By Nuru Ahmed

African leaders are concerned that the coronavirus pandemic is making climate change adaptation strategies very difficult to implement. These include heat-resistant crops to insurance cover that helps nations rebuild after a disaster.

Efforts to adapt to growing climate risks are taking root in Africa but the work is too slow and is now threatened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), said just 3 percent of international climate finance is reaching the continent. He made the remarks during an online meeting seeking advice from African heads of State on how to accelerate adaptation.

The bank had said earlier this year, it would raise $25 billion by 2025 to spur climate actions in Africa, with at least half going to back projects to adapt and build resilience to worsening droughts, storms, floods, and sea-level rise.

But with the coronavirus pandemic hitting economies and development budgets around the world, raising money for climate action has become harder over the last year, even as climate change-related risks surge, admitted African leaders.

“We are soon going to need at least this much ($25 billion) every year if we do not effectively mitigate and reverse climate change,” warned Ali Bongo Gabon’s President. Adding: “Every day the thunderstorms seem more violent while flooding frequent, droughts severe and crops are failing. People are being forced to flee their homes (and) becoming climate refugees in other places,”

Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s President said: “the economic downturn triggered by COVID-19 has destroyed jobs on a continent already struggling with legions of unemployed youth, pushing them into the arms of organized crimes and terrorists”.

The leaders said that varied climate adaptation efforts are already protecting lives and incomes across the continent.

Abdalla Hamdok, Prime Minister in Sudan said a switch to heat-tolerant wheat on 800,000 acres, backed by the AfDB, “has made it possible to produce wheat in climates previously considered totally impossible”.

Ethiopia has similarly invested in large-scale land restoration and forest re-planting, which has helped shore up water supplies, and countries from Mozambique to Mali are now covered by risk-pooled disaster insurance.

Macky Sall, Senegal’s President warned the pandemic is diverting funds from climate change adaptation and threatened to dry up that money in the long term, as debt-laden African countries struggle to right their listing economies.

“Many of the countries in the continent has seen good economic growth over the last few decades, but with COVID-19 “all efforts have been reduced to nil,” noted Sall.

“Everything has been put at a standstill warning that the downturn, bringing job losses and cuts in investment will lead to deeper problems in all our countries.”

The AfDB and the Global Center on Adaptation hosted the meeting as part of their joint Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, which aims to boost African efforts to adapt agriculture and infrastructure while creating jobs.

The AfDB, for instance, intends to provide weather information and advice to 30 million African farmers via their mobile phones and to help a million young Africans build skills to create green jobs that advance adaptation.

The program ‘will build on what is working’, Adesina said. “The bank has already boosted the share of its finance spent on climate change from 9 percent in 2016 to an expected 40 percent in 2021, with more than half of that going to adaptation work,” he noted.

That has included a push to expand a regional insurance initiative to more vulnerable African nations and support for work to plant a ‘Great Green Wall’ of trees across the Sahel to hold back desertification and protect farmers.