Africa’s response to climate change must evolve with the times

Environmentalist drawn from East African Countries take part in a peaceful procession dubbed 'Climate March 2018' along the streets of Kisumu on November 28, 2018.Under the Devolution and Climate Change Adaption (DaCCA) program the environmentalist have called on the East African Community body to include the climate change actions in their programs and projects. PHOTO | ONDARI ORIGA

The United Nations Environment Programme released this week the Emissions Gap Report 2018, showing that the world’s original level of ambition needs to be tripled if we are to stay within 2°C warming, and increased around fivefold for a 1.5°C scenario.

A continuation of current trends will likely result in global warming of around 3.2°C by the end of the century, with continued temperature rises after that.

In the same vein, about two months ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the latest state of the science report on climate change, showing the globe is headed for a 1.5℃ warming sooner than was earlier projected. A 1.5℃ warming scenario is the threshold set by the Paris Agreement as the best insurance against an unravelling climate change impacts projected to spell doom for Africa, key among them, a devastating 75 percent shrinkage of economic productivity in developing countries, most of which are in Africa.

This latest report sends an unequivocal message of the urgent need to ratchet up actions across the entire globe.


Africa cannot afford to slack, as action, and only action, can turn the tides of climate impacts already being felt by many across the continent. We therefore need all hands on deck.

Non-state climate action is rapidly gaining traction globally as a goldmine for enterprise opportunities that grow economies while combating climate change. Africa cannot be left behind. As the African proverb goes ''wood already set alight, is not hard to set alight'', non-state climate action has proved that it is coming of age across the globe and Africa has demonstrated significant aptitude in tapping into this lucrative area. What we now need is strategic-level economic alignments that will rapidly upscale this paradigm like wildfire across the continent.


Since the most of adversities that Africa faces are economic, non-state climate action in Africa should be premised as a catalyst of enterprise opportunities that solve priority socioeconomic challenges accosting this continent.

Economic productivity in the continent is up to 20-times less than that of developed regions who are Africa’s competitors in global and regional markets. This is primarily due to lack of value addition to commodities for which the region holds a comparative advantage. With this, manufacturing has stagnated, accounting for an average of just 10 percent of GDP since the 1970s.

This adverse scenario is amplified by the fact that as the youngest continent with an escalating youth unemployment, Africa needs to create at least one million jobs every month, presenting an opportunity for which non-state climate actions should provide solutions, and by this, create country and continental demand that can prompt an upscale. For example, ensuring proceeds from the Nigerian green bond worth about Sh62.8 billion are invested in decentralising clean energy, a climate action – but strategically to power value addition in the cassava value chain – for which Nigeria holds the global comparative advantage as the largest producer, could see the country earn an extra Sh70.1 billion and save up to Sh350 billion of its foreign reserves currently expended on wheat importation, by maximising on cassava bread. This is in addition to creating up to three million jobs along the cassava value and supply chain.

Similar targeting in the continental agro-value chain will see the continent convert the current loses into Sh8.3 trillion $83 billion worth of income, job and food security opportunities every single year.

Non-state actions will remain elusive to the continent, unless practical implementation is fostered.


The role of policy cannot be overstated, and implementation needs non-state actors from various sectors to divest from operating in their sectorial silos and forge collaborative actions that deliver impactful solutions.

Policies derived from different sectors must also be implemented coherently and in synchrony, to enable non-state actors at the operational level to similarly harmonise their operations and deliver impactful solutions.

Kenya is already demonstrating the strength of such complementary policy actions in catalysing operational collaboration among non-state actors to deliver impactful solutions. The convergence of finance, clean energy and ICT policies has enabled non-state actors in telecommunications and clean energy to work collaboratively and create an enterprise – M-KOPA Solar, that is driving climate actions simultaneously with socioeconomic needs of bridging the energy gap.

To scale up this harmonisation in policy, the UN Environment is supporting countries across Africa to establish a policy taskforce that convene policy makers across complementary ministries, including environment, finance, energy, agriculture, among others, to work collaboratively in implementing country Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). By so doing, they similarly align non-state actors in these sectors to work collaboratively in tapping enterprise opportunities.


The continent can leverage on its’s sovereign capital, people (especially the over 200-million-strong youthful population), skills, talents, energy, passion and entrepreneurial spirit, as a key constituency through which non-state climate actions can be significantly scaled up, rather than premising fiscal resources to upscale non-state actions.
Africa’s, and indeed the global, response to climate change will heavily rely on the actions of non-state actors and how the entry points highlighted are used to strategically align to their action across the continent.

Dr Munang is a climate change and development policy expert. The views expressed here are his and do not necessarily represent those of institutions with which he is affiliated. @RichardMunang