On 12 December 2015, 195 nations agreed to the historic Paris Agreement to combat climate change and work towards a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable future. This agreement entered into force on 5 October 2016, and a month later, at the COP22 in Marrakech, world leaders made a commitment to the full implementation of the agreement. This means that the Paris Agreement train has left the station.

With mounting development challenges, implementation of the Paris Agreement in Africa is not just an environmental obligation.

“The path does not close on a man with a machete.” – Yoruba proverb

Regardless of the enthusiasm on the world stage, deliberate action will still be needed to drive growth and development for the African continent, while meeting the agreement’s objectives.

Africa’s place and space

With mounting development challenges, implementation of the agreement in Africa is not just an environmental obligation. Over 50% of Africans live in extreme poverty, earning less than USD1.25 daily. Sixty percent of African youth are unemployed, while 70% live in poverty – and the numbers are growing. When it comes to food security, 25% go to bed hungry and over 200 million people suffer from chronic to severe malnutrition, which contributes to more than 50% of the infant mortality rate.

However, in the words of a famous Yoruba proverb, “The path does not close on a man with a machete.” Africa has immense potential. Sixty-five percent of the world’s arable land and 10% of its inland freshwater resources are in Africa. The continent also has abundant renewable energy potential, with prospective hydroelectric power estimated at 1852TWh annually – this is three times the continent’s current demand – and the best solar resources on the planet.

Implementation of the Paris Agreement represents an opportunity to unleash these potentials and solve the region’s challenges. Thankfully, with 33 ratifications to date – a 60% ratification rate – Africa is among the regions that have most ratified the agreement.

Read: COP21 climate change deal reached

The UN Environment is helping countries in the region to implement the agreement in a way that best responds to its needs. One key aspect of this is climate-proofing the agriculture and energy sectors, as well as the restoration of ecosystems. These two important aspects are also prioritised in the AU’s Agenda 2063.

The World Bank notes that improving agricultural value chains, or the goods and services necessary for food to move from the farm to the final consumer, in Africa can reduce poverty two to four times faster than any other sector, with the potential to create 17 million jobs.

Killing two birds with one stone

Tea pickers in Kenya’s Mount Kenya region, for the Two Degrees Up project, to look at the impact of climate change on agriculture. (Photo credit: Neil Palmer/Flickr)

The Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) is a policy action framework facilitated by the UN Environment Programme, through support from the AU and many other partners, to establish more sustainable agricultural systems powered by clean energy sources. With EBAFOSA, individuals and organisations in a country can convene and volunteer their resources such as their professional skills, networks, time, products and services to establish agricultural systems that are cleaner and greener.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of graduate ‘agripreneurs’ who are EBAFOSA members are using clean energy to process cassava, a climate-resilient crop, into flour. They then package and standardise this flour to sell. The graduates have been able to generate incomes of up to USD4,000 per week, which translates to USD16,000 monthly and USD196,000 annually. Through EBAFOSA, the group has also been able to offer training on its successful business model to other youth groups across the continent.

Read: Africa is feeling the heat: Turning the challenges of climate change into opportunities

EBAFOSA Kenya has created EdenSys, an agri-business app that allows clean energy-based enterprises to post their financial records online and, based on their balance sheet, apply for loans from a number of local micro-finance institutions through their phone or computer.

The group is also working with the county government of Makueni, the first in Africa to legislate the creation of a climate-change fund, to finance resilience-building efforts among local businesses. It is also collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture to have Ecosystems-Based Adaptation (EBA) and clean energy integrated into Kenya’s Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy.

In Nigeria, EBAFOSA has mobilised over 1000 young people affiliated with different groups to partner with farmer cooperatives in developing an EBA farm. This farm has been linked to markets to enhance the members’ earnings.

Through these mutual, voluntary and country-driven partnerships the implementation of the Paris Agreement is being actualised. EBAFOSA is already in 40 countries and hopes to replicate these successes across Africa.

No Time to Waste

Time lost is lost forever. While Africa has lost 65 years since independence, implementing the Paris Agreement provides an opportunity for the region to redeem itself. We have the power to create the Africa we want. Let us do it for the infants we are losing annually, for the Africans who go to bed hungry, for those in extreme poverty. This is the only way we can ensure that the African continent will never again experience the fear of want or need. Let’s make it happen together.

 

Dr Richard Munang is Africa Climate Change & Development Policy Expert. He tweets as @RichardMunang

Mr Robert Mgendi is the Adaptation Policy Expert. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the institution with which he is affiliated.