HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsViewpoint: Must Africa be pitied?

Viewpoint: Must Africa be pitied?

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Nearly 200 governments convene in Durban, South Africa, today for the umpteenth time to negotiate further action to address climate change.

And for the coming days, world leaders will discuss the five promises rich countries have already made, but find these nations have yet to show how they can meet these commitments.

In 2009, developed nations promised $30 billion between 2010 and 2012, and $100 billion a year by 2020 to enable emerging economies to adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.

At last year’s UN Framework for Climate Change Conference in Cancun, countries reiterated these pledges and specified that funding for adaptation should be adequate, fairly shared between donors, balanced with funding for mitigation, targeted on a needs basis, and governed well.

But, indications are that these promises are not being met, and will not be met anytime soon – and this means Africa and its poor counterparts may find it harder to adapt to climate change.

The Durban conference can correct this situation by –

adopting a transparent, centralised accounting system;

establishing funding sources based on international trade;

and defining annual targets to scale up the total funding for adaptation.

Durban should set up a prioritised series of constant, international funding mechanisms, such as levies.

It is, however, a naked truth that money pledged by the West or is allies has yet to flow to meet even the most urgent adaptation needs of the poor countries. Without adequate, predictable funding, countries most vulnerable to changing climate cannot respond effectively.

All of the talk about adaptation in Cancun will mean little unless reliable funding sources are established in Durban.

Emerging economies in general and Africa in particular need to be empowered so as to mitigate effects of climate change.

But, who will empower our “Motherland” for the tactic by the West is that of “scratch my back and I will scratch yours”?

Perhaps Africa needs to look at herself once more! Does Africa need the $30 billion or is it $100 billion to mitigate against the changing climate pledged by the West? Does it mean that Africa cannot raise this much? What a pity!

The West has raised fears that if the money is given to every country without tight financial checks, the monies could be abused left, right and centre. To some extent, their fears are real. But why do leaders of poor countries subject themselves to this kind of scrutiny?

One African think-tank Osisa says the DRC has some of the largest deposits of the world’s minerals – cobalt, diamonds, gold, manganese, platinum,etc – but it is one of the poorest on Mother Earth.

Angola reportedly produces 2 million barrels of crude oil per day, 98% of it exported to China making billions per month, but surprisingly the country’s returns at the end of the day are estimated at $63 million.

Zambia has some of the largest deposits of copper, but reportedly can’t get enough from its mining enterprise because it is reportedly getting some $2 million of its resources.

And with the discovery of diamonds in Marange commnal lands, Zimbabwe is producing gems worth over $2 billion annually – can the country be described as poor anymore?

Nigeria has $150 billion worth of debts, and yet it recently emerged three of its richest citizens (politicians) could repay its debts and adequately feed Africa’s most populous country for decades to come.

How these politicians got their (mis)fortune is still confusing. But, with its vast oil reserves, Nigeria is no better than the rest of Africa.

If these African countries are indeed poor, it is simply perhaps because they have dismally failed to manage their windfalls for which they were abundantly given. Or it is because corruption is deeply rooted in their bureaucratic systems?

It is a scandal for Africa to fail to look after its subjects because its political elites are jostling to amass wealth as much as they can and stash ill-gotten riches in rich countries.

Poor countries owe the Bretton Woods institutions billions of dollars.

So even if the Durban conference agrees to extend the $30 billion, or is it $100 billion, Africa needs, it is a sure way of further burdening our beloved continent by mortgaging the next generation.

Although the funding pledges are a step towards a precautionary approach, they fall well below even highly conservative estimates of what is needed to prevent harm in vulnerable communities.

It is not clear what proportion of adaptation funding will be pure grants, loans with concessionary terms, or purely market-rate loans. Vulnerable countries are not able to repay loans for adaptation, nor should they have to.

Adequate funding is all but impossible under these vague terms.

So does Africa deserve to be pitied – by whom, and for what reason?

millenniumzimbabwe@yahoo.com or follow me on http://twitter.com/wisdomdzungairi

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