Can Economic Growth Fix the Brunt of Climate Change in Africa?
A few weeks before the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, in New York, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Africa is vastly affected by the consequences of climate change despite being the least contributor to the shift in weather behaviors.
Climate change has been a major talking point, fueled further by recent natural tragedies across the world. Calamities such as cyclones, prolonged droughts and wildfires have prompted more calls for world leaders to do more to tackle climate change.
According to Kumi Naidoo, Climate Justice Activist, “We have to recognize firstly that the decade we’ve found ourselves in right now is the most consequential in humanity history. What we do in the next 10 years will determine what kind of future we’ll have, or whether we’ll have a future at all.”
The question remains whether the continent economies will be able withstand the brunt of climate change in regards to adaptation and mitigation measures.
Over the past two decades, African economies have grown rapidly. It is estimated that there was an average growth of 3.8 percent per year between 2009 and 2017, compared to the world average of 2.5 percent.
This was driven not only by high commodity prices but also economic reforms that have improved the macroeconomic and business environments. General improvement in public governance has also been noted.
The 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (PDF) shows that about three out of four African citizens live in a country where public governance has improved over the last 10 years.
Unfortunately, Africa’s impressive growth performance has not translated into the desired development outcomes.
Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is high, and Africa lags behind the rest of the world on a number of socioeconomic indicators.
Although Africa has contributed the least to climate change, it is already experiencing devastating climate impacts and will bear the brunt of future global warming. Given the IPCC’s latest report, warming looks exceedingly likely to exceed 2 degrees Celsius.
Several studies estimate that 43 million people could be pushed below the poverty line by 2030 as a result of climate change. The number of climate migrants could reach 86 million by 2050, compared to 40 million in South Asia.
A 2007 Human Development Report recorded that economies in sub-Saharan Africa, will suffer as a result of global warming.
This was attributed to lack of strong economies in the region economies that can neutralise the effects of pollution in highly developed nations.
Climate change presents a serious threat to Africa’s development prospects, but renewable energy also offers a big opportunity, not only to improve the quality of life of the people, but to also contribute to mitigation of emissions. That is a win-win outcome.