In establishing the African Risk Capacity (Arc), the African Union aims to assist governments — and, in turn, the famers and pastoralists whom they protect — get the funding they need when disaster strikes. Photo by: Anne Wangalachi/CIMMYT / CC BY-NC-SA

EDITOR’S NOTE: Africa wants to be the world’s bread basket, but the continent’s farmland is too vulnerable to natural disasters caused by climate change. In an opinion for the Skoll Foundation, African Union acting chief for risk capacity Richard Wilcox and Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala share their views on Arc, a Pan-African mutual insurance company for disaster response.

Natural disasters, driven by climate change, threaten to undermine the hard-fought gains made over the last decade, just as Africa is beginning to realize its vast agricultural potential.

Smallholder farmers, who constitute the bulk of the sector across our continent, are especially vulnerable to changing weather and require government assistance to deal with it. As currently structured, the system for responding to natural disasters is not as timely or equitable as it should, or could be, with much of the cost borne by farmers. International assistance through the appeals system is secured on a largely ad hoc basis after disaster strikes, and we are forced to reallocate funds in national budgets from essential development activities to crisis response. Only then can relief be mobilised toward the people who need it most  and it is often too late. Lives are lost, assets are depleted, and development gains reversed  forcing more people into chronic hunger, malnutrition and destitution across the continent.

It need not be this way, and insurance may be a key element in protecting both people and our environment from the increasingly severe impact of climate change-related disasters. Nations on the continent have joined together to establish the African Union’s African Risk Capacity (Arc), a mutual insurance company to trigger readily available funds for disaster response when and where we need them.

Edited for style and republished with permission from the Skoll Foundation. Read the original article.

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