Ruto makes a climate change pitch for Africa

By Jacob Ng'etich | Sep 05, 2023
President William Ruto addressing the ministerial conference of the Africa Climate Summit at THE Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi, on August 4, 2023. [PCS, Standard]

President William Ruto has said that although Africa's carbon footprint remains small, the effects of climate change were disproportionately high.

Ruto said there is urgent need to address loss and damage, and to configure appropriate financial mechanisms since resilience grows with each extreme weather event and each bout of climate-induced insecurity.

Speaking during the opening of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit, Ruto said delivering prosperity and wellbeing for Africa's growing population without pushing the world deeper into climate disaster is not an abstract proposition or wishful thinking, but a real possibility proven by science and affirmed by emerging experience.

"An opportunity-oriented focus on climate action is the engine for propelling Africa into a realm of stability and prosperity, elevating us to middle-income status and beyond," said the president at the event themed, "Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World.".

The head of state noted that Africa possesses all the necessary conditions to realise a better future, citing assets like the young and growing workforce, educated, skilled and motivated to pursue industry, innovation, and enterprise.

"We have ample renewable energy potential, and the natural assets and resources to green our own consumption, and meaningfully contribute to decarbonization of the global economy. We must see in 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 capitalize on," said Ruto.

He said the continent was not meeting to catalogue grievances and list problems but to scrutinize ideas, assess perspectives, and unlock solutions.

The president observed that since 1961, Africa had witnessed a one-third reduction in agricultural productivity due to climate change; a stark reminder of the urgent need for adaptation.

"Yet, much of the world is just waking up to the merits of restorative agriculture-a practice that already resonates with African farming practices. By building on the wealth of indigenous knowledge, we can scale, enhance, and even monetize our agricultural systems," argued the Head of State.

This Ruto said enables Africa to unlock the huge potential in our agricultural land assets, representing two-thirds of the world's uncultivated and underutilized arable land, to feed our growing population and do so in harmony with the continent's invaluable natural carbon sinks.

Additionally, he said the restoration and expansion of Africa's natural carbon sinks are not just an environmental imperative; they are an unparalleled economic goldmine. They have the potential to absorb millions of tons of CO2 annually which should translate into billions of dollars, improved livelihoods, and millions of opportunities across the continent.

On renewable energy, Ruto said that the resources are not just an environmental necessity; they are the ultimate catalyst of radical socio-economic prosperity.

"They can fuel sustainable development, drive economic growth, create jobs, and uplift millions from energy poverty-all while reducing our carbon footprint, continentally and globally. The possibilities are not just promising; they are transformative," said Ruto.

Delagates at the ministerial conference of the Africa Climate Summit at Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi on September 4, 2023. [PCS, Standard]

Africa he observed can power all energy needs with renewable resources given that the continent had enough potential to be entirely self- sufficient with the mix of wind, solar, geothermal, sustainable biomass, and hydropower.

"In fact, Africa can be a green industrial hub that helps other regions achieve their net zero strategies by 2050. It is not just the volume but also the non-seasonality of our renewable energy that stands out. The nearly year-round sunshine makes Africa's solar potential particularly unique, perfectly suited to industrial energy demands-something that is more challenging in temperate climates," said Ruto.

Kenya he noted served as a good example of what is possible given that the national grid currently operates at 3 Giga Watts, with 92percent of that power being renewable and with the ambition of 100percent renewable by 2030 and a 100 Giga Watt grid, entirely renewable, by 2040.

He said that though the continent had a lot of potential for renewable energy, the numbers were stark with nearly 600 million Africans lacking access to electricity and another 150 million grapples with unreliable power, and almost a billion have no access to clean cooking energy.

The continent's strategic proximity to substantial reserves of metals and minerals necessary for the global energy transition, Ruto said makes Africa an attractive candidate to become a global hub in green industrial supply chain, from refining metals and minerals to constructing and assembling electric vehicle battery and other components.

The Head o State noted that by 2025, the mining of battery-critical minerals like nickel, lithium, and cobalt is estimated to generate around $11 billion in value.

He however, said that if the continent took the next step and engage in value-added activities like refining these minerals into industry-grade metals, that value could quadruple to $50 billion.

"If we consider the end-to-end value chain for electric vehicles, including the battery pack and all other components, the market value skyrockets to an astonishing $7 trillion," said the President.

What the figures clearly demonstrated Ruto said was that Africa can no longer afford a minimalist 'short-termism raw-material-based approach'. The time has come for us to break out of the shackles of low ambition. We must now begin to aim higher and strive for more, and better outcomes.

He said trillions of dollars globally are looking for 'green investment opportunities' as the pressure to tackle the climate crisis heightens and Africa holds the key to accelerating decarbonization of the global economy.

"We are not just continent rich in resources; we are a powerhouse of untapped potential, eager to engage and fairly compete in the global markets," said the president.

Ruto said that Africa should develop effective policies and regulations that catalyze investment and entrepreneurship and unleash the creativity of local businesses and transform the continent's resource wealth from mere potential into real opportunity, by directing large-scale investments that will actualize the possibilities that exist and await our citizens in present and future generations.

"A lot needs to happen before Africa can live up to its full potential of providing climate solutions for its citizens and to the entire world. Over the next few days, I have no doubt that African leadership will be open, honest, and direct about what we can commit and bring to the table - and the collaboration we need from our global partners.

He called for the African leaders to commit to invest in viable solutions presented by renewable energy, green industrialization, climate smart agriculture and nature conservation.

"I am confident that we are all inspired by the possibilities before us and galvanized by the demands of this critical time, to engage productively, collaborate successfully and conclude the Africa Climate Summit with a Nairobi Declaration on a Green Growth and Climate Finance Agenda, that will commit us to pursuing a climate-positive path to propel Africa's economy and promote job creation, in a manner that limits our emissions and aids global decarbonization efforts," said Ruto.

Share this story