Our takeaways from the Africa Climate Summit

In this blog we summarise our takeaways from the 2023 Africa Climate Summit, an event that marks a key milestone in the leadership and role of technology in Africa’s climate action.

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS), co-hosted by the Government of Kenya and the African Union Commission (AUC) took place on the 4th – 6th September 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya. The summit and accompanying Africa Climate Week (ACW), brought together a line-up of high level stakeholders, including 17 African heads of state, representatives from intergovernmental organisations, the private sector, civil society organisations representing indigenous peoples and local communities, and academia to explore urgent actions required to reduce carbon emissions. Governments, multilaterals, the private sector, banks and philanthropists made commitments at the Summit representing a combined investment of nearly USD 26 billion.

African heads of states and key leaders. Image source: Africa Renewal – UN Magazine

During the official opening of ACS 2023, host President H.E William Ruto urged leaders to abandon the negative victimisation narratives of Africa and instead focus on the available opportunities. He emphasised that Africa has four key “endowments” that make it valuable for climate action and the decarbonisation of the global economy. These should be integrated in the balance sheets of African states’ as a part of the region’s capital:

  • Renewable energy potential: Africa has 40% of the global renewable energy sources including solar, geothermal, and hydropower.
  • Natural resources: Including rare minerals required in green technologies.
  • A young and growing workforce: The median age in Africa is 19, representing a workforce that can serve the global market, if properly skilled.
  • Vast forest coverage: African carbon sinks can absorb millions of tonnes of CO2 annually.

Separately, H.E Ambassador Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) at the African Union, highlighted the importance of finance for climate action in driving green transition.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of the adult population are now connected to mobile internet services. Mobile and digital technologies have a significant and proven potential to accelerate Africa’s digital socioeconomic advancement and help to build resilience for climate challenges facing the region. Specifically, digital technologies can and are already playing a key role as an enabler of climate finance on the African continent, They facilitate access to the voluntary carbon market and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities through low-tech, frontier tech and financial technologies. Read our recent report on Digitally enabled climate finance.

Financing youth innovations for climate action

The GSMA hosted a joint high-level session with the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC), Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) and UNICEF, themed “Unlocking Finance and Creating an Enabling Environment for Youth Entrepreneurs and Innovators in Climate Action.” The session explored issues affecting young entrepreneurs in the climate resilience and adaptation innovation space, including lack of access to funding and the skills gaps.

In his speech Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the AfDB emphasised that investing in youth is critical in fostering growth and stability for the continent. He stressed that if we are to secure the future, we must ensure that youth have a seat at the table of decision-making. To this effect, AfDB announced £793.6 million in funding to support youth-led climate start-ups across Africa as part of the fight against climate change under their African Adaptation Acceleration Programme (AAAP).

The GSMA, represented by the Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, emphasised the need for collaboration and a robust enabling environment. This includes implementing better policies that promote technology uptake in the region by encouraging connectivity to bridge the digital usage gap. The adoption and usage of digital technology in Africa will largely sit in the hands of African youth, who constitute the largest and fastest growing youth population in the world. Indeed, GSMA research has highlighted that the skills gap is the greatest challenge for youth seeking employment within the mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa. Bridging this divide, providing lifelong learning and training opportunities, and ensuring decent working conditions for African youth is key to the continent’s economic and social growth.

GSMA Head of Sub-Saharan Africa speaking at the Africa Climate Summit | Image source: GSMA

Focus on coordination of technical and financial resources between the global North and South

The Nairobi Declaration was the culmination of the Africa Climate Summit 2023, adopted by African states as the basis for Africa’s unified voice towards COP28. The declaration highlights critical agenda items and commitments needed for urgent collective action at the continental and global scale that rely on technology as a key enabler. These include:

  • Technology to propel Africa’s economic growth and job creation in a manner that not only limits emissions but also aids global decarbonisation efforts.
  • Technology supporting economic development plans for climate-positive growth, including in the expansion of just energy transitions and renewable energy generation for industrial activity, climate-aware and restorative agricultural practices, and essential protection and enhancement of nature and biodiversity.
  • Technology to enhance early warning systems and climate information services, enabling proactive measures to protect lives, livelihoods and assets, and informing long-term decision-making concerning climate change risks.
  • Technology in promoting investments for urban infrastructure, including building climate resilient cities and urban centres.
  • Effective partnerships between Africa and other regions to meet financial, technical and technological support needs, as well as knowledge sharing for climate change adaptation.

After the inaugural Africa Climate Summit 2023, Africa and the global community are contemplating next steps and the practical implications of the pledges and commitments made. COP28 will be the litmus test of the Nairobi Declaration 2023, as it awaits responses from other regions regarding some of the critical demands affecting the global North. While economic and financial restructuring are essential components of Africa’s green growth agenda, a consistent message emerged from the speeches, panel sessions, side events and exhibitions: technology is at the core of the architecture for sustainable solutions to the global climate crisis.


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