How can Africa shake off the ghost of climate change allegiance?


THE United Nations Conference of Parties (COP 21) that is about to take place in a week’s time in the French capital, Paris, has generated a lot of debate, for both right and wrong reasons.

Events preceding this conference are in the public domain and are there for everyone to see. Never in the history of global environment had events preceding the summit of this magnitude generated a lot of hype than COP 21. It’s a pity that Africa is going to this conference well aware of its pitfalls and short-comings, that is the liability Africa and the cry-baby of the environmental discourse. Whether it is by nature or design, it’s anybody’s guess.

Climate change is one of those subjects that Africa has refused to take some proactive stances. The IPCC’s assertion that the African continent is the one that will be most affected by climate change is now a tired and overused cliché. The assumption is not meant to ignore it, but to find ways to manoeuvre around it. Africa is synonymous with climate-related shocks like droughts, floods, famine and civil wars. The reason Africa is the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as well as the least prepared for change does not require it to sit and wait for the coming of the climate messiah. Africa needs an intensive intrinsic introspection in order to shake the ghost of climate change allegiance and move forward.

Africa should not be in the habit of marvelling at running water without thinking about how best to harvest and store this water for future uses. Africa needs to invest in a wide range of dam constructions to alleviate its perennial water scarcities and recurrent droughts. Furthermore, land degradation is fast consuming Africa’s forest cover and carbon stocks. Africans have an insatiable desire and hunger for plundering forests. All these weigh heavily against Africa’s desire to see climate justice and freedom. Instead of expecting too much from rich carbon emitting nations, Africa should chart a paradigm shift towards narrowing down to local and sustainable home-grown adaptation and mitigation programmes. The climate messiah may not come from the West after all, but from within. That is what Africa does not want to hear as it is still overwhelmed by the colonial hangover and the endless begging syndrome.

Due to the fact that the large volumes of published research online and in printed documents is from developed countries, Africa thinks it cannot do better to chart its own research initiatives or come up with sustainable collaborative engagements even with the developed countries as well as regional initiatives. Above all, Africa needs to be transparent just for a day by providing climate research funding to deserving individuals rather than the same suspects who have gone past their selling age. Africa needs to invest in research that promotes sustainable green growth initiatives rather than greasing the palms of their kith and kin. When the smallest funding is available, it’s usually for the buddies not for the experts. By so doing, Africa will be subscribing to the irreversible dearth of climate research, which in turn will promote poor quality minds than progressive ones. Therefore, if Africa expects the rest of the world to take it seriously, then it should show the whole world that, indeed it is serious and means business. This is not to say that Africa is not doing anything worth mentioning and always scoring own goals, but it has so far not managed to convince the doubting Thomas’s of global warming.

Africa also needs to update its technological innovations and connectivity so it does not appear as an outside member of the global village. Simple and sustainable rural technologies are what Africa needs to move forward. Community fairs, climate-agri-parks and local climate hubs would drive green growth in Africa. Africa should also try harder to shake off the bad debtor tag. Africa is fully aware of its vulnerability status more than anybody, hence it should seriously look inward and craft ways of engaging in local climate resilience programmes.

The menace of climate change also provides the continent with great opportunities to tackle climate effects rather than the current perceived and imagined challenges.

The other major undoing for Africa is its continued pursuit for the establishment of more universities yet it is already impoverished. If it concentrates on the available few institutions of higher learning then its quality of research will improve as well.

Green planet in your heart hands - usa - environment concept

Africa’s regional initiatives are rather fragmented and quite frustrating. The regional undertakings are shrouded in secrecy and an environment of suspicion. Certain African countries, in particular regions are worried about accessing the number one status yet it’s not supposed to be a competition but just collaborations. Therefore, Africa needs to be competent in its regional approaches rather than competing. African countries should learn how to reach to each other in good faith.

Africa is also overwhelmed by the problem of empty rhetoric that usually serves no purposes apart from further alienating it from prospective serious investment partners. Despite an acute shortage of resources, African leaders are travel-frenzy and they love costly, but null talk shows. Millions of dollars are always spent on these Kangaroo gatherings instead of being invested in community-based adaptation programmes. Instead of uniting against well-established global climate powers, Africa should unite own its own to do in-house climate cleansing exercises.

While some African countries have made some non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations their number one enemy, other progressive African nations have embraced them. As such, major green-growth initiatives are currently underway in Kenya and Ethiopia, just to mention a few.

Lastly, African governments should stop being at war with the innocent people in attempts to suppress debate. People need to discuss freely and establish sustainable knowledge sharing platforms for resilience purposes.

●Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: