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ECA’s Chief Economist says investing in climate-smart development will boost economic transformation in Africa

9 December, 2022
ECA’s Chief Economist says investing in climate-smart development will boost economic transformation in Africa

Balaclava, Mauritius, 9 December 2022 (ECA) - The Economic Commission for Africa’s Deputy Executive Secretary, Hanan Morsy, has called for investment in climate-smart development for Africa to achieve economic transformation amidst economic and environmental challenges.

“Climate-smart development in Africa is the only development model that will unleash the continent’s potential to achieve its development aspirations,” Ms. Morsy said at the opening of the 2022 African Economic Conference on 9 December in Balaclava, Mauritius. The three-day conference is being held under the theme, Supporting climate-smart development in Africa.

Prefacing her remarks that African economies were facing crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, geo-political tensions sparked by the war in Ukraine, and climate change, Ms. Morsy said Africa risked reversing progress towards some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063. 

Noting that African countries were the most vulnerable to climate change while they contributed the least to global greenhouse gas emissions, Ms. Morsy remarked that Africa needs to close huge development gaps by investing substantially in climate-vulnerable key sectors such as energy, agriculture, transport, water and cities.

Research shows that the annual economic costs of extreme weather events in Africa are projected at between US$45–50 billion by 2040. Besides, the impact of climate change will cost up to 70 percent of Africa’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) on average by 2100, challenges which Ms. Morsy said had put Africa in a difficult development position. 

“The continent needs trillions of dollars to close huge development gaps,” Ms. Morsy noted, pointing that Africa, for example, needs investments of up US$170 billion per year for infrastructure development. Besides, nationally determined contributions to climate action  (NDCs) submitted by African countries would require close to US$ 3 trillion to implement.

“Africa countries need support to translate their NDCs into bankable investment plans that can attract financing from the private sector,” she said, noting that countries must address the policy and regulatory barriers to enable investments in renewables at the country level.

The ECA has supported member countries to realize climate-smart development, through an array of projects like facilitating just energy transition plans, improving mainstreaming of climate resilience into budgetary processes, enhancing debt sustainability, and developing carbon markets.

Officially opening the Conference, Mauritius Prime Minister, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, warned that climate change is a threat to Africa’s socio-economic development with Small Islands Developing States particularly affected. He cited expected increased climate change impacts witnessed in cyclones, dry spells and floods adversely affecting people's lives,  livelihoods and national economies.

“Climate finance is indispensable for small island developing states like Mauritius,” Mr. Jugnauth said, explaining that Mauritius was spending 2 percent of its GDP on climate-related policies.

Ahunna Eziakonwa, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator Regional Director for Africa told participants that climate-smart development is important for Africa to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. This comes at a time developing countries were strangled by soaring debt levels that they could not respond to the multiple crises of surging food and energy prices, climate change and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Africa’s path to attaining the SDGs must be climate-smart,” Ms. Eziakonwa said, noting that protecting the planet was an urgent priority.

Ms. Eziakonwa highlighted that the establishment of funding arrangements for loss and damage at COP27, a just transition from fossil fuels, climate-smart agriculture, and financing will be key drivers of climate-smart development across Africa.

There is a need for Africa to reflect deeply on its development challenges and create solutions, innovations, and technologies to solve them, Kevin Urama, Acting Chief Economist and Vice-President, of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) told participants. He highlighted that already Africa was losing up to $15 billion per year due to climate change impacts and therefore “Africa has no choice but to adapt to climate change and climate-smart development is an obvious choice for Africa.”

Mr. Urama warned though that the climate change challenge should be taken as a development objective and not a trade-off between growth and development for Africa. Africa should take charge of its development and economic transition.

“It is time for Africa to produce its own food and achieve food sovereignty, it is time for Africa to generate its own energy and achieve energy sovereignty and it is time for Africa to develop green infrastructures and to be able to remain sustainable,” Mr. Urama urged.

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826


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