Insights from African experts on how to accelerate adaptation in Africa

Africa’s climate is already changing: average land temperatures have increased by more than 1°C since pre-industrial times, sea levels are rising and extreme weather events, such as storms and droughts, are more frequent. Further climate change is inevitable. Adapting to its impacts is essential for African societies to develop sustainably.

Now, CDKN has launched a working paper, laying out an agenda for unlocking effective, accelerated adaptation at scale in Africa, based on:
● Investing in people’s skills and knowledge.
● Investing in climate-resilient economies, which are well-informed by climate risk.
● Investing in nature.

The paper intends to help frame discussions on ‘Accelerating adaptation action in Africa’ for the forthcoming Climate Adaptation Summit, which takes place online on 25 – 26 January 2021. The Africa anchoring event of the Summit is at 16:00-18:00 CET (UTC+1) on Monday 25th.

CDKN interviewed leading African scientists and climate change adaptation practitioners, in late 2020, to identify the key actions African countries must take to rise to the adaptation challenge. CDKN also commissioned a series of articles by adaptation African experts on ‘Accelerating adaptation action in Africa’ and undertook a related literature scan. Statements from these leading scientists and practitioners are presented throughout the paper.

For each of the three areas – people, climate-resilient economies, and nature – the paper provides detail on promising approaches to policy and programme design and investment that are already demonstrated in Africa. Specific entry points and opportunities are provided for each area, along with many grounded examples.

We flag technological and financial innovations with the potential to be rolled out at significantly greater scale (such as early humanitarian action and the use of insurance payments that are triggered on the basis of forecast impacts of extreme weather, to give but two examples).

The paper concludes that, as elsewhere around the globe, bringing adaptation to scale in Africa does not mean straightforward replication of adaptation solutions from one locality to another. Given the immense diversity in geo-physical, ecological, social and cultural settings across Africa, adaptation solutions must, naturally, be locally-appropriate and locally-owned if they are to succeed.

Working with indigenous knowledge is important. It capitalises on knowledge that people have developed to cope with existing climate variability. It helps build solutions that have legitimacy in local contexts. However, some indigenous knowledge techniques on their own will not be sufficient, where significant shifts in climate have already occurred, or will occur. Local wisdom must be integrated with scientific understanding of climate change, including scientific projections of future climate change, to inform development decisions with long time horizons, e.g. of five or more years. Implementing more widespread and ambitious adaptation in Africa will require more such partnerships, to integrate these different forms of knowledge and advance understanding and action.

There is also an urgent need for more finance for adaptation overall, and for more climate finance to reach local actors, to support these local priorities and partnerships. At present, an estimated 10 percent of climate finance reaches local actors; many African stakeholders are calling for this proportion to increase multi-fold.

However, a shift in more funding to local actors must occur in the context of strengthening public participation in climate and environmental decision-making at all levels (from local to national) and in the context of robust, accountable governance of public climate finance for Africa’s communities.

Changes will be needed in capacities and institutional arrangements to support this shift. International development partners will need to change as much as African institutions themselves. Only with the combination of persistence, openness and adaptive ways of working by all partners can African countries be adequately supported to implement locally-appropriate, locally-led solutions.

Read the working paper: Accelerating adaptation action in Africa

Read and watch more about ‘accelerating action’

Visit www.cdkn.org/africa-ambition to see our short film on ‘Accelerating African adaptation’ (presented below) and the commissioned articles from adaptation practitioners in Africa, which explore the issues and opportunities in more detail.

Photo: A semi-pro basketball player left his training to start an agribusiness in Keta, Ghana, to bolster community food security and women’s and young people’s employment in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: SEDLA, Ghana.