By James Ochieng

With some parts of Africa, warming more than the global average, Africans at more risk if urgent action on adaptation financing is not taken, new State and Trends in Adaptation in Africa Report 2021 finds.

The report themed How Adaptation Can Make Africa Safer, Greener and More Prosperous in a Warming World (STA21) notes that Africa is particularly vulnerable to extreme impacts of climate change and faces exponential collateral damage, posing systemic risks to its economies, infrastructure investments, water and food systems, public health, agriculture, and livelihoods, threatening to undo its hard-fought development and reverse decades of economic progress.

“Without adaptation action, projections estimate that climate change will lead to an equivalent of 2-4% annual loss in gross domestic product (GDP) in the continent by 2040, with the poor, women, and excluded populations facing the challenges as a result,” the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA)  report reads.

“Studies show that the benefits of adaptation measures are almost always more than twice the costs, and often are more than five times higher.”

The STA21 report revealed that the cost of taking effective adaptation action in the agricultural sector particularly in priority areas like research and extension, water management, infrastructure, land restoration, and climate information services is estimated at 15 US billion dollars per year, less than a tenth of the estimated 201 US billion dollars annual cost of inaction, which includes paying for disaster relief and recovery after floods.

Further, it finds that with agriculture dominating economic life in many African countries and a leading source of jobs for over two-thirds of Africa’s population, the impact of climate change on agriculture will have far reaching consequences for African economies as a whole without accelerated adaptation action.

According to the report, Africa has the highest rates of urbanization in the world with about half of Africans living in cities, and the urban population is expected to triple by 2050, driven by high population growth rates and increasing migration from rural areas to cities.

It also outlines how, as cities expand, they can undertake a range of adaptation actions that require little in the way of financial resources but generate immediate and significant benefits or lay the groundwork for enhanced adaptation measures as part of post-COVID recovery plans.

Such actions include: strengthening early warning systems, providing affordable safe housing, creating urban parks and better drainage systems to soak up rain water and reduce urban heat, promoting innovative urban agriculture such as vertical farms on the walls of homes, strengthening and decarbonizing power grids, and generating energy from wastes.

With the youngest population globally located in Africa, STA21 also outlines the importance of engaging young people on adaptation action to ensure the development gains of recent years and their future welfare are not threatened by the impacts of climate change.

The report outlines how Africa’s massive endowment of nature can be harnessed as both an engine for jobs and a pathway for cost-effective adaptation, allowing the continent to embark on a more sustainable development pathway.

The report adds that Africa also has the potential to provide greater employment opportunities for youth by taking a growth path focused on labor-intensive modern industries in eco-tourism services, climate-smart agriculture, the ocean economy and green building and infrastructure.

However, it finds that the amount of money available for adaptation action is 265 billion dollars less than the investment need of 331 billion dollars for the continent by 2030 and calls for an urgent need to increase support from developed nations, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, development banks, philanthropies, foundations, non-profits, and other sources as well as integrating adaptation into national budgets.

STA21 also outlines the opportunities for deploying innovative financing models, mainstreaming resilience into investment decision-making and building the enabling environment for adaptation investment.