Greener and more resilient: Opportunities for Africa’s nations

News and Press Release
Originally published
View original

Speech delivered by: Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director
Event: 18th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment

Minister Creecy, Commissioner Sacko, Your Excellencies, Colleagues and Friends.

Thank you for inviting me to address the 18th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment.

This year, we saw the climate crisis reach deeply across the world. Floods, heatwaves and storms wreaked havoc, and focused minds on the need for urgent action. But such climate impacts in African nations have not made the global headlines in African nations. Because, in African nations least responsible for global warming, such events have become sadly commonplace.

The African continent is suffering extensively from the climate crisis. From the nature and biodiversity crisis. From the pollution crisis. And the challenges are accelerating. Only this week, in UNEP’s host country Kenya, the National Drought Management Authority announced severe impacts in view of a combination of drought, locusts and other factors driven by diminishing resources.

This is the triple planetary crisis writ large. And it is a crisis Africa faces while still dealing with the ongoing human and economic tragedy of COVID-19. The pandemic has brought the world economic hardship. Africa is no exception. The continent is witnessing its first recession in over 25 years, with economic activities contracting by nearly 5 per cent on a per-capita basis. Food prices could soar, as 11 per cent of food imports are from India and Brazil, which have seen their own COVID-19 disruption. An extra 40 million people are facing extreme poverty.

Yet even in the face of this adversity there are some very positive movements. An opportunity to change direction. A chance for African nations to rebuild their economies greener and more resilient. I am, of course, talking about green stimulus measures in pandemic recovery. Such measures bring a hat-trick of wins. They boost the economy in the short term. They deliver new growth pathways in the medium term. And they mitigate environmental degradation in the long-term. All of these will help to deliver livelihoods, food security, economic prosperity and peace.

The Africa Green Stimulus Programme is key step in taking advantage of this opportunity.

The programme hits all the right notes: climate action, air quality, land restoration, biodiversity, the blue economy, green cities and so on. It will supplement the AU Green Recovery Action Plan by enabling countries and regions to take bolder action through integrating environmental considerations in their plans and programmes. And it will build on recovery actions already in place.

Nigeria has devoted USD 620 million to a renewable energy policy that will create 250,000 jobs in the energy sector, while providing solar power to five million households by 2023. Senegal has devoted USD 100 million to a rural infrastructure development programme that will expand hydro agriculture. Kenya has devoted USD 60 million to improving environment, water and sanitation facilities.

Development banks are also stepping up. The African Development Bank and Global Center on Adaptation are implementing the Africa Adaptation Acceleration through an approach that addresses COVID-19, climate change and the economy. This includes mobilizing USD 25 billion for adaptation activities. The World Bank has launched a multibillion dollar Africa climate change strategy to kickstart green growth.

All of these are welcome developments. But the green recovery is nowhere near close to the scale needed to face down the growing triple planetary crisis.

We have taken good note that African nations have already spent over USD 1 billion on green recovery. This represents 4.6 per cent of total global green recovery spending. More resources therefore need to flow. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, to recover from the pandemic, Africa needs to close a financing gap of around USD 425 billion in the next three years. A key question to answer, however, is where to find the money.

So far, the solidarity promised from wealthier nations has not materialized. Even before COVID-19 struck, developed nations were not delivering on their promises in the Paris Agreement to provide adequate funding for climate change adaptation. While we will keep the pressure up to have countries deliver on their Paris commitments, in parallel, we need to find new and innovative ways to deliver the financing required. And, as stressed in the stimulus programme, Africa itself needs to take direct and urgent responsibility in mobilizing finance.

The stimulus plan lays out many avenues to explore. Domestic financing with regulatory standards to create a conducive environment for the green economy. Direct bilateral funding and development partners. Multilateral funding mechanisms. International market-based instruments, including green bonds and SDG bonds. These are just a few avenues in which African nations are getting ever more creative in mobilizing new and additional financial sources for the green recovery. We at UNEP stand ready to support.


UNEP is, of course, here to fully support the stimulus programme. Our organization is committed to supporting your efforts by providing policy advice, facilitating knowledge sharing and promoting dialogue on how green fiscal policies can mobilize resources. There are, for example, plans to convene a private sector forum to explore how the private sector can support mobilization of resource and partnerships for implementation of the Africa Green Stimulus Programme.

The next UN Environment Assembly -5.2 in 2022, also provides an opportunity to accelerate a green recovery. Through increasing collaboration with partners and other regions. Through exploring new funding opportunities. Through engaging with other major recovery programmes to find areas of mutual benefit.

The key thread at the Assembly, and in the stimulus programme, will be co-operation as we seek to recover from the pandemic. Between people, cities, regions, countries and continents. As the UN Secretary-General laid out in the Common Agenda, we are all in this together. We need greater solidarity. Stronger multilateralism. An approach that lifts the whole world.


We have much work ahead of us. But I am confident that with the full and strong engagement of AMCEN, supported by UNEP, we can accelerate a green recovery in Africa. Start to roll back decades of environmental degradation. Build resilience to the climate impacts we cannot avoid. And, most importantly, improve the lives of the people we all serve.

Thank you.