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Africa Climate Summit ends on an optimistic note, but huge challenges remain

African leaders demanded sweeping changes to the global financial system and urged the international community to back a surge in renewable energy as they wrapped up a landmark climate summit in Kenya, Wednesday.

Issued on: 06/09/2023 – 16:41Modified: 06/09/2023 – 17:20

2 min


The chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, also announced that the summit will become a regular event, which will be held every two years.

The president of the host country, Kenya’s William Ruto, closed the event with a speech highlighting the success of the debates and the importance of its final declaration.

Children, young people and a representative of indigenous people were also given the floor to present their own declarations and demands.

Over three days of debate, leaders demanded that rich carbon polluters honour long-standing climate pledges for poorer nations.

The summit has so far raised $23 billion in funding pledges.

Efforts to increase investment in renewables were also given a major boost on Tuesday, with the UAE pledging $4.5 billion to accelerate Africa’s switch to clean energy.

The US climate envoy John Kerry also announced $30 million in new funding to accelerate climate-resilient food security across the continent.

He added, however, that Washington didn’t intend to pay any form of reparations.

Political unity

In a statement posted on social media, the organisers said the success of the summit “emphasised Africa’s readiness to take control of its destiny as a green leader and economic powerhouse.”

It underscored the continent’s commitment to proactive climate action, “paving the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future.”

Analysts say that the unity that was evident during the summit could generate momentum for a series of key gatherings leading to the UN climate summit in November, COP28, which will be held in in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

However, reaching a consensus is challenging across the diverse continent of 1.4 billion people, where some governments are championing a renewable-powered future while others defend their reserves of fossil fuels.

Oil-producing African nations argue they should be able to use fossil fuel resources for economic growth.   

Competing visions of the world’s energy future are also likely to play out in further talks.

Greenpeace Africa, however, noted that there is no mention of phasing out fossil fuels in the Nairobi Declaration.

Plans for a green growth

Ruto said African leaders envision a “future where Africa finally steps into the limelight as an economic and industrial power [and] an effective and positive actor in the global arena”.

He thinks Africa is well placed to move away from carbon-spewing fossil fuels, with a young population, vast renewable potential and natural resources.

This includes around 40 percent of global reserves of cobalt, manganese and platinum crucial for batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

But for many African countries, economic growth is a long way away and their priority remains debt relief.

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

Africa is among the hardest-hit by climate change and countries are pressing the world’s wealthy polluters to make good on their pledge to provide $100 billion a year for clean energy.

It has also been acknowledged that vulnerable nations, which are least responsible for global warming, need separate funding to help them cope with the effects of the heatwaves, droughts and floods already battering communities across the world.

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