Can Africa Become Climate Resilient?

The recent disaster in Beira, Mozambique where a devasting cyclone savaged the city and surrounding region is a harsh reminder that Africa along with the Indian Sub-Continent is the region most likely suffer the worst effects of climate breakdown. Thanks to a cruel irony Africa is also the one region that has contributed least in terms of greenhouse gas emissions to climate change.

Climate change also threatens decades of improved economic growth across the continent, which has gone from a object of pity to a fast growing region which is attracting investors from across the globe. Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria in particular have seen strong economic growth after decades of stagnation, but all that could be thrown away as key economic sectors like agriculture are hit by climate change.

Climate change will push extreme temperatures up across the continent leading to increased water stress and desertification. Higher temperatures will also lead to a rise in natural disasters, drought, flooding and excess rainfall and other extreme weather events. All of this will take a heavy toll on the continent’s economy, people and environment.

While Africa alone cannot do much to stop climate breakdown it can take steps to adapt. The World Bank has rolled out a comprehensive program across the continent with its Adaptation and Resilience Action Plan. The thinking behind the Plan is that if action is taken now it will allow African farmers and others in the rural economy to more easily adjust to shocks as well as adapt to a fast changing climate.

The plan has already seen results, the African Hydromet Program has developed a network of organisations providing data and information on climate and weather all with the aim of improving forecasting which in turn will help farmers and others predict how they should adapt to changes in weather and climate, by changing planting patterns or using to different crop varieties.

The West African Agricultural Productivity Program has helped develop climate resilient crops such as plantain, rice and maize. These new crops and have raised incomes in the short term for farmers but also hopefully secured their long term resilience as they require less water but produce superior results.

The West African Coastal Program aims to tackle erosion and flooding in West Africa through policy dialogue and knowledge transfer to locals. The aim is to efficiently manage these changes and help mobilise capital to tackle the issue through flood defences.

Building resilience in infrastructure and agriculture incurs a short term cost even if it saves money and resources in the long run. Unfortunately climate resilience is something that African nations may struggle to fund given so many other demands on their resources, which makes the interventions of multilateral development institutions like the World Bank all the more important.

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