High-level African officials met virtually this week to discuss the challenges Africa faces in trying to manage a growing population amid climate change. The conference was aimed at identifying ways African governments can manage these pressures to minimize or avoid conflict.
Africa generates about 3% percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the lowest of any continent. But it’s more vulnerable than any other region in the world, since Africans depend so heavily on their natural environment for food, water and medicine.
Speaking at a virtual conference Tuesday on climate, conflict and demographics in Africa, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said African governments need to keep the climate in mind as they try to boost their economies.
“Our first obligation for us and for African countries must always be to ensure the well-being of our people through access to development services, including electricity, health care, education, safe jobs and a safe environment, including access to clean cooking fuels. We must prioritize solutions that align the development and climate agenda, and that is absolutely important,” said Osinbajo.
The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, based in Brussels, says that in 2019, Africa recorded 56 extreme weather events compared to 45 in the previous year.
The extreme weather patterns affected the lives of 16.6 million people in 29 countries. At least 13 million of them were from five countries: Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
West Africa had fewer weather-related catastrophes but is feeling the effects of global warming just the same.
Ghana environment minister Kwaku Afriyie explains how climate change has impacted agricultural lands in the country.
"The harsh and deteriorating climate conditions in northern Ghana undoubtedly energized region-growing food insecurity and seasonal north-to-south migration. And besides, increasing of floods and protracted drought lead to displacement of people. Statistics show that over the last few years, there has been a new internal displacement which has occurred in Ghana due to climate-induced disasters and even beyond our borders,” he said.
The U.N. special representative to the African Union, Hannah Tetteh, said the continent needs to improve cross-border information-sharing and cooperation to handle climate-related crises.
“The challenge has not been that we haven’t developed yet these structures. The challenge has been we have not utilized them yet effectively, and that goes to issues of national sovereignty and the unwillingness of member states to have others, as it were, take an active interest and maybe recommend the things that need to be done in order to respond to a particular crisis. And if we recognize we are all in this together, then that certainly has to change,” she said.
As for specific suggestions, Osinbajo suggested governments encourage greater use of natural gas and plant more trees to maintain forests that can soak up carbon dioxide and prevent it from warming the atmosphere.