AU must front action against climate change

The AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo: Courtesy)

Africa’s Environment has been sneezing over the last decade and the continent has caught the cold. The symptoms of Africa’s environmental sickness can be felt all over the continent. A case in point is Egypt, where the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation declared a state of extreme emergency in May 2016. Occasioned by dire water scarcity in Egypt, the ministry conducted campaigns to destroy water-thirsty rice crops so that they could save as much water as possible.

Egypt was in such dire straits because River Nile’s water output had diminished due to severe drought in other Nile Basin countries like Ethiopia. Eventualities like this should make Egypt and the rest of Africa realise that Africa’s environment will make or break the livelihoods of the continent. Environmental degradation in one African country has a direct impact on the society and economy of any other African country.

Kenya too has caught the cold from a loud sneeze in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s construction of Gibe III Dam on River Omo has left Lake Turkana on its knees since the lake is fed entirely by River Omo. Lake Turkana, which is the world’s largest desert lake, is now experiencing a receding shoreline and reduced fish production therefore denying inhabitants the access to ‘green money.’

Even in cases when adverse environmental issues in one African country are unrelated to the other, the two countries often share similar environmental concerns. Climate change has left erratic rainfall patterns all across Africa which lead to low or even zero farm yields across the continent.

That is why in 2016 Rwanda faced its worst drought in six decades. This year, after two failed rain seasons, Somalia is going through such a bad drought that the UN has warned that “The levels of suffering in the country, triggered by protracted conflict, seasonal shocks and disease outbreaks, are typically hard to bear, but the impact of this drought represents a threat of a different scale and magnitude”. This is serious! I humbly suggest that all African countries must pay attention to this profound statement. The effects of Climate Change, especially erratic rainfall and the accompanying droughts pose an overwhelming threat to Africa. The one thing that African countries together with the AU must do as a matter of priority is to take steps that will drastically lower the vulnerability of Africans to the effects of Climate Change.

If some African states were under military attack from a common enemy (God forbid), I am sure that Moussa Faki the newly elected AU Chairman would immediately convene an extraordinary Summit. It so happens that most countries in Africa are now under attack from climate change and its undesirable effects. It is therefore time for an unprecedented pan-African innovative reaction to this life-threatening scourge. Africa can only be as successful as its leaders' commitment to thinking green and acting green!