African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina. Photo by: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

ROME — As the COP24 climate negotiations head toward a close, the president of the African Development Bank tells Devex that Africa needs to demand more from climate finance.

“Africa cannot adapt to climate change through words. It can only adapt to climate change through resources,” Akinwumi Adesina said during an interview on Friday, where he discussed AfDB’s vision for tackling the climate challenge in Africa.

“Africa has been shortchanged in terms of climate change because the continent accounts for only 4 percent of greenhouse gas emissions but it suffers disproportionately from the negative impacts.”

— Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB president

“We [have] got millions of farmers in Ethiopia suffering from drought and so many in Sahel. They don’t need exhortations, they need financing. We are shortchanged by climate change, but we can no longer be shortchanged by climate finance,” he said.

At the same time, Africa is doing more to develop its own systems and financing models to address the impacts of climate change on the continent, he said, avoiding the need to rely on external partners. The conversation here has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the most important thing Africa’s COP24 delegates can achieve in Poland from your perspective?

I think it is very important to move from talk to action … serious action that makes financing available for adaptation to climate change. Africa has been shortchanged in terms of climate change because the continent accounts for only 4 percent of greenhouse gas emissions but it suffers disproportionately from the negative impacts of it.

Concerning COP24, so far, I don’t see how we could say that we succeeded in terms of [the] global climate change agenda. If we don’t see the adaptation challenge that Africa has, we cannot succeed at all.

What are the AfDB’s climate financing targets, and are they aligned with the 1.5 degree goal?

First of all, the AfDB is investing heavily regarding climate financing. We have a climate finance program which we have approved up to 2022. We expect by that time, to have increased the share of our investments that are good for climate finance up to 40 percent of our total investments, which would be the largest share.

Second, we are also involved in helping countries mitigate the negative impact of climate change. For example, we have launched a major initiative to help countries pay for insurance premiums against the risk of catastrophic events. It is financed through the African Risk Capacity, an African platform that was set up to help countries in that sense.

“We are bringing together the financial institutions, the stock exchanges, and the central banks in Africa, to develop an endogenous financing model that would support Africa to adapt to climate change.”

The third action that we are taking is the creation of the African Financial Alliance for climate, which is led by the AfDB. We are bringing together the financial institutions, the stock exchanges, and the central banks in Africa, to develop an endogenous financing model that would support Africa to adapt to climate change without depending on anybody else outside the continent. And we have an African decarbonization index that monitors the incentives given by African countries for green growth.

This is very important because it is in Africa’s interest to find endogenous models to adapt to climate change and green growth.

How does AfDB incorporate climate into its energy portfolio?

Three years ago, 14 percent of our total energy generation portfolio was invested in renewable energy. Then two years ago the figure increased to 74 percent. Last year to 100 percent of all our investments in energy were in renewable energy. That tells you that we are leading when it comes to investment in renewable energy. We also launched certain funds that allow us to do more in particular for mini-grids and off-grid systems, which are becoming more important in Africa.

We have another initiative, called “Desert to Power,” which aims to power the entire Sahel of Africa by solar; to create a solar zone that is 10,000 megahertz — the world’s largest. It would allow 250 million people across the Sahel — which is the most vulnerable area to climate change — to access energy via renewable sources.

Developing African agriculture has been a priority under your leadership of the bank. How does climate change challenge your vision for this?

The first challenge for agriculture is droughts, which create a lot of problems in Africa. The second challenge is floods. The AfDB recognizes that farmers need to be insured against these natural disasters, so we are working to incorporate insurance systems for farmers.

In addition, we have a $1 billion initiative called Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation, scaling up proven technologies across Africa to boost productivity, and to make Africa self-sufficient in key commodities. We are leading it together with the World Bank Group, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other partners.

Under this initiative, one of the projects we are pushing is Water Efficient Maize for Africa. For most of Africa the main food is maize and maize is not drought tolerant, so we are implementing this WEMA technology, which works very well even in the situation of drought. We are scaling these initiatives up to millions of farmers, so that they will be able to harvest and feed themselves without having to lose so much of their crop. As part of our agriculture program we are also investing heavily in irrigation, and improving water management for farmers.

About the author

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    Eva Donelli

    As a correspondent based in Brussels, Eva Donelli covers EU development policy issues and actors, from the EU institutions to the international NGO community. Eva was previously at the United Nations Regional Information Center for Western Europe and in the European Parliament's press office. As a freelance reporter, she has contributed to Italian and international magazines covering a wide range of issues, including EU affairs, development policy, social protection and nuclear energy. She speaks fluent English, French and Spanish in addition to her native Italian.