While Africa contributes relatively little to global greenhouse gas emissions, it is one of the most vulnerable regions to the adverse effects of climate change. Climate change has had far-reaching consequences for its people, ecosystems, and economies. The continent is experiencing higher-than-average temperature increases; erratic and unpredictable rainfall patterns; rising sea levels; coastal erosion; food insecurity, and displacement and migration. 

Africa loses seven to 15 billion dollars a year from climate change, estimated to rise to $50 billion by 2040 at the current trend. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa has been losing from 5 to 15% of its GDP per capita growth because of climate change and its related impacts. 

“We must act quickly, and we must act now. It is disrupting businesses and every day lives of millions of people. Years of drought cyclones continue to inflict misery on communities that may not have contributed to gas emissions resulting in global warming,” Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, said in her speech at the Africa Social Impact Summit hosted by the Sterling One Foundation.

Malawi, according to her, is the latest casualty of climate change. Earlier this year, Malawi confronted a string of climate-induced disasters, including landslides, extreme rainfall, flooding and cyclones. In March, the East African country was hit by Cyclone Freddy, the longest-lasting tropical cyclone ever recorded in the southern hemisphere. It left an estimated 1.1 million people in dire need of urgent humanitarian support. In January of the previous year, Cyclone Ana struck, affecting over 900,000 individuals. Only two months later, Cyclone Gombe followed suit, compounding the damage further. These disasters have further exacerbated the existing distressing levels of poverty in rural areas.

“This global challenge requires our seasoned dedication and actual-oriented approach. The private sector is key in ensuring an action-oriented approach to addressing the adaptation and mitigation of climate change in Africa. The case study of Malawi has shown that we have to fast-track communities for resilience and transform lives,” she stated.  

Through her community development initiative and collaboration with a private entity in the USA, she has successfully demonstrated the positive outcomes that stem from authentic partnerships between private sectors and local communities. “Within this domain, private sector financing has been instrumental in implementing programs that have yielded manifold advantages for local communities. Our endeavours, focused on food security and financial sustainability, have been achieved through these processes. We have supplied agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers to subsistence farmers to enhance harvest yields,” she explained. 

The Joyce Banda Foundation International (JBFI) has been feeding over 20,000 vulnerable children and working with over 200,000 women, many of whom are now homeless due to the natural disaster. The children have been forced to stay in makeshift camps, and education has been greatly impacted. 

She also raised the importance of wealthier nations living up to their climate financing pledge, and the impact of the finance must reach the farthest communities. At COP15 in 2009, developed countries committed to a collective goal of mobilising $100 billion per year by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries. The allocated $100 billion falls considerably below the genuine requirements of impoverished nations. Yet, even a minimal portion of this funding has been acquired so far. Collectively, African countries received only $18.3 billion in climate finance between 2016 and 2019, resulting in a climate finance gap of up to $1288.2 billion annually from 2020 to 2030. 

Africa needs about $1.6 trillion between 2022 and 2030 to meet its national determination contributions according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).  

Banda stated that “The pandemic has had a huge impact on education and increased poverty. During the same time, statistics showed that the world’s richest people are the business people and the business conglomerate got even richer. It is not too much to ask to invest in initiatives and communities. The combination of effects of Covid 19 and climate change has widened the gap between the rich and the poor particularly in Africa. A holistic approach addressing climate change as a global impact is imperative” she emphasised. 

Addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment, Banda argued that gender equality is an issue that has a quick multiplier effect, especially in the realm of education. “If we educate a girl or a woman we have educated a whole community. It is disheartening, however, that despite the $40 billion being pledged towards this objective, only a meagre 1% is women-led organisations to support such activity,” she stated. 

“I believe your interaction at this conference has reignited our common desire to make this world a better place for ourselves and generations to come. I look forward to a partnership that would transform people’s lives as a result of this summit,” she concluded. 

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