Attacking the West will get Africa nowhere on climate change

It has been six years since the accusations were flung, but they still resonate. The northern countries' contribution to climate change is an "act of aggression", said 

Uganda's Yoweri Museveni. It is equivalent to "low biological or chemical warfare", said Namibia's United Nations representative Kaire Mbuende. 

These derisions cultivated embarrassment because they were poorly timed and unstrategic. They yielded little more in terms of increases in foreign direct 

investment, technical assistance and trade-for-aid opportunities than would have been offered to African countries anyway in the context of declining, post-2008 eurozone and American economies. 

Today, leveraging support for green growth is easier. Mild provocation using conciliatory principles will pay greater dividends. This is because market intelligence on climate change business, legal procedures and economic risks is now much better understood.

Yet many African leaders still parrot invective about climate change, remaining incapable of deviating from the script.

The 2012 World Bank report, Turn up the Heat, identifies food and water security as the two gravest climate change difficulties facing sub-Saharan Africa. Coastal areas, flood plains and poorly designed cities are the most vulnerable. Addressing extended droughts, shifting rainfall patterns, storms and flood surges will require capacity-building to provide affordable and high-quality food and water, as well as new technology and infrastructure. 

Technical uncertainties plus environmental and fiduciary risks and opportunities are apparent. Fracking, acid mine drainage and nuclear energy are the most controversial in South Africa. 

In economic trade zones (at regional level), the business dynamic is in flux. This relates to, among other things, the feasibility of green-growth business plans, wider risk-sharing and undersubscription to government-led incentive schemes.

The skills context in Africa presents the most interesting but under-studied component of green growth. A 2011 World Bank report, Diaspora for Development, claims that the African diaspora has both the greatest understanding of Africa's trade and investment challenges and the greatest stake in the economic prosperity of the continent. This sector is emerging as one of the primary change agents of green growth, typically in the financial services and investment sector. 


Africans who have lived and worked in the world's glitziest capitals are likely to return via the softest landing pads, Johannesburg or Nairobi. Many hold senior qualifications and have work experience in water, energy, transport and agriculture from institutions abroad. Yet the wealth of returning African talent from the United States and Europe remains an untapped resource for green growth.

Overcoming the skills shortage in green growth and environmental diplomacy can empower us to take rightful knowledge ownership and negotiation control of our economic future. Never before in the history of this continent have financial and technical skills blended with home-grown know-how, yet never has leadership been more in demand than it is today. 

Africa is rich in possibilities. On a continent where food, water and energy crises are being compounded by changing climate patterns, the time is ripe for the leaders of today and tomorrow to leverage their influence incisively.

Dr Janice Golding is an honorary research associate at the Plant Conservation Unit at the University of Cape Town.

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Janice Golding
Janice Golding works from Toronto. CTV News. The opinions expressed here are mine alone, and will not always reflect those of my employer. Janice Golding has over 2846 followers on Twitter.
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