Africa should invest in infrastructure resilient to climate change, which has pushed countries to spend almost 5 percent of their GDP in adapting to its impacts, said Antonio Pedro, Acting Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), on the margins of COP27.
The continent already has an infrastructure financing gap of more than $100 billion per year, according to the African Development Bank.
There is a case for Africa to ramp up investment in developing infrastructure that is vital to improving the standards of living for the African citizens as well as for the continent’s global competitiveness.
The Executive Secretary noted that the Africa Climate Resilient Investment Facility (AFRI-RES) was a boost to climate proofing infrastructure in Africa.
“There is an urgent need to close Africa’s infrastructure deficit at scale and at speed if the continent is to meet its development objectives – as stipulated in various national development plans, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and Agenda 2063,” said Mr. Pedro.
The Executive Secretary noted that closing the infrastructure development gap means investing up to US$170 billion per year in sectors such as energy, transport, water, sanitation, urban, and ecosystems.
These sectors are sensitive to the adverse impacts of climate change, including more frequent and intense floods, droughts, and heatwaves.
“Against a background of increasing climate change impacts that are already costing Africa on average 5% of GDP per year, it is important to boost the confidence that the infrastructure investments will deliver services and return on investments in both today and tomorrow’s climate,” the Executive Secretary noted.
A 2015 landmark study on Enhancing the Climate Resilience of Africa’s Infrastructure (ECRAI) by the World Bank and the ECA has shown that some river basins – such as the Orange River Basin and Congo River Basin – could become wetter under certain scenarios of global emissions pathways.
In addition, some river basins such as the Zambezi River Basin could become drier and lose up to 60% of hydropower production potential with resulting huge increases in energy costs.
Mr. Pedro stated that in 2016 the Kariba dam on the Zambezi – which supplies most of the electricity consumed in Zimbabwe and Zambia – almost shut down as the volume of water in the reservoir dropped to about 12% of capacity because of the unusual El Nino and La Nina events of 2015/2016 attributable to climate change.
The findings of the report led to the establishment of the Africa Climate Resilient Investment Facility – AFRI-RES – supported by the Nordic Development Fund. The AFRI-RES facility supports countries, regional entities such as river basin commissions, and projects developers with the capacity and tools to integrate climate resilience in investments in key sectors.
AFRI-RES is a joint initiative of the ECA, the African Union Commission, and the African Development Bank. During its first phase, the ECA and the AUC have led the component of training and advocacy and also the development of a climate knowledge and information portal.
“Africa can take advantage as a late comer in infrastructure development to make sure that it builds quality climate resilient infrastructure,” said Mr. Pedro, highlighting that the capacity and tools provided by AFRI-RES are critical inputs in the development agenda for Africa.