Africa seeks investment for climate action

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit, a three-day precursor to the upcoming COP28 climate summit in the United Arab Emirates, has opened its doors in Nairobi. As the world gears up for critical climate negotiations, the summit has drawn leaders from the 54-nation African continent, all converging to sculpt a unified vision for Africa’s green development. In a region marked by political and economic diversity and one that faces severe vulnerabilities to climate change, this ambitious endeavour bears immense significance.

In his opening address, President William Ruto emphasised the gravity of the situation. “Delivering prosperity and wellbeing for Africa’s growing population without pushing the world deeper into climate disaster is not an abstract proposition, or mere wishful thinking. It is a real possibility, proven by science,” Ruto declared. He went on to underscore the overarching theme of the summit, stating, “The unparalleled opportunity that climate action represents for Africa cannot be overstated.”

Ruto’s words resonated with a resounding call to action, urging a shift in perspective. “For a very long time we have looked at this as a problem. It is time we flipped and looked at it from the other side,” he asserted. Ruto pointed out the transformative potential of green growth, not just as a climate imperative but also as a wellspring of multi-billion-dollar economic prospects for Africa and the world at large.

The President, echoing Kenya’s commitment, highlighted the potential for complete energy self-sufficiency through renewable resources and the ambitious target to be “100 percent renewable” by 2030. However, he stressed that international cooperation and financing were imperative to unblock the financial barriers facing the continent of 1.4 billion people while alleviating the mounting debt burden on African countries.

Joseph Nganga, Ruto’s appointee to head the summit, confidently asserted that this gathering would not only showcase Africa’s resilience but also its problem-solving capabilities. “Africa is not just a victim but a dynamic continent with solutions for the world,” Nganga affirmed.

Security measures have been tightened, and roads cordoned off around the summit venue in central Nairobi, where an impressive 30,000 attendees have registered to partake in the discourse.

Yet, formidable challenges persist. A draft version of the final declaration underscores Africa’s vast renewable energy potential, a burgeoning young workforce, and abundant natural resources, including vital reserves of cobalt, manganese, and platinum critical for energy storage and fuel cells.

However, hurdles loom large in a continent where hundreds of millions still lack access to electricity. Recent political turmoil, exemplified by the military takeover in Gabon and a coup in Niger, underscores the region’s fragility. Africa is also entangled in mounting debt costs and a paucity of financial resources.

Despite holding 60 percent of the world’s prime solar energy resources, Africa’s installed capacity is on par with that of Belgium, as highlighted in a commentary penned by Ruto and Fatih Birol, the chief of the International Energy Agency. Astonishingly, only approximately three percent of global energy investments are currently directed toward Africa.

Charra Tesfaye Terfassa from the think tank E3G emphasised the necessity for a balanced perspective at the summit, one that combines optimism with a realistic appraisal of the challenges. “Charting a new path for Africa to be a key part of the global conversation and benefit from the opportunities of the transition” is the imperative goal, according to Terfassa.

The Nairobi summit is poised to attract several African heads of state, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and other global leaders, setting the stage for vital discussions on the future of Africa’s green development and its role in the global climate dialogue.

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