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African leaders gather for climate summit

President William Ruto has defined Africa as a powerhouse of untapped potential and a continent that is ready to engage and fairly compete in global markets.

He said trillions of dollars globally are earmarked for green investment opportunities as the pressure to tackle the climate crisis heightens, yet Africa holds the key to accelerating decarburization of the global economy.

The President, speaking Monday when he officially opened the three-day Africa Climate Summit 2023 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, which was attended by high-level delegations from across the continent and globe, said the time has come for Africa to add value to its rich resources.

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

“We are already key players in the extraction of these minerals, but much of the higher-value addition in smelting, refining, assembly, and even the production of electric vehicles happens elsewhere,” he stated.

He said there is a need for the continent to engage in adding value to minerals such as nickel, lithium, and cobalt, which are estimated to generate around $11 billion in value by 2025.

“If we take the next step and engage in value-added activities like refining these minerals into industry-grade metals, that value could quadruple to $50 billion. And if we add components, the market value skyrockets to $7 trillion,” he added.

The President, who emphasised that the time has come for Africa to aim higher and strive for more and better outcomes, noted that there is a need to bridge the investment gap challenge to enable the continent to meet its energy needs.

Ruto said the challenge can be achieved by creating demand on a sufficient scale to provide incentives for appropriate private investment in energy infrastructure development, which he noted would help provide reliable and cost-effective energy access to all Africans by 2030.

Currently, about 600 million Africans lack access to electricity, 150 million grapple with unreliable power, and a billion have no access to clean cooking energy.

He also stressed the need for Africa to generate approximately 30 million new jobs to accommodate its rapidly expanding workforce. Through creating employment, Africa will excel and grow economically.

The President also expressed the need for Africa to develop effective policies and regulations that catalyse investment and entrepreneurship and promote the creativity of local businesses.

“We must transform Africa’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,” he added.

On climate change, the President called on the participants attending the summit to come up with a Nairobi Declaration on a Green Growth and Climate Finance Agenda that will commit Africa to pursue a climate-positive path to propel the continent’s economy and promote job creation in a manner that limits emissions and aids global decarburization efforts.

“Let us commit to investing in viable solutions presented by renewable energy, green industrialization, climate-smart agriculture, and nature conservation,” he stated, and urged them to come up with climate solutions that can help Africa and the entire world.

The President expressed confidence that the African leadership will be open, honest, and direct on what can be committed on climate and brought to the table for discussion and the collaboration needed from the global partners.

He noted that the conversations were necessary as they would come up with solutions to Africa’s carbon footprint, which remains small while the human toll of climate change is disproportionately high.

Ruto said the conversation will also deliberate on how to address loss and damage as well as configure appropriate financial mechanisms for resilience to grow with each extreme weather event and each bout of climate-induced security.

“This conversation will unite us across neighbourhoods, sectors, and institutions, across borders, continents, and generations. We must envision together a future that embraces the values of equality, human security, and shared prosperity,” said President Ruto.

The president said, “We have ample renewable energy potential and natural assets and resources to green our own consumption and meaningfully contribute to decarbonization of the global economy.”

He added, “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 are primed to capitalise on”.

Ruto said the summit will also scrutinise policy, regulation, taxation, trade, and climate justice issues in national, regional, and global contexts and urged the African representative to frame the complex issues well to enable the continent to achieve meaningful change.

The three-day event has various side events that will see global leaders, researchers, innovation trailblazers, experts, investors, and captains of industries explore the opportunities, tackle the barriers, and scale up solutions.

By Bernadette Khaduli

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