Africa on the cusp of greatness, but first get the right leadership

African governments need to embrace the call to cooperate in finding solutions for the continent and sustaining long-term and impactful prosperity. [iStockphoto]

Africa faces a polycrisis - the climate breakdown, energy scarcity, biodiversity loss and underdevelopment.

To guarantee a better future, Africa needs urgent, bold and transformational leadership, which avoids the mistakes of the past.

Africa has spent decades working on the agenda of others but it is now time to set its own agenda. It is quite refreshing to see a new crop of leadership emerge on the continent.

For instance, Kenya has been consistent on its call for an African future built on self-sufficiency, and renewable and regenerative systems.

The renewed call from Kenya for cooperation among African countries to work towards meeting the continent's priority needs, is timely. Africa needs to look within for solutions to end decades of underdevelopment, deal with the current climate crisis and ensure the well-being of its people. Most people across Africa still work in the informal sector, often working under adverse conditions without social protection. Most of Africa's exports are still unprocessed. But, we can change this.

In the past, Kenya has provided the much-needed leadership in tackling the plastic crisis and it is encouraging to see the country now leading the way on climate matters.

African governments need to embrace the call to cooperate in finding solutions for the continent and sustaining long-term and impactful prosperity. Later this year, when Kenya holds the Africa Climate Summit, African leaders should come together to find lasting solutions to challenges and enable accelerated evolution of African economies.

The summit should provide space for renewed regional partnerships on trade, energy and development initiatives. It should also provide an avenue for the establishment of an alternative Africa-led development plan. The Nairobi summit should kill the fossil fuel dream harboured by some African leaders. If Africa embarks on a fossil fuel development model, it will spell doom for communities who are suffering due to prolonged droughts and famine.

Charting a new path fuelled by renewables is the only viable and safe path. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources offer communities in Africa a chance to renew their livelihoods, and free their lives from the chains of deprivation.

Renewable energy systems also provide opportunities for new ways of cooperation and production in Africa, including developing locally-owned systems that allow communities to be the producers and consumers of their own energy. Through renewables, Africa can end its dependence on external market forces for the supply of critical production resources such as energy and food.

Africa has the youngest population in the world and developing local systems will help dismantle barriers in the global value chain. As a result, there will be millions of decent jobs for the youthful population.

Africa also has huge agricultural potential. It's a shame that our agricultural systems are the worst hit by the climate crisis leading to our overdependence on imported food. To overcome agricultural challenges, the solutions must come from us.

Farmers can no longer rely on rainfed agriculture as rains become unpredictable and unreliable. Instead, we need to strengthen our irrigation systems. Investing in renewable energy also provides Africa the unique opportunity of effectively developing its irrigation systems and improving agricultural productivity in the face of droughts. But to avoid the pitfalls of the past, Africa's renewable energy systems must move away from ownership models dominated by private and commercial interests. The new systems should be based more on broader social ownership and prioritise the poor and marginalised.

Although Africa will need to set its own agenda and priorities, that agenda should be informed by science and evidence to address interlinked needs and competing priorities.

African governments will need to create policies and implementation plans that service this agenda and guard it from external interests. There is hope and Africa is on the cusp of a transformation.