projected to reach more than 350 million competing for far fewer jobs in less than 17 years from today – a situation that some have described as a ticking time bomb. Our youthful population, which ought to be Africa’s greatest asset, is wallowing in hopelessness and despair. No wonder they risk their lives to migrate to other continents, where they believe their chances of employment to be better.

Another of the tough challenges facing these African leaders is climate change, which is projected to shrink the economies of developing countries (most of which are in Africa) by a massive 75%. This would rob the continent of what little income it currently generates.

Is AfCFTA our machete?

Another African proverb proclaims, “The path does not close for a man with a machete.”AfCFTA, already signed by 44 of the 55 AU countries and targeted to come into force by the end of 2018, has the potential to act as Africa’s machete. It is set to consolidate a 1,2 billion-people-strong market with a combined GDP of more than US$2,3 trillon. Other estimates put this figure at over US$3,4 trillion. It is projected to increase intra-Africa trade (currently at a mere 12%, the lowest of all the continents), by a whopping 52% – taking it to about 70% by 2022. This is an ambitious figure, one that is higher than trade within the EU, currently the highest globally, at 65%.

Institutions will play a key role in climate change adaptation in Africa. Photo credit: Flickr/CGIAR Climate

AfCFTA also contains a protocol on the free movement of people, which aims to consolidate labour opportunities across the continent and ward off the brain drain. Currently the brain drain is estimated to be an exodus of about 33% of our skilled people for better chances overseas. AfCFTA could change this to become the transfer of talent across the continent’s internal borders.

Read:  Why Africa’s free trade area offers so much promise

At a glance, this agreement is set to create much needed demand to drive local manufacturing and industrialisation across the continent on a scale never seen before. Of particular importance is the industrialisation of agriculture, Africa’s strategic development sector prioritised at the highest level by the African Union. Our continent has a rapidly expanding middle class – it currently stands at 300 million people and represents a local market for value-added agro-produce worth US$150 billion annually. Africa’s overall consumer spending is projected to reach US$1,4 trillion by 2020, while business-to-business spending (including in agriculture and its ancillary sectors) is projected to be US$3,5 trillion by 2025. Food markets are projected to be worth US$1 trillion by 2030.

With AfCFTA and the trillion-dollar opportunities it presents, Africa is set to wear the global trade crown. But the million-dollar question is how AfCFTA, and the market opportunities it presents, will translate into food-secure homes, increased economic productivity, wealth and income for the continent’s youth and its citizens in general, and reduced climate vulnerabilities. This is the big question that remains as the festivities of the signing ceremony die down.

The crucial importance of a continental compliance standard

As important as AfCFTA opening up intra-Africa market opportunities is the need for compliance standards. Considering Africa’s disproportionate vulnerability to climate change, we need compliance standards to ensure that the process of producing, marketing and supplying does not compromise the integrity of the very ecosystems that underpin production in the first place. Such a compliance standard would ensure, for example, that attekke(processed cassava from Cote D’Ivoire) can be bought by a customer in a Kenyan supermarket knowing that it is pure, natural, non-chemicalised cassava that will never compromise consumer health. It must meet the highest quality standards and not damage any ecosystems in its production. The emissions emitted in its processing and marketing need to be tightly controlled. The same vigor should apply to the cassava bread from Nigeria that you may find at your local supermarket in South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Togo, Sierra Leone, Cameroon – the list goes on.

The need for such compliance standards that cover environmental, health and quality aspects as Africa seeks to sustainably industrialise through its agriculture was endorsed by Africa’s government ministers and policy makers at the 16th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in Libreville, Gabon, and was crystalised in the ground-breaking decision known as Investing in Innovative Environmental Solutions.

Read: Driving Transformational Change through Climate Action

To this end, UN Environment, working through the Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA), itself a creature of AMCEN, is supporting countries and helping them to adopt the EBAFOSA Compliance Standard. This standard evaluates agro-products along the entire supply chain – from on-farm production, to processing, to distribution and marketing – based on three criteria. The first criterion is Climate and Environment Compliance. This aims to ensure that nature-based approaches that enhance ecosystems are used at the primary production level to ensure ecosystems goods and services, like water, pollinators and healthy soils are protected and enhanced during production. It also aims to ensure that any processing is powered by clean energy, to minimise the risk of escalating emissions. Another aim is to ensure that marketing and supply chain processes are Information Communication Technology (ICT) enabled to reduce the high carbon footprint associated with conventional paper and physical processes.

The second criterion is Health Compliance. This aims to ensure that nature-based approaches and non-chemicalised inputs are used in production.

The third criterion is Quality and Safety Compliance. This covers quality and safety aspects along the entire production process and supply chain.

Rural farmers in Binga, northern Zimbabwe, welcome the AusAID Program team into their village. Photo:Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The domestication of the EBAFOSA Compliance Standard for enforcement by national standards regulators is ongoing in all the EBAFOSA member countries across Africa in the hope of creating an open market for healthy, quality, environmentally friendly agro-produce across the continent. This standard is setting the pace of consolidating the African agro-market for industrialisation to create jobs for our youth, expand the region’s economies, promote the health of our people by ensuring that only quality food ends up on people’s tables – all while mitigating carbon and enhancing ecosystems resilience to keep climate change at bay. 

The EBAFOSA Compliance Standards are the instrument that connects the dots so that there is a continuum from production to processing to market and to consumption. From an investment dividend perspective, the EBAFOSA Compliance Standards will be the biggest market incentive to bring to scale nature-based approaches, as well as clean energy uptake and climate action, while ensuring the wellbeing of people and planet.

As the implementation of AfCFTA gathers steam, the EBAFOSA Compliance Standards represent a ready tool to expedite the practical implementation of the deal in a manner that will accelerate Africa’s socioeconomic transformation while protecting the planet for ourselves and for those yet to be born. What more worthy cause can there be?

Building wealth and climate resilience in Africa provides opportunities for marketers

Building wealth and climate resilience in Africa provides opportunities for marketers

Africa has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty, and 60 percent of its youth is unemployed. The magnitude of the task of creating jobs and socioeconomic opportunities is clear, which is why it is such a tragedy that Africa produces what it does not consume, and consumes what is produced elsewhere.

For example, Kenya’s appetite for Chinese fish imports has hit Sh1 billion a year – and this comes at the expense of the local fishing industry. In total, while Kenya spent Sh320 billion on imports from China, it earned less than Sh5 billion exporting to Beijing. This is Sh315 billion worth of local industry, income and job opportunities lost in just one year.

This trade imbalance does not just exist with China alone. Shelves are stocked with products imported from outside the continent. “Made in Kenya” products are competing with products made in Japan, England, Mexico, India and in the EC.       

Threatening to compound this dire socioeconomic scenario is climate change, which is costing Kenya up to US$0,5 billion each year. This hamstrings long-term growth and is projected to escalate to an annual loss of 2,6% of GDP by 2030. This will further constrict and marketing opportunities – the entire economy, in fact.

The Kenyan scenario is replicated across the continent. While the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased since the 1990s and the continent needs to create at least 1 million jobs each year, the manufacturing of goods have stagnated. In addition, climate change threatens to lower economic productivity by up to 70 percent.

Marketers across the continent share the calamity of a shrinking local manufacturing base, global competition, climate-induced economic constriction and the resultant shrinkage of local enterprise opportunities. 

Marketing efforts must now be imagined in the context of building local manufacturing in the face of stiff global competition while simultaneously combating climate change to safeguard future economic growth and marketing opportunities.

Read: Africa becomes largest bloc in OPEC at a time when green energy is priority

Three cornerstones needed to unleash wealth creation

The first is that we need to focus our efforts on maximising the productivity of catalytic sectors. Africa holds a comparative advantage in certain sectors, which gives us a head start in building a globally competitive edge and creating globally competitive industries that will create opportunities locally. They are economically inclusive sectors that can engage a majority of the population. In addition to all these socioeconomic benefits, these sectors are also capable of combating climate change.

Accordingly, two sectors – clean energy and nature-based agriculture – stand out and have been endorsed at the highest level of continental climate and development policy at the African Union.

To maximise both the climate and socioeconomic benefits of these two sectors, policy makers concluded the need to amalgamate their development so that there will be complementarity as we work towards establishing sustainable, agriculture-led, clean energy-powered industrialisation. This as a strategic thrust as we work towards building a globally competitive industry; one that is projected to pump up to US$1 trillion into the regional economy and create no less than 17 million jobs along the entire clean energy powered agro-industrial value and supply chain.

Agriculture in Kenya by CIAT International Center for tropical Agriculture Photo Credit Flickr

As an example of how this strategic thrust can accelerate Kenya’s industrial development and create opportunities, the agriculture sector, which is the most inclusive sector and provides the livelihood of nearly 80% of Kenyans, loses up to US$500 million each year in post-harvest losses. This is due to the lack of adequate processing and value-addition enterprises. If clean energy was to be decentralised to such producers, these losses would be turned into Sh50 billion worth of jobs and income opportunities for marketers, for logisticians, for financiers, among many.

There are opportunities to create enterprises around this strategic paradigm of sustainable agriculture-led, clean energy-powered industrialisation. This is what would ensure, for instance, that the Sh1 billion spent on importing fish from China, is instead spent on buying “Made in Kenya” fish and fish products.           

The second cornerstone for wealth creation is leveraging on marketing automation. This refers to the application of technology and data analytics and big data to drive marketing efforts. Data, and the intelligent analysis thereof, enables marketers to put out hyper-personalised, highly contextualised customer experiences that lead to a conversion. Globally, according to a study published in Forbes magazine, 73 percent of marketing executives see artificial intelligence (AI) as critical to the future of marketing, while 63,5 percent believe that big data will be transformative for marketers in 2018 and beyond.

What this means is that the efforts of marketers to market such local produce and drive local sustainable agro-industrialisation must be centered on leveraging data technologies.

Mutually beneficial partnerships should work towards jointly tapping into the strategic opportunity that is the US$1 trillion African sustainable agro-industrialisation economy. 

The third cornerstone is implementation, and it is fundamentally important. To actualise the above, marketers need clean energy actors who can offer relevant power solutions. They need farmer entrepreneurs who maximise earnings from the farms by processing their produce rather than disposing it in raw form. They need ICT intervenors and statisticians, to enable them to crunch data on consumer behaviour and design targeted marketing campaigns that win over clients to consume local products. Mutually beneficial partnerships, where the limitations of one actor represents business prospects for another, should work towards jointly tapping into the strategic opportunity that is the US$1 trillion African sustainable agro-industrialisation economy. 

Read: Unlocking opportunities to scale up clean energy in Africa

In realising such partnerships, the UN Environment unit is facilitating an inclusive policy implementation action framework called the Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA). EBAFOSA is providing an inclusive convening framework. A multiplicity of actors – individual and institutional, state and non-state – are forging mutually beneficial, market-driven partnerships aimed at creating the US$1 trillion sustainable agro-industrialisation economy on the continent. While the UN Environment unit sees this as the strategic thrust to accelerate socioeconomic transformation and simultaneously combat climate change, the actors engaged are doing so to expand their business objectives and aims.

Lamu island seashore (Kenya). Photo: Wiki commons

In Kenya, for example, through EBAFOSA, a young electrical engineer with great interest in clean energy, is forging partnerships with a group of young ICT enthusiasts. The aim of this collaboration is to jointly develop an application that will conveniently link farmers who are interested in clean energy service providers to power the processing of their produce so that it fetches more on the market. In the process, they each get a cut from what the farmer pays.

A similar arrangement could be made in the fishing industry. It starts with a clearly defined mission to re-take and reclaim the lucrative fish market. In executing this mission, the first step is to improve the quality of local fish through processing. For this, the solution is to incentivise fishers to acquire clean-energy processing systems – especially solar driers and refrigerators – which are critical to enhancing the quality of their fish on the market.

Marketers must work with clean energy entrepreneurs and fish farmer representative organisations to create demand among local fishers for these clean energy equipment. For each piece of equipment sold, the marketer will make their money.

Photo: Creative Commons CC0.

Given that these clean energy systems are capital assets, affordable financing becomes another need area that is another opportunity for marketers. Here, marketers must work with financiers – especially cooperatives and micro-finance institutions – to develop and market favourable financing schemes that will enable the fisher folk to afford such clean energy systems.

Processed fish will need to be attractively packaged, which provides an opportunity to partner with packaging enterprises to design attractive packaging. The final product, the fish, will need to be marketed as superior in quality and health aspects. Having been organically raised in our natural rivers, lakes and oceans, marketers will once again need to work with standardising authorities and fishers, to formulate messages that will make local produce the preferred choice over Chinese imports.

Tapping into this new area as marketers will not be easy, but the success is sure to be worth the effort.

Experiences and perspective on how to drive climate action implementation in Africa

Experiences and perspective on how to drive climate action implementation in Africa

“A large chair does not make a king.” This African proverb tells us one thing: The Paris Climate Change Agreement, now ratified by 44 countries on the continent, must amount to more than promises, says Dr Richard Munang.

 The socioeconomic realities confronting the continent continue to escalate. Challenges range from food and nutritional insecurity – over  240 million people go to bed hungry and over 50% of our mothers lose children younger than the age of 5 to chronic malnutrition – to 1 million young people who are trying to enter the job market competing for just 25 000 jobs. This is a scenario that has been described by experts as “a ticking time bomb”.

The implementation of the Paris Climate Change agreement cannot be approached in ignorance of these sobering socioeconomic realities, especially given that while Africa is a negligible emitter of greenhouse gases, contributing a mere 3,6% of global net emissions, it is the most vulnerable globally to its effects.

While Africa is a negligible emitter of greenhouse gases, contributing a mere 3,6% of global net emissions, it is the most vulnerable globally to its effects.

The urgent question that must be answered now

The question that demands our answer is this: How can the implementation of signatory countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) be relevant to these most pressing needs and simultaneously ensure that NDCs actually drive the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which is the ultimate goal. The answer lies in focusing our actions on maximising the productivity of what we call ‘Africa’s catalytic sectors’. These are the sectors capable of creating socioeconomic opportunities for the majority while simultaneously enhancing ecosystems resilience and mitigating carbon in line with climate objectives in NDCs. Development in these important sectors has the potential to ensure that the beneficial outcomes of climate action were not only environmental, but social, economic and financial too. This is what will unbridle country-led, demand-driven actions to catalyse a real shift to the low emissions development pathway.

What it takes to plan and implement a country’s Nationally Determined Contributions

The planning and implementation of NDCs is a multi-stakeholder process. It needs to involve everybody, as section 5 of the Paris Climate Change Agreement clearly states. Engaging everyone by building on their existing strengths and on what is already ongoing in the country to bridge very specific gaps at both policy and operational level is the key. For example, countries are being supported, through an inclusive framework, to establish NDCs implementation policy decision tools that inform implementation trajectories that maximise both socioeconomic and climate aims simultaneously. These tools are bridging the science-policy gaps to ensure that any policy formulated to implement a given NDC priority is backed by rigorous analysis and simulations that will inform an optimal trajectory that will maximise both climate and socioeconomic aims, as well as investment.

Read: Cape Town hard hit by climate change

Practical examples

What is needed is collaborative action between policy makers and modelling scientists. In Mozambique, for instance, a team of modellers from the University of Eduardo Mondlane is working with policy makers from the Ministries of Environment and of Forestry, Agriculture and Energy to build on pre-existing models by combining them into an enhanced model that can forecast socioeconomic and climate impacts of two NDC priorities: irrigation and agro-forestry. The models will forecast the impact of achieving these priorities through the catalytic sectors of solar-powered micro-irrigation in agroforestry farms as compared to business-as-usual scenarios of diesel- or petrol-powered irrigation. Targeting the sectors of solar-powered micro-irrigation and agro-forestry will ensure that while food security and the incomes of communities are enhanced to ensure that Mozambique achieves its leading socioeconomic priorities, energy and land-based emissions are also reduced. 

Tea pickers in Kenya’s Mount Kenya region, for the Two Degrees Up project, to look at the impact of climate change on agriculture.
Image Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

In another example, Cameroon is using off-grid small-hydro to power the processing of cassava and Irish potato (which were grown sustainably and following the techniques of ecosystems-based agriculture) into varied product lines. These products are then linked to markets and supply chains across the country by using ICT mobile apps that are efficient and have a smaller carbon print than the conventional, non-digital paper processes. This integration is offsetting carbon both in energy generation and in the linking of products to supply chains. At the same time, it is building ecosystems resilience by incentivising the use of ecosystems-based-agriculture approaches. Over 500 women now have access to value-addition services and have enhanced their income stability and the food security of their community.

Read: Africa is feeling the heat: Turning the challenges of climate change into opportunities

Critical success factors and challenges

It is of crucial importance that we maximise the productivity of Africa’s catalytic sectors as we work towards our Nationally Determined Contributions. These catalytic sectors are those that are capable of creating socioeconomic opportunities for the majority while simultaneously enhancing ecosystems resilience and mitigating carbon, in line with climate objectives in NDCs.

Secondly, we must come up with innovative approaches to bridge policy and operational gaps towards maximizing productivity of the catalytic sectors mentioned above. 

Thirdlywe must leverage Africa’s greatest wealth – its human capital; its people, especially the 200 million young people – as the primary resource in driving the implementation of the NDCs. If used properly, the skills, talents, energy, passion and networks of Africa’s people – young and old alike – can bridge NDC implementation gaps. This represents a priceless resource; one that money can’t buy.

Fourthly, and most importantly, instead of kick-starting new initiatives we must build on the strengths of the inclusive, market-driven, mutually beneficial partnerships that already exist among complementary stakeholders. This has the added benefit of lowering operational risks because we would be building on established successes.       

The biggest challenge is that of duplication; where we have multiple parallel NDC initiatives on the continent. The duplication of efforts and an escalation of operational risks will result in lowered efficiency and reduced longer-term sustainability. We need to connect the dots – that is the DNA of transformational climate action that would ensure that no one is left behind.