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Context

Africa’s vulnerability to climate change calls for innovative solutions. Agriculture employs half the African workforce, and over 90% of African agriculture is reliant on rainfall. It is expected that the vast majority of Africans and the African economy will suffer more from climate extremes, as extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, causing damage to agriculture, tourism, cities, infrastructure sectors, including water and energy systems, and even the extractive sector.

Adapting to climate change could cost the continent at least $50 billion annually by 2050. Yet Africa has the lowest per capita climate finance flows in the world, challenging the principles of true climate justice (AfDB, 2022).

It is essential to Africa’s economic, social, and material well-being to develop climate change adaptation, mitigation, and transformation strategies by working with all key stakeholders, including farmers. The goal is climate-resilient, low-carbon development that boosts growth, fosters alternative energy production and reduces the energy deficit, especially in rural areas. While most of Africa’s limited emissions come from various forms of agriculture and land use, rather than from the energy sector, the continent has enormous potential for renewable energy—hydro, solar, wind, and geothermal power.

In Africa, green growth strategies can accelerate investment in resource-efficient technologies and industries, and manage costs and risks to taxpayers, businesses, and communities. Africa is increasingly alerted to the costs associated with high-carbon development and the benefits of renewable energy, sustainable land use, low-carbon development, and other energy services. Plans to integrate climate action with sustainable development are already being implemented, including in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda.

The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on agriculture, and thus on household finances, will limit access to electricity and countries’ ability to adopt climate-smart strategies. Countries with low government capacity and limited government investment in climate-smart policies before the pandemic will likely continue to lag in their adaptation to cleaner energy and climate-smart development.

The combined effects of the global economic slowdown and climate change have curtailed investment in climate-smart strategies over the past two years in many African countries. Countries already spend substantial sums on the effects of the climate crisis, diverting scarce resources from investments in socioeconomic development programs, and threatening to drive countries deeper into poverty (AfDB, 2022).

At the same time, several initiatives are helping African countries adapt to and mitigate climate change. The focus has shifted from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation to adaptation, in line with the 2009 Copenhagen Conference of Parties (COP). This trend has been reinforced by official commitments at successive COPs. In 2021, the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) and the African Development Bank joined forces to develop the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to support all African countries in designing and implementing transformational adaptation of their economies for post-COVID development.

Despite these initiatives, climate finance inflows to Africa have failed to match the commitments made by developed countries and have not met the continent’s adaptation and mitigation needs (AfDB, 2022). Africa’s share in total global climate finance grew by only 3 percentage points on average during 2010-19, from 23% ($48 billion) in 2010-15 to 26% ($73 billion) during 2016-19. Given the resources needed to meet Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution targets—estimated at $118.2–$145.5 billion a year until 2030—more concrete measures are needed to close Africa’s annual climate finance gap (AfDB, 2022).

When facilitating the mobilization of resources, it is essential to design programs that target both mitigation and adaptation and balance them comprehensively, and systemically. More research is critical to inform climate adaptation and mitigation policies and ensure sustainable and environmentally sound growth and development.