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Africa grapples with climate finance issue

Ngala Killian Chimtom
March 24, 2022

The continent is upping the pressure on wealthy nations to make good on their climate finance pledge. But a lack of expertise on the ground has also stalled crucial adaptation projects.

A boy working on a reforestation project in the mud in Senegal
Africa is in need of climate adaptation projects, but many have proven difficult to get off the groundImage: DW

From cyclones in the south, to floods and drought in the east: Climate change is already leaving its mark on the African continent. Although Africa accounts for the world's smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions — just 3.8% — it's paying a severe price for a crisis it did little to help create.

Many experts acknowledge that climate finance is crucial for Africa to be able to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change. Over a decade ago, wealthy nations pledged $100 billion (€91 billion) a year to developing nations by 2020 for this very purpose.

Now — two years past the deadline — developed countries estimate they won't fulfill this pledge until 2023. And they're under increasing pressure to make good on their promise.

"We need to understand that Africa is warming faster than the entire globe," Richard Munang, the Africa climate change coordinator at the UN Environment Program (UNEP) told DW.

"The challenges of food insecurity and the socio-economic challenges that we are facing will only continue and put Africa in a very precarious situation. What is needed now is adaptation that drives resilience of communities."

An elderly woman washes her belongings in the mud after Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique
Cyclones in southern Africa have left behind devastated communitiesImage: Getty Images/AFP/Z. Auntony

Needs continue to mount

With Africa's share of the world's population expected to grow from 17% to 40% by 2100, the clock is ticking on climate adaptation projects. The continent is also struggling to maintain its momentum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — which were adopted by all UN member states in 2015 in a bid to end poverty and increase climate resilience by 2030 — as well as its own Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

"Africa today needs $2 trillion to implement the NDCs," explains Munang. "And on top of this, the continent needs $1.2 trillion to implement the SDGs. It is therefore imperative that support for Africa to [implement] climate resilience happens."

Munang points to recent natural disasters as evidence that the global community needs to act on their pledge as soon as possible.

"You see mothers going hungry, crop failure, floods, drought and the displacement of people … These realities are only going to increase under the changing climate.

A drought-affected family and their donkeys in rural Ethiopia
Millions of people in the Horn of Africa have been hit by severe droughtImage: CC BY EU/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie-ND 2.0

Project expertise missing

But this narrative only partly explains Africa's dilemma. While some funds intended for climate change mitigation projects have made their way to the continent, it often unclear exactly how they are being used — or how they can be accessed in the first place.

Adeline Tengem, a Cameroonian forestry technician and NGO leader, says she has tried to access climate financing several times without success.

"Our idea is to restore the degraded landscape while improving the livelihoods of local communities surrounding those landscapes," she told DW. "So far, we have been struggling to access funding to carry out these kinds of projects. Each time I submit projects, they would reject it because [they said] it was of low quality."

Tengem isn't alone in her struggle. Peter Gondo from the United Nations Forum on Forests says difficulty accessing climate financing is a recognized problem across the continent. He says it often comes down to a lack of expertise in formulating project proposals that meet the requirements of climate finance sources.

A woman works in a reforestation greenhouse
Many African countries are in need of reforestation projects, but applications often don't meet the financing requirementsImage: picture alliance / Roberto Nistri

"[Applicants need] to demonstrate how the projects that they want funded contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation," he explains. "This requires a lot of detailed, accurate data to estimate how much you are going to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions if you implement the project. Many countries do not have enough experts with adequate skills to do that."

Training for a better future

To try and get more climate projects off the ground, the African Forest Forum has partnered with the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN). Together, they organize training sessions for forest stakeholders from the public sector and NGOs on "climate finance and writing bankable projects."

Tengem took part in a workshop in Douala, where she learned not only what kind of funding opportunities are available to her, but how to draft projects that meet funding requirements. She says she's now more confident in submitting her future proposals.

"I have learnt the mechanism that will take me from problem to solution, which is what the [financing] partners want."

Ultimately, the initiative aims to help ensure that Africa will gain easier access to existing and future international climate finance. Sector stakeholders say with both adequate financing and expertise, Africa should on the path towards a low emission and climate resilient future.

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