By James Reinl
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2019 – African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina unveiled millions of dollars of new pledges at the United Nations this week amid growing fears of climate change ravaging the continent and derailing anti-poverty targets.
At a gathering of world leaders in New York, Adesina disclosed commitments on tackling global warming, a massive solar energy project in the Sahel, and an insurance scheme that poor countries can access when the next cyclone strikes.
“Africa has been shortchanged by climate change, but it should not be shortchanged by climate finance,” Adesina told reporters at a press conference at the start of the U.N. General Assembly.
The AfDB would double its climate financing to emerging economies to 25 billion dollars from 2020-2025, half of which would help governments adapt to droughts, rising tides and other impacts of climate change, said Adesina.
The bank would also help raise 250 million dollars to fund co-payments for insurance premiums so that disaster-prone countries get cashback when extreme weather events wreak chaos on their economies, said Adesina.
“Poor countries didn’t cause climate change, they shouldn’t be holding the short end of the stick,” said Adesina.
Another 20 million dollars would fund the Sahel’s new ‘Desert to Power’ solar scheme, for generating 10,000 MW of clean electricity for some 250 million people, including 90 million rural folks who live far from a power grid, said Adesina.
“This will make the Sahel the Baobab of energy,” said Adesina, referencing the hardy African tree.
Such funding is welcome, but may not be enough. Africa needs between 7-15 billion dollars every year to adapt to the impacts of climate change, said Adesina.
More broadly, the continent needs between 130–170 billion dollars of investment in power plants, internet cables and other infrastructure each year, leaving a funding gap of some 68-108 billion dollars, according to AfDB data.
Benedict Okey Oramah, President of Afreximbank, a trade finance body, said African economies had to work harder to train workers and expand their markets to lure investors to the continent.
“Countries which are fragmented are small markets, they cannot be of interest to people who want to put money to grow in a massive way,” Oramah told a meeting of African leaders at the U.N. on Wednesday.
“We have to build again the technical schools that we used to have, we have to build universities of science and technology so that we can have the right skills to take up the kinds of jobs that are beginning to emerge.”
Talks came amid concerns from teen Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, U.N. chief Antonio Guterres and many others that the world was not on track for slashing emissions of heat-trapping gases.
Guterres, secretary-general of the world body, warned that while countries were making progress towards the U.N.’s so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), more efforts were needed.
“Let us be clear — we are far from where we need to be. We are off track,” said Guterres. “Deadly conflicts, the climate crisis, gender-based violence, and persistent inequalities are undermining efforts to achieve the goals.”
The 17 SDGs were agreed by the U.N.’s 193 member states in 2015 in an effort to curb war, climate change, famine, land degradation, gender-based inequality, and other global ills by 2030.
Progress is being made in access to energy, to decent work, and in battling poverty and child mortality, but youth unemployment has plateaued and global hunger and gender inequality continue to rise, the U.N. says.
In an impassioned address to a U.N. climate summit on Monday, youth activist Thunberg raged at world leaders in a crowd that briefly included United States President Donald Trump and his entourage.
“You have stolen my dreams, my childhood, with your empty words,” said Thunberg, 16. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about are your fairy tales of money and eternal economic growth.”