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Drought, floods eating into region's GDP

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BY KEZIO-MUSOKE DAVID

East Africa's periodic drought costs the region between five and eight per cent of its gross domestic product, a recent conference in Kigali for African finance and environment ministers heard last week.

According to the conference, the more the droughts and floods become frequent, the more they have a direct long term fiscal liability on the East African Community, with a toll of more than two per cent GDP per annum.

On average, Kenya experiences flooding that costs 5.5 per cent of its GDP every seven years, and eight per cent of its GDP every five years, which together represents a long term fiscal liability of about 2.5 per cent GDP per annum.

An environmental consultant Paul Watkiss, said the change in climate is costing Kenya and Tanzania revenue from coastal tourism and corals to the tune of $18 million per annum.

"The World Health Organisation estimates show that climate change is already causing 55,000 deaths daily and will contribute a significant increase in the rate of vector and diarrhoeal diseases by 2030," Mr Watkiss said.

"Studies show increased spread of malaria to higher latitudes in East African highlands. Potential heat extremes are expected to affect the health and productivity of the region if nothing is done," he added.

The African finance and environment ministers were at the Kigali Serena Hotel for the 3rd Pan-African conference to discuss climate change and its challenge to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. The conference was presided over by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame.

According to a communiqué from the conference, the ministers noted that as minor emitters of carbon, African countries' priority in responding to climate change is to strengthen climate risk management and increase the use of international financial instruments for lower carbon.

East Africa has already embarked on low carbon projects. For instance, Kenya is working on geothermal energy in the Rift Valley besides having largest wind development project in Africa generating 300MW.

On the other hand, Rwanda has developed a solar power plant (250kW) and built a methane recovery plant.

While Uganda has invested in high efficiency cooking stoves to reduce 300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, Tanzania is embarking on a low carbon project that involves the use of crop-residue for brick making.

The ministers heard that though the average global temperature has risen by almost 0.8 degrees Celsius over the past century, it has risen slightly more in Africa. By 2050, average temperatures in Africa are predicted to increase by 1.5 to three degrees Celsius.

There will also be major changes in rainfall in terms of annual and seasonal trends and extreme flooding and drought," Mr. Watkiss said.

The ministers were told that about $67 billion worth of investments annually is needed by 2030 for developing countries to adapt to climate change.

According to UN Environment Programme executive director Benito Muller, given Africa's current vulnerability and its adaptation deficit, the amount for the continent may be assumed to be around one-third to half of the estimate (about $22.3 billion).

"By November 2008, $183 million had been disbursed and developed countries had pledged to make available another $130 million. The instruments are inefficient and not fully responsive to developing countries' needs," Mr Benito said