Africa Climate Summit 2023: ‘Transformation of a distinct African character’

By Ronda Naidu

Africa Climate Summit 2023: ‘Transformation of a distinct African character’

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit was held from 4 to 6 September 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya. Under the theme of Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World, the summit’s four focus areas were climate action financing, the green growth agenda for Africa, climate action and economic development and global capital optimization.

The packed three-day program brought together representatives from governments, civil society and the private sector.

A key outcome of the summit was the Nairobi Declaration which Kenyan President William Ruto noted was a “firm resolution that sets the stage for a new phase of global climate action and the sustainable development agenda, for a future socio-economic transformation of a distinct African character”.

He highlighted the possibilities available in Africa, specifically noting the continent’s young and motivated human capital, natural resource wealth and green energy potential, all of which, he said, pointed to a new paradigm for industrialization that respects the environment and is able to sustain biodiversity.

With reference to the much-touted Agenda 2063, in his closing address Ruto specifically noted the outcomes of the Africa Climate Summit 2023 as having achieved:

  • US$23 billion for green growth mitigation and adaptation efforts across Africa
  • A transformative partnership of US$60 million over two years to expand green access in rural Burundi
  • US$4.5 billion from the UAE to boost renewable energy
  • Substantial contributions from European nations
  • Significant investment from the private sector, emphasizing renewable energy initiatives
  • The signing of Kenya’s green hydrogen strategy with the European Union to accelerate and drive green manufacturing, create high-value jobs and attract large private sector investments
  • A notable increase in adaptation financing

The outcomes, according to Ruto, showed a commitment to Africa’s sustainable future and energy systems aligning with the “ambitious Nairobi Declaration”.

“The [Nairobi] Declaration we make to the world defines and amplifies the African position on the way forward in climate action and fundamentals that the international community must attend to, to ensure that humanity’s economic and ecological imperatives are effectively, coherently and sustainably achieved,” he added.

Dr. James Mwangi, CEO of Equity Bank, confirmed the private sector’s commitment to the Nairobi Declaration by publicly committing to “address climate issues, drive green growth and climate finance”.

From a civil society perspective, two stakeholders in particular stood out, Judy Kibilo, Chair of the Kenya Indigenous Youth Network, and Dr Mithika Mwenda, co-founder and Executive Director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.

Kibilo called for an end to the “further displacement and forceful eviction of indigenous peoples from their territories”. She also highlighted the need for security of land tenure, the recognition and strengthening of traditional knowledge systems, partnerships to integrate traditional knowledge with conventional scientific knowledge systems and practices and called for the establishment of an indigenous people climate resistance fund.

A number of these focus areas are also contained within the UN Declaration of Indigenous People’s Rights.

Meanwhile, Mwenda called for “those who caused the climate crisis to deeply cut their emissions” and “provide adequate, predictable and easily accessible finance for adaptation and resilience building in Africa”.

“Time is of the essence. The scientific evidence is compelling. The window of opportunity is closing and the stakes are too high,” he said.

It is expected that African leaders will continue to pursue the continental climate agenda at a global level through financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as at a number of upcoming gatherings of world leaders including the G20, the UN General Assembly and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) which is planned to take to place in Dubai in December 2023.