The findings of the 2021 UNEP Adaptation Gap report remind the wisdom in the African proverb that says: “there are no shortcuts to the top of the palm tree”. In short, climate deterioration far outpaces global efforts to adapt.
The science is precise and leaves no space to doubt: the cumulative effect of all Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) commitments will likely result in a 2.7°C global warming. Even if we manage to achieve the best-case scenario and stay within 1.5°C, some impacts of climate change are already irreversible and will be with us for many decades to come. This requires much more elevated global action and concrete support for the developing world to adapt to the devastating consequences of climate change.
Especially for Africa, a region with a low socioeconomic base and has contributed least to climate change but is already disproportionately vulnerable to the changing climate. The report findings bring more bad news at many vital levels for the continent’s development, including social, economic and political stability. More actions are needed to overcome the already existing challenges that continue to be exacerbated by climate change. From food security, where already 257 million people still go to bed hungry every day, to nutritional security, over 60 million children are malnourished. To this painful situation, we add the 12 million young people joining a weak labour market every year looking for a decent and stable job.
This current situation calls for an appreciation of two fundamental realities. First, we must appreciate that Africa is not a single statistical data point. Each of the 54 countries has diverse socio-cultural realities with common threads of adaptation opportunities. In addition, the informal sector dominates economies across the continent, with up to 80% of economic players operating outside structured economic sectors. This latest report sends an unequivocal message of the urgent need to ratchet up actions across the entire globe.
WRITING ON THE WALL
Africa cannot afford to slack, as only action can turn the tides of climate impacts felt by millions. 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. Africa has demonstrated significant aptitude in tapping into this lucrative area. We now need strategic-level economic alignments that will rapidly upscale this paradigm like wildfire across the continent.
PROBLEM-SOLVING BUSINESSES- THE BIRTH OF YOUTH CLIMATEPRENEURSHIP CLIMATE ACTION SOLUTIONS
Since most of Africa’s adversities 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, Africa’s global and regional markets competitors. This is primarily due to the 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 per cent of GDP since the 1970s.
This adverse scenario is amplified by Africa’s need to create at least one million jobs every month as the youngest continent with escalating youth unemployment. This presents an opportunity for non-state climate actions to provide solutions, creating country and continental demand that can prompt an upscale.
Targeting the continental agro-value chain will see the continent convert the current losses into $83 billion worth of income, job and food security opportunities every year. Non-state actions will remain elusive to the continent unless practical implementation is fostered. For example, through our work, agro-value chain actors in Uganda using Ecosystem-Based Adaptation techniques (EBA) to cultivate were experiencing PHLs. During the COVID-19 peak, with containment measures necessitating the closure of markets, postharvest losses of perishables increased across Africa by up to 50% in some cases, which was the highest globally. With this was the loss of ecological resources used to cultivate this food. Through our work, we guided the communities on using simple climate action solutions of solar dryers, which proved to be an effective solution to cut these losses.
Solar dryers were decentralised to benefit over 2000 households of farmers using EBA in the Buganda Kingdom. During the COVID-19 period, while others were counting losses arising from the closure of markets, beneficiary communities accessed climate action solutions of solar dryers. They realised a reduction of pumpkin losses by 28% and enhanced earnings from high-quality dried cassava by $50 per farmer group while creating income for the youth who decentralised these dryers. The implications were that the ecological resources used to grow this food that would otherwise have been lost were preserved. In addition, the additional savings made provided extra liquidity for the farmers to be better placed to invest in expanding the application of the EBA.
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. The strength of complementary policy actions can catalyse operational collaboration among non-state actors to provide impactful solutions. The convergence of finance, clean energy, and ICT policies can enable non-state actors in telecommunications and clean energy to work collaboratively and create enterprises driving climate actions simultaneously with the socioeconomic needs of bridging the energy gap. Our work supports countries across Africa to establish harmonisation in policy that convene policymakers across complementary ministries, including environment, finance, energy, agriculture, education and others, to collaboratively implement country Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
We are also leveraging local governance structures. Across Africa, local governance structures trusted by communities offer an effective conduit for upscaling adaptation. For example, in the Buganda Kingdom of Uganda, EBA & clean energy solutions have been taken up within the local governance structures. Its applicability has reached many in the community resulting in enhancing the productivity of the cassava value chain. Data from these adaptation actions have informed policy on job creation from cassava value chains and engagement of communal cooperatives through which members invest more in these adaptation solutions. By so doing, they similarly align non-state actors in these sectors to work collaboratively in tapping enterprise opportunities.
YOUTH BULGE AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR
You can only compete from your position of strength. Africa’s strength is her youth, who form 60% of the population. Another is the informal sector, which engages up to 80%. We have leveraged a symbiotic approach called EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism to structurally guide young people across Africa to retool their skills and deliver mitigation solutions that enable agricultural informal sector actors to adapt to the changing climate. These youth are Africa’s sovereign capital. Their skills, talents, energy, passion and entrepreneurial spirit constitute the critical constituency through which non-state climate actions can be significantly scaled up. 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 align to their action across the continent strategically.