/ 5 September 2023

William Ruto: Africa should stop being a victim and instead use its potential

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Kenya’s President William Ruto. (Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Kenya’s President William Ruto has urged African leaders gathered at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre to use Africa’s natural energy resources as an advantage at the United Nations climate conference COP28.

Speaking at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, Ruto said Africa needs to stop crying for solutions and offer its abundant solar and wind to countries across the world as a climate solution.

“Africa must not go to COP28 to ask for help from the rich countries, but to ensure that a reform of the global financial architecture enables developing countries to take part in the solution,” he said.

He added that “it is time for Africa to stop taking the crumbs and offer solutions; we have the advantage, we need to be able to use it to help grow our young continent.”

Ruto said selling renewable energy to wealthy countries at COP28 would ensure that Africa can balance the scales of inequality in the world. Ruto said this can be done through exporting energy to other countries that do not have favourable weather conditions but have the technology.

He said although it was important for the continent to stand on its own, it was also important for Africa to put pressure on the West to account for their part in climate change.

“Our assets must be in the form of partnerships. The reason we have not made so much progress is because Africa has not consolidated and brought its ideas to the table. The day we do that, we will be a wealthy continent,” he said.

“It is not just the volume of our renewable resources that stands out, but also their non-seasonality. We will always have the sun,” he said.

Finance is needed

Many countries in Africa have been affected by climate change, many suffering long droughts or heavy rains and sharply increased temperatures. To cope with these problems, finance is needed.

But Ruto also believes that climate finance needs better structuring and that don’t trap African countries in debt.

“If you don’t solve the debt issue, you can’t solve the climate issue. A new instrument is needed for these countries — finding ways to pre-empt default before it happens and that needs money,” he said.

He added that Africa should see green growth, not just a climate imperative but also a fountain of multi-billion dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the world is primed to capitalise on.

Echoing Ruto’s sentiments, UN secretary-general António Guterres on Tuesday said  Africa accounts for just 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, “yet it suffers some of the worst effects of rising global temperature”.

Investments pouring in

To address climate change, United Arab Emirates entities pledged $4.5 billion to develop 15 gigawatts of clean power in Africa by 2030. Africa has a target of 300 gigawatts of clean energy by 2030, up from 56 gigawatts in 2022.

African leaders are pushing for market-based financing instruments, such as carbon credits, which can be generated by projects that curb emissions, usually in developing countries, such as planting trees, or switching to cleaner fuels.

African governments have often viewed carbon credits and other market-based financing instruments as critical to mobilise funding as many governments explore the opportunities that come with carbon markets.

A report by Africa Carbon Markets Initiative adds that momentum African governments are increasingly recognising their potential. 

Africa has received only about 12% of the money it needs to cope with the effects of climate change, according to a report last year by the nonprofit Climate Policy Initiative.

“There hasn’t been any success for an African country in attracting climate finance,” said Bogolo Kenewendo, a UN climate adviser and former trade minister in Botswana.

Kevin Kariuki, a vice-president at the African Development Bank, told the Mail & Guardian that the deals announced on Monday were “very welcome” but not enough.

He said African states would push at COP28 in Dubai, at the end of November, for the expansion of special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund that could unlock $500 billion worth of climate finance, which could be leveraged up to five times.