Green growth can turn Africa’s problems into opportunities, experts say

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Africa has been facing a number of challenges such as high inequalities, underdevelopment and lack of power, but these and many others can be turned into opportunities if the continent takes the path of green growth, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said.

The Commissioner with the New Climate Economy and former Nigerian Finance Minister made these comments during a panel discussion on Financing Sustainable Pathways for Development, on Tuesday, December 8 at COP21 in Paris.

Okonjo-Iweala said, aside from the problems the continent has been facing, Africa has also been experiencing tremendous growth, which is a great opportunity for investment and development. She said many solutions to the problems lie within Africa.

She is of the view that for Africa to turn problems into opportunities, the continent needs to take the leading role in mobilizing finances from within the continent and needs to set its ambitions high and develop sustainably.

“Let’s not play the victim, let’s play the leader,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

Regarding energy, Okonjo-Iweala said powering up Africa will help to improve agriculture productivity, which is the backbone of the economy for most African nations.

One of the solutions she mentioned is the African Risk Capacity (ARC), an Africa Union integrated solution to tackling the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable people.

ARC transfers the burden of weather risk away from governments, enabling them to build resilience, and better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events.

African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Kurt Lonsway said the Bank’s strategy focuses on green growth, which is why the AfDB is serious about climate-friendly financing.

Two of the Bank’s most important areas of focus are powering up and feeding Africa, said Lonsway, who is Manager of the Bank’s Climate Change Division.

“We need to find solutions to help people on the lower level have access to power, which would in turn open up many opportunities for them,” he said.

Hela Cheikhrouhou, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), said her fund would be a failure if it fails to deliver for Africa. However, she stressed the need to have flexible rules of accessing the fund.

So far only few countries have had their proposals accepted and one of them is Malawi, which has developed early warning signs to assist farmers in planning and making the right crop decisions as well as to help provide an early response to disasters.

Two out of three people in Africa have no access to electricity, said Eric Postel of USAID, and this is an investment opportunity. He called on African entrepreneurs to tap into this opportunity.

At the end of the discussion, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and Power Africa under the leadership of USAID.