By Baboloki Semele
President of Botswana, Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi is scheduled to host a high-level roundtable and luncheon during COP 27 at Sharm El Sheikh Convention Centre, Blue Zone, Africa Pavilion on 7th November 2022.
Scheduled for 13:15 hrs, the luncheon will serve to reshape the conversation about climate diplomacy and empowerment in relation to Africa and the developing world. The session also seeks to reaffirm a renewed commitment towards Africa’s vision and leadership vis a vis adaptation and building resilience through technology empowerment, innovative financing and climate diplomacy as well as promote Africa as a hub for innovation, sustainable technologies and innovative financing by inviting top technology giants and investment institutions to share their vision and showcase the solutions capable of realizing Africa’s vision.
To be held under the theme “Empowering a Climate-resilient Africa for the 21st Century: Articulating Vision and Opportunity Policies, Technologies, Investment Cooperation” the luncheon will be attended by high-level delegates from Africa and the globe, amongst them, co-host invitees H.E. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt/Host of COP 27; H.E. Macky Sall President of Senegal, Chairperson of the African Union (AU); and H.E. Mr Csaba Kőrösi, President of the General Assembly; and H.E Ms Lachezara Stoeva, President of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Against a backdrop of pandemics, war, and global economic slow-down, the African continent is hosting CoP27 in Sharm El sheikh, with a renewed focus on the priorities set by African states and the COP 27 presidency, especially on issues related to building resilience, adaptation and finance.
Despite rising global challenges, the African Continent is making headway in designing ambitious and innovative initiatives to overcome the worst impact of climate change.
The Egypt-led ‘Decent Life for a Climate Resilient Africa’ and ‘Greening National Investment Plans in Africa’ are examples of such excellent initiatives. Other notable initiatives include the Africa Adaptation Initiative and Botswana’s own ‘Innovation and Technology Hub’.
To succeed, these initiatives will require robust leadership and a new brand of intercontinental alignment and cooperation. It will also require a new brand of international cooperation that delivers on national and regional priorities in terms of policy, trade, technology empowerment, investment and financing in a manner that recognizes the specific needs and paths championed by African States.
According to a concept note availed to this publication by the UN Science Policy Business Forum on the Environment, a much warmer world is already upon the globe and the impacts of drought, food and water shortage, disease, natural disasters, and conflict over natural resources are resounding around the world.
And owing to this, it is no longer a situation where developing, the least developed countries and small island developing states are alone at the forefront of the worst impact of the climate crisis, although they remain by far the most vulnerable. The geopolitical consequences are substantial and require stronger cooperation and coordination among nations.
A new brand of climate diplomacy, partnership, technology empowerment and innovative financing is required to turn the needle and allow vulnerable nations to build resilience and lead the transformation needed to overcome vulnerabilities.
Recently the death toll from severe flooding in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province in April 2022 hit 435, with more than 12,000 houses destroyed and 40,000 people displaced. Likewise, 2021 saw some of the greatest natural disasters and floods to hit Western Europe, most profoundly in Germany and Belgium just to mention a few with property damage in billions.
The year 2019 saw over 1300 lives lost due to Cyclone Idai, one of the worst tropical cyclones ever recorded in Africa, most specifically in the Southern hemisphere. The long-lived storm caused catastrophic damage in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Botswana leaving many missing and displaced in its wake.
The effects of these natural disasters are still being felt to this day. The occurrence of Cyclone Idai was something the region was unprepared for. The realization of the Sustainable Development Goals as espoused in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is for all these communities and societies undermined by natural disasters and the effects of climate change which have created a myriad of other challenges.
According to the United Nations (UN), Africa’s natural disasters are mainly in the areas of droughts, floods, cyclones, and bushfires. Disasters occur when hazards and vulnerabilities meet. Unfortunately, under the current circumstances prevailing on the African continent, it is easy for any disaster to escalate and for its impact to multiply.
Africa’s 54 countries are highly susceptible and vulnerable as their one billion people are exposed to a lot of natural disasters. Japan suffered from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which claimed many lives but its reaction time and early warning systems enabled the country to take counter-measures to mitigate the impact of the disaster.
Similarly, the United States has experienced many hurricanes, cyclones and floods, but has coped well with these disasters due to its high level of preparedness and full utilization of early warning systems.
Many countries are experiencing food insecurity, environmental degradation, increased poverty levels, fragile economies, endemic diseases and damaged infrastructure. This meeting by president Masisi, therefore calls for greater consideration and counter-measures for climate change, prevention, adaptation and capacity building, from the North to the South and by the United Nations and affiliated Organizations among them the Britton Woods Institutes. More can be done.
Benchmarks and performance indicators for the most vulnerable regions of the world are crucial. What have developed countries done differently to mitigate the effects of natural disasters? Where does the answer for developing countries, especially Africa lie? Is it the promotion and effective implementation of peace-building measures and initiatives like early warning systems, training, capacity building and early action? Is it in increased partnerships and cooperation measures, such as with the UN, regional and sub-regional entities? Does the answer lie in investments made towards the prevention and sustenance of peace?
There are, more often than not, efforts that can be taken to mitigate the damage that is done by natural disasters. Sustainable, preventive support measures are a dire need in the African continent. The effects of natural disasters should no longer be the talk of the day. Africa too needs to reap the rewards echoed by Agenda 2030 and its own dream as espoused in Agenda 2063.