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Bankable Solutions to Acclimatize Africa's Food Systems

By Layih Butake


Even though Africa accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions, at just 3.8%, the continent is particularly vulnerable to climate change. According to the World Meteorological Organization, increased temperatures contributed to a 34% reduction in agricultural productivity growth in Africa since 1961, more than in any other region; this trend is expected to persist, increasing the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. Global warming of 1.5°C is projected to be accompanied by a decline of 9% of the maize yield in West Africa and 20%-60% of the wheat yield in southern and northern Africa.

To address the looming threats of food insecurity, droughts, and displacements and build the adaptive capacity of communities against the adverse impacts, climate change must be a top policy priority. For this, finance is critical. Yet, Africa’s access to international climate finance is estimated at only 5% of the global funds available.

ADAPT: Policy Innovations to Unlock Climate Finance for Resilient Food Systems in Africa, a report launched by the Malabo Montpellier Panel in December 2022, analyzes how African countries are stepping up and mobilizing resources to fuel the continent’s climate finance pipeline.

Africa's Emerging Climate-friendly Policy Options

The African Union's (AU) aspiration for inclusive growth and sustainable development toward a prosperous Africa, captured in Agenda 2063, is one of the earlier formulations of a continent-wide climate agenda. Since then, there has been a rise in momentum to respond to the climate crisis, culminating in the adoption of its first comprehensive climate strategy in February 2022.

The 2022 Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan proposes a vision to rally AU member states and other UNFCCC parties. The blueprint, which was designed as a pivotal instrument to support regional collaboration on climate change and more effective international partnerships, provides a framework for joint action toward climate-resilient economies.

The strategy was preceded by the 2021 Green Recovery Action Plan, a framework to tackle climate change alongside COVID-19 recovery.

These policy frameworks, steered by critical areas of joint priority are evidence of Africa's engagement and serve as a catalyst amid urgent calls to unlock additional climate finance and meet existing commitments that will make US$ 100 billion available to developing countries annually.

Innovative Approaches to Climate Finance Mobilization

The report analyzes the experience of four systematically selected African countries: Benin, Mali, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, to pinpoint what government actions have contributed to building a conducive environment for leveraging international climate finance for food systems transformation.

The stakes are high. Based on conservative estimates, Africa needs US$ 250 billion annually in conditional and unconditional financing between 2020 and 2030 to implement its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Still, with strategic innovations, African countries can unlock significant climate finance for resilient and sustainable food systems transformation.

Policy, knowledge support, and resource mobilization frameworks are primordial for country-level interventions. In the case of Benin, the country boasts climate finance institutional architecture consisting of public institutions involved in policy, implementation, and capacity building, including the National Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FNEC), the Community Development Support Fund (FaDEC), and the Centre de Partenariat et d’Expertise pour le Développement Durable (CePED).

In addition to having a national climate fund (Mali Climate Fund), Mali has successfully leveraged partnerships to tap into international climate finance. Between 2011 and 2020, Mali received nearly US$ 555 million in bilateral, multilateral, and private sector funds for adaptation, thus driving the country's food security and inclusive economic growth.

Attracting and leveraging private sector financing is also critical. In Rwanda, the National Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA) 2019 resource mobilization strategy indicates that 30 percent of total funds will target innovative private sector investments, while 15 percent will target civil society groups working with vulnerable communities. As such, Rwanda’s climate fund seeks to attract finance from broader sources, including impact investors, private equity, venture capital, sovereign wealth funds, and other institutional investors.

Zimbabwe has put in place an enabling environment and several policies to better position the country as a recipient of international climate finance. For instance, the 2020-2024 Green Climate Fund (GCF) Country Programme outlines the national climate change priorities and presents a strategy for engagement with the GCF, given the country’s climate change vulnerabilities and its vision of transitioning into a low-carbon, climate-resilient development pathway.

These interventions go hand-in-hand with deploying resources to cater to capacity-strengthening to develop adequate policy and regulatory frameworks that support adaptation efforts for their food systems.

Recommendations for Sustainable Climate Adaptation Finance

The Malabo Montpellier Panel makes several recommendations for policymakers, donor agencies and financing institutions to leverage climate adaptation finance for food systems transformation. Critical actions would include building technical knowledge and capacity that straddles climate, agriculture, and finance across government; mainstreaming climate change adaptation and resilience-building activities into policies and investment decision-making across government; developing a pipeline of bankable projects and investible adaptation plans; supporting locally-led adaptation to ensure that interventions meet the needs of the most vulnerable; and scaling up efforts to attract private capital.

Going forward, Africa must sustain the COP27 momentum to drive its climate action priorities, as emphasized by H.E. Alioune Ndoye, Senegal's Minister of Environment, Sustainable Development, and Ecological Transition: "The climate emergency is unfolding in an unfavorable context in which countries are grappling with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. We must act quickly. We are working to build resilience through several adaptation interventions targeting the livestock, agriculture, fisheries, and biodiversity sectors".

It is time for the continent to leverage the recommendations from Sharm el-Sheikh to give fresh impetus to its climate action agenda and ensure that food systems transformation is firmly rooted within international climate negotiations and processes as the world prepares for COP28.

Layih Butake is the Director of Communication and Outreach at AKADEMIYA2063.