Financing water is key to Africa’s transformation, experts say

07/12/2015
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Experts at the ongoing Paris climate conference have underlined the need to prioritise climate finance for water and climate change adaptation in Africa.

At the high-level event with the theme "Seizing Opportunity for Africa: Prioritising Water in the new Climate Financing Mechanism," hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), Han Seung-soo, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water, called for more balanced thinking with a view to changing the current trend in climate change negotiations where mitigation always receives more attention than adaptation.

Stressing the need for a holistic approach to sustainable development where disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are both part of the agenda, he lauded the African Union Commission’s 2063 Agenda and described it as "a groundbreaking blueprint for Africa.

"Africa is blessed with a blue economy and water will be the key to the continent’s transformation as we continue to work towards achieving a prosperous Africa," Seung-soo said.

Sheila Khama, Director of the AfDB’s African Natural Resources Centre, urged regional governments to do more in improving water management by reconciling adaptation and mitigation and using water to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. She called for integrated water resources management across borders.

For the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), Africa is not starting from scratch regarding water even though the challenges appear widespread on the continent. Bai-Mass Taal, AMCOW Executive Secretary, underscored the progress that AMCOW in particular has made saying, “We have gone very far.”

Chukwumerije Okereke, Principal Investigator of the African Adaptation and Loss and Damage Initiative, African Group of Negotiators (AGN), noted there is a major data gap in terms of knowing the number of adaptation projects in Africa.

He recommended mandating a single body to keep track of funding for adaptation flowing into Africa. He also recommended that each African country form a national council for climate investment that includes donors, diplomats, NGOs and public servants from various ministries to act as an oversight mechanism.

Underscoring the need to shift towards adaptation in climate finance, David Craig of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) revealed GCF's plans to provide 50% of its funding for adaptation.

He stated the GCF aims to commit US $1.5 billion over the next 12 months. "Even though we are the new kid on the block with regard to financing, we are doing our best," he added.

Collins Ihekire, Executive Secretary, Niger Basin Authority, highlighted that 46% of the Niger Basin is located in the driest region of the world.

According to Ihekire, leaders of the Niger Basin countries have agreed to fund and improve existing agencies, in recognition of the fact that the issues of the basin are trans-boundary, instead of forming new organizations that compete for funding.

Africa currently reels under serious water challenges such as shortages, pollution, environmental degradation, floods and poor water management in cities and rural centres.

It is estimated that Africa loses 5% of annual GDP due to poor access to clean drinking water and sanitation; 5-25% to droughts and floods in affected countries; and 2% to regular power outages.

In addition to the cost of insufficient water security, the cost of climate change in Africa is estimated to be 1.5-3% of GDP by 2030, expected to reach 10% by 2100 under a business-as-usual scenario.

While the average funding disbursed during 2010-2012 by OECD countries in Africa for adaptation amounts to US $2.5 billion per year, Africa's adaptation costs are expected to rise to US $50 billion per year by 2050 in a below-2 degree Celsius world.

According to Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), this shortfall is unacceptable as most impacts of climate change are water-related. Africa, therefore, requires assistance in developing its water resources and improving its adaptive capacity to cope with negative impact of climate variability and change.

"Africa's water needs form an integral part of the adaptation plans for the continent and should be prioritised in any climate finance mechanism," Mwenda concluded.


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