By Tatenda Chitagu
NAIROBI, KENYA – Kenyan President William Ruto, the host of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit, has urged African leaders to put their differences aside and approach the world superpowers with one bargaining voice to capitalize on the global climate action investments and green opportunities.
Speaking at the opening of the Africa Climate Summit (ACS) Ministerial conference at Kenyatta international Conference Center, Ruto rallied African leaders to unite in the face of climate change, whose disasters continue to ravage Africa.
“This is no ordinary summit. We are not here just to talk about Africa or climate change in the usual way, which often accentuates our divisions—north versus south, developed versus developing, polluters versus the victims. A complex interplay of needs and responsibilities is a daily challenge, but it should not lead to a deadlock. We must be alert to the fact that they can sometimes blind us to the bigger picture.
“This Summit is our moment to imagine a bold and radically affirmative African future. So, as we immerse ourselves into the array of complex issues during this Summit, let us fix our gaze firmly upon the horizon of possibilities,” Ruto said.
His remarks come as the world prepares for the 28th Conference of Parties (COP 28) meeting in Dubai end of November, following a previous COP in which the continent came back empty handed, save for only pledges and promises.
Delegates follow proceedings at the inaugral Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi (Picture courtsey of the Kenyan Presidency)
Analysts, climate change and environment experts say African leaders can use the ACS as a dry-run to COP 28.
“My call to everyone present in this historic Summit, is for us to work together and converge our efforts on African priorities. Make no mistake, however, for we have no choice but to approach this colossal task with clear minds and open eyes. Over the next few days, I have no doubt that African leadership will be open, honest, and direct about what we can commit and bring to the table – and the collaboration we need from our global partners.
“I invite all to adopt an “opportunity lens” as we navigate these complex dialogues. We are not here to catalogue grievances and list problems. We are here to scrutinize ideas, assess perspectives, and unlock solutions,” he said.
Ruto said the ‘overarching theme is the unparalleled opportunity that climate action represents for Africa.’
He said the summit is an ‘unprecedented geo-economic opportunity for Africa’ which serves as a platform for the continent to unlock the huge potential in agricultural land assets-representing two-thirds of the world’s uncultivated and underutilized arable land-to feed its growing population and do so in harmony with its invaluable natural carbon sinks.
“Africa can no longer afford a minimalist ‘short-termism raw-material-based approach’. The time has come for us to break out of the shackles of low ambition. We must now begin to aim higher and strive for more, and better outcomes.
“We are already key players in the extraction of these minerals, but much of the higher-value addition—smelting, refining, assembly, and even the production of electric vehicles (EVs)—happens elsewhere. Trillions of dollars globally are looking for ‘green investment opportunities’ as the pressure to tackle the climate crisis heightens.”
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), over 640 million Africans have no access to energy, corresponding to an electricity access rate for African countries at just over 40 percent, the lowest in the world. Per capita consumption of energy in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) is 180 kWh, compared to 13,000 kWh per capita in the United States and 6,500 kWh in Europe
Ruto appealed to African leaders’ collective will and ingenuity to develop effective policies and regulations that catalyze investment and entrepreneurship and unleash the creativity of local businesses.
“Make no mistake, however, for we have no choice but to approach this colossal task with clear minds and open eyes. A lot needs to happen before Africa can live up to its full potential of providing climate solutions for its citizens and to the entire world. Over the next few days, I have no doubt that African leadership will be open, honest, and direct about what we can commit and bring to the table – and the collaboration we need from our global partners.
Several high level officials from the continent and across the globe are attending the summit, among them Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate change, United States special presidential envoy for climate change, John Kerry, Colombia vice president Francia Marquez, Sierra Leone president Julius Maada, among other heads of states.