Transforming Africa

Authors: Srilata Kammila and Rohini Kohli, UNDP

This year’s Africa Climate Week brings together governments and key stakeholders from across the continent to “explore resilience against climate risks, the transition to a low-emission economy and the partnerships we need to solve these pressing challenges.”

With so much at stake, it’s clear that we must make substantial investments and coordinated efforts in building transformative climate actions across Africa.

This means advancing integrated holistic solutions that connect the dots between land-use, water management, agriculture and livelihoods, between energy, natural resources, economic growth and social development, and between disaster risk reduction, climate information services and resilience. This is what we call transformative climate action.

A life-threatening crisis

We are in a race against time. And no continent is more vulnerable from the multiplying threats of climate change, poverty, conflict, displacement, and hunger than Africa.

The most recent IPCC Report indicates vast disruptions to economies, lives, food security and livelihoods across the continent. “Africa has contributed among the least to greenhouse gas emissions, yet key development sectors have already experienced widespread loss and damage attributable to anthropogenic climate change, including biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, loss of lives and reduced economic growth.”

Temperature rises between 1.5°C and 2°C are projected to become widespread, resulting in reduced food production and economic growth, increased inequality and poverty, biodiversity loss, and most concerning increased human morbidity and mortality, according to the report.

While the war in Ukraine, ongoing conflicts and COVID-19 have exacerbated these issues, climate change is pushing million more people to the brink of starvation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, the Sahel and beyond.

It’s not just a regional problem. It’s not just an Africa problem. It’s a worldwide problem.

But the poorest and most vulnerable will be the ones that will lose their children to hunger. They are the ones that will see crops wilt on the vine as prolonged droughts scourge the continent. They are the ones on the frontlines. And we must empower local action, national action and global action to rise to the truly devastating consequences of climate change.

A pathway forward

The pathway forward starts with people, but also requires resources, political will, policies and coordination to deliver the type of transformative action we need.

UNDP is accelerating adaptation planning and investments in Africa through a number of cross-sectoral solutions across the key domains of adaptation policy and planningresilient livelihoods, food securityecosystem-based adaptationwater resources and coastal management, and climate information and early warnings.

In Zambia for instance, a project funded through the Green Climate Fund and delivered in partnership with the government by UNDP, FAO and WFP is building climate-resilient food security and poverty reduction measures for close to a million people. The project has introduced the use of modern technology, sustainable growing techniques, and better understanding of climate change and has already reached close to 200,000 smallholder famers.

In Uganda, we are working to protect vulnerable wetland ecosystems and build resilient communities with support for support sustainable land management practices and reforestation, resilient practices and alternative livelihoods for 4 million people that rely on the wetlands for their livelihoods.

Integrating adaptation into development

Climate risk-informed policy, planning, and investment decisions that maximize development benefits to communities are critical for transformative action on adaptation. A ‘whole-of-society’ approach calls for integration of adaptation at all levels of society from informing national and sub-national policy and budgeting to devolving finance and decision making to local stakeholders for adaptation action.

UNDP’s support to adaptation planning in over 50 countries is building capacity to assess risks and vulnerabilities, measure adaptation progress, identify adaptation priorities and works in tandem with national, sectoral and local institutions for risk informed plans and budgets.

In building united actions, a joint initiative led by FAO and UNDP with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) is scaling up climate ambition on land use and agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans across 12 countries worldwide, including five in Africa.

In Uganda, the SCALA Programme is working to build the agricultural, forestry and land-use plans needed to improve production on the farm, reduce emissions, and connect climate plans and policies with climate actions like the wetlands initiative.

In its updated Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, Côte d’Ivoire committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30.41% by 2030 relative to business as usual, or 98.95% with international support. The country has also committed to increasing resilience in agriculture, food and land use, water, health, and coastal zones. 

UNDP’s Climate Promise along with various supports for National Adaptation Plans are supporting the country in delivering on these goals.

As the world’s largest cocoa bean exporter, the SCALA programme in Côte d’Ivoire is building a more resilient cocoa culture to ultimately lower emissions from cocoa production, which has been a major cause of deforestation over the last decade. As the country shifts towards more sustainable agroforestry landscape practices – more forests coverage will help absorb more carbon emissions

Africa driven solutions and partnerships

Locally-led adaptation initiatives connected with globally minded partnerships are key. At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) in December 2015, African Heads of State launched the Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) to ensure the continent urgently adapts to the adverse effects of climate change in the immediate, short, medium and longer terms. With funding from the European Union and support from UNDP, the programme is enhancing capacity to utilize climate risk information and assess and implement risk transfer mechanisms.

Launched at the Climate Adaptation Summit in January 2021, the Adaptation Innovation Marketplace (AIM) is a another strategic global platform that promotes scaled-up adaptation at the local level, focusing on civil society, non-government organizations, and women and youth innovators. The marketplace crowds in resources, know-how and support to facilitate local access to climate change finance.

The AIM partners include UNDP, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change, the Global Resilience Partnership, the Climate-Knowledge Innovation Community, and UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

Currently, there are multiple funding windows under AIM. One funding window supported by the Adaptation Fund and EU (Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator) has recently concluded the first round of call for proposals, and seven local partners from Africa were selected for the first round of funding.

In Ghana, the local partner Open Ghana aims to create alternative livelihoods for women, youth and persons with disabilities by establishing dry season gardens across multiple regions. Local community members will be trained on climate change adaptation, and several village savings and loans associations will be formed to develop sustainable business modules using the second-season-cropping production.

In Uganda, our local partner Sample Uganda Aquaculture Association is introducing aquaponics technology through an innovative lease-to-own model to promote aquaponics and horticulture related production, including nursery propagation.

These locally led adaptation solutions with sustainable business models are going to be key for transforming the adaptation practice in Africa.

Investing today for a better tomorrow

Investments in adaptation provide a significant return on investment. It’s good for business, it’s good for our planet, it’s good for our people.

The Global Commission on Adaptation found that investing US$1.8 trillion globally in five areas – early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and resilient water resources – from 2020 to 2030 could generate US$7.1 trillion in total net benefits.

There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate-resilient development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris targets. Global leaders must step up to support UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to apply 50% of all climate finance for adaptation and adhere to the commitments at COP26 in Glasgow, which called for doubling adaptation finance from US$20 billion to US$40 billion per year, a larger proportion of which is urgently needed for Africa.

Transformation is possible and there is hope with initiatives like the Great Green Wall, low-emission, high-growth strategies in Nigeria, and ground-up initiatives led by women farmers in Ghana will build equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Throughout it all, the leaders of Africa must commit to transformative climate actions and coordinated approaches to protect the most vulnerable communities from the unfolding and ever-increasing risks and impacts of climate change

Srilata Kammila

Srilata Kammila is the Head of Climate Change Adaptation at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This position sits in UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team in UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support/Global Policy Network.

Rohini Kohli

Rohini Kohli is the Senior Technical Advisor for Adaptation Policy and Planning in  UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team.

Last Updated: 24 Aug 2022