Africa’s leaders urged the international community to back a surge in renewable energy and called for sweeping changes to the global financial system as they wrapped up a landmark at the first Africa Climate Summit (ACS) in Nairobi.

“This continent emits only four percent of global emissions, but suffers some of the worst effects (…): extreme heat, relentless flooding and tens of thousands of deaths from devastating droughts,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a speech.

However, a massive scaling up in funding is needed to unlock green growth across the continent “on a scale that can contribute meaningfully to decarbonisation of the global economy“, the African leaders said at the summit that was organised by the Kenyan government and the African Union.

The Nairobi Declaration was adopted on the final day of the summit by more than 20 African states. In it they called for concrete action on reforms that lead to “a new financing architecture that is responsive to Africa’s needs”, including debt restructuring and relief. It also reiterates the calls on the rich countries to deliver the still unfulfilled commitment from last year’s COP27 to mobilise 100 billion Dollars a year: To help the Global South in the face of the climate crisis as well as committing to attract more investment in clean energy.

EU’s von der Leyen: ‘Public funding is not enough

Efforts at the summit to up investment in renewables were given a boost on Tuesday, attracting a total of 23 billion Dollars in funding pledges.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen underlined the importance of mobilising private capital on a large scale for the African economy to accelerate the transition towards clean energy: “Together with the European Investment Bank and our member states, we are going to allocate 1 billion Euro to reduce the risk of private investment in emerging markets,” she said at the summit, adding that ”on the green transition, public funding is not enough”. The European goal is to allocate half of the ‘Global Gateway’, a 300-billion-euro investment plan, to the African continent.

Within that framework, Von der Leyen announced the conclusion of an agreement with the Kenyan President, William Ruto, to continue promoting green hydrogen technology.

“With your enormous potential for renewable energy, your essential raw materials, your incredible nature and biodiversity, and your young workforce, you can help clean up the global energy and supply systems, while creating the good jobs and economic opportunities that your people demand,”

said Von der Leyen.

The European leader called on African countries to work in synergy and to present “a proposal for the establishment of a global carbon price“ at the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP28). That summit will take place from November 30 until December 12, 2023, in Dubai.

European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen attends the opening session during the Africa Climate Summit 2023 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on September 5, 2023. (Photo by Luis Tato / AFP)

Italy and Slovenia vow for more partnership with Africa

Slovenia, soon to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2024 and 2025, committed 4.7 million Euro in multilateral climate finance assistance in 2022. This amount represents a 58 percent increase in bilateral assistance compared to 2021. According to the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a strong partnership with Africa should be one of the key priorities of the EU’s foreign policy, it said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Italy announced at the summit the long-term global initiative Youth4Climate, co-led by Italy and other partners including the United Nations Development Programme (Undp), aiming to increase youth participation. “Italy’s presence in Nairobi is of considerable strategic importance and strongly reconfirms the central role that Africa plays in Italian foreign policy. Geographical proximity, historical ties, economic and cultural ties bind Italy to the African continent,” said Undersecretary Claudio Barbaro of the Italian Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security (Mase). He led the Italian delegation to the climate summit in Nairobi. The country approved multilateral and bilateral projects for a total of over 120 million Euro.

Global overhaul

African countries, facing mounting debt costs and a dearth of funds, have called for a complete overhaul of the global financial architecture. This is adding to pressure already on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to unlock investment and climate finance.

Ruto said it was time to overhaul global financial systems that “perpetually place African nations on the back foot”. “We demand a fair playing ground for our countries to access the investment needed to unlock the potential and translate it into opportunities,” he said.

Despite an abundance of natural resources, just three percent of energy investments worldwide are made in Africa. The final declaration said the continent would need a “tenfold increase in the finance capital flowing” into renewables in the next seven years, some 600 billion Dollars, to achieve the aim of boosting renewables from 56 gigawatts (GW) in 2022 to at least 300 GW by 2030.

On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates promised 4.5 billion dollars in clean energy investments in Africa – the most significant pledge so far. COP28 president and UAE oil executive Sultan Al Jaber said the funding would “jumpstart a pipeline of bankable clean energy projects in this very important continent”.

A continent with ‘opportunities worth millions’

The summit seeks to highlight the “opportunities worth millions” that, according to Ruto, Africa can seize if getting more involved in global climate action. “A new Africa is there and it means business,” Ruto said.

The continent possesses indispensable resources for the development of renewable energies, such as 40 percent of the world’s cobalt, manganese and platinum reserves and 60 percent of the world’s best solar resources.

“Africa possesses both the potential and the ambition to be a vital component of the global solution to climate change,” said the final declaration from the meeting, on behalf of the African Union (AU).

The closing statement includes not only calls on the international community for “emission reductions”, but also listed general outlines made by African governments, such as developing policies and incentives to “attract local, global and regional investments”.

Consensus is hard-won across Africa, a diverse continent of 1.4 billion people where some governments are championing a renewable-powered future while others defend their reserves of fossil fuels. But leaders had “adopted unanimously” the declaration, said AU Commission head Moussa Faki Mahamat. Through the Nairobi Declaration, Africa aims to articulate a unified voice ahead of various forums, such as the COP28 climate summit in Dubai or the UN General Assembly.

This article is published weekly. The content is based on news by agencies participating in the enr.