Project Management . Capital Raising . Renewable Energy

“Change or be changed, but make no mistake, this changes everything”, Naomi Klein in the “trailer” of her New York Times and international bestseller, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.



Despite Africa’s least contribution to climate change in proportion to the rest of the world, it remains the most susceptible to its adverse effect. These impacts are expected to affect the society’s most vulnerable since 70% of the world’s poorest people i.e., about 422 million people live in Africa. Notwithstanding these facts, climate change conversations in Africa continuously lag other themes such as politics, sports, business, and religion. The topic is largely left  for researchers, academics, and other intellectuals to debate upon; thus, the jargon becoming too much to bear for the mainstream audience. Information is also for the most part asymmetric; key players such as financial institutions may lack the capacity to quantify climate risk in their lending portfolios and thus and thus opt to direct their efforts to low hanging CSR activities e.g. planting trees. 

Furthermore, limited policy guidelines and incentive structures allow market participants to operate in the “grey zone” on what falls within the realm of public sector vis-à-vis private sector on certain climate related issues

The Uncomfortable Truths

The reality of climate change in Africa can be seen on various fronts as captured by the UNFCCC.  Some of the consequences that are being seen include the following; 

  • Rising temperatures: Many parts of Africa are expected to exceed 2 °C of warming higher than pre-industrial levels with a rise in heatwaves and hot days to be a common occurrence. Moreover, North Africa and South Africa are projected to experience a reduction in precipitation by the turn of the century.
  • Rising sea levels and coastal erosion: Climate change will not spare Africa’s beautiful coastlines. For instance, a number of oceanic countries posted over 5mm per year in sea-level increase. These included the shore-line from Madagascar to Mauritius. Coastal degradation and erosion are also happening in West Africa where about 56% of coastlines of Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo are eroding at an ever-increasing rate.
  • Extreme events: Much has been written about Tropical Cyclone Idai; However, the glaring data shows that this is certainly not the last we’ve seen of such. Other extreme weather events have been evidenced by the 2019 extensive drought in Southern Africa as well as floods and landslides in the Greater horn of Africa, a contrast to its typicall dry spells historically.
  • Food security risks: It’s a no brainer that variability of rainfall patterns poses a serious food security challenge a continent where 95% of agriculture is largely from rain fed methods. As such, some of the key risks include reduced crop productivity due to heat stress as well as pest damage like the 2020 desert locust invasion in Kenya, the largest upsurge in 70 years.
  • Health and economic impacts: Higher temperatures and rainfall patterns offer budding ground for biting insects and vector borne diseases e.g., dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever. Such health hazards are likely to disproportionately affect Africa’s young population with children under 5 years being most at risk. Economic effects of such health effects at household level remain high with low income families unable to shoulder the associated burden of medical care such as procuring of medicine for treatment and mosquito nets for prevention. Government healthcare infrastructure systems are also ill-equipped given under-funded public healthcare institutions and public health insurance schemes, a gap in medical personnel, lack of a distributed healthcare network including health clinics, cold chain facilities for medicines among other bottlenecks.

So where do we go from here? - Critical Building Blocks for Climate Mitigation and Adaptation

The above examples show that we are on the precipice of an Armageddon. To avoid the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will pivot my reflection to climate mitigation and adaptation opportunities Africa can explore. Indeed, these ideas are by no means exhaustive but are important building blocks in the continent’s journey towards sustainability.

  • Clear Policy Development & Implementation: While a number of countries in Africa have made strides in developing National Climate Action Plans and policy toolkits; mainly drawn from the commitments captured in their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from the Paris Agreement, and their Long-Term Strategies (LTSs); still, a lot remains to be seen from an on-the-ground implementation perspective. Thus with COP 26 fast approaching, the pressure is on for countries to demonstrate progress and articulate how they will apply the lessons learnt to build momentum going forward. Well thought out policies and road maps will provide an interface within which various stakeholders can plug in. It can also act as a pathway for long term public-private partnerships (PPP) between governments, quasi-government bodies, private sector players and development partners.

Below is visual of Kenya’s governance structures with regards to the issue of climate change:

  • Unlocking Climate Finance & Innovative Financing: Access to capital continues to be an Achilles heel in many climate related projects. Often capital is not available or where it is, it’s unequally matched from a tenor, cost , disbursement and other risk-reward design parameters. This leaves projects at a precarious state of constantly fighting for survival. Renewable Energy powered mini grids in Africa for instance, have experienced continuous underfunding not withstanding jaw dropping historical public commitments to the tune of USD 1.6 billion. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established as an operating entity to mobilize capital into low emission and climate resilient initiatives. Local financiers like banks are certainly encouraged to pursue accreditation with GCF. In 2021, KCB Bank became Kenya’s first financial intermediary to be accredited by GCF for implementation of green financing across East Africa. The onus is now on the bank to identify bankable green funding pipeline as well as the other lenders to follow suite. Here’s a summary of GCF’s financing process:

Source: GCF


  • Realizing the power of Community involvement: Sustainable Climate related actions require appropriate coordination with local communities. Gone are the days of top down boardroom driven interventions. Few good examples is the failed take off of the intended Lamu Coal Power Project which lacked the backing of local communities, environmentalists and civil society groups. With Lamu’s old town recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the project depicted how out of touch the promoters were with the ideals of the community and climate concerns.

Other projects that have faced similar headwinds include; a wind farm project in the same coastal town of Lamu that was nullified by the County government for failing to adhere to resettlement agreements set out by lawmakers and the Kinangop Wind Park, which was to generate 60MW, was cancelled in 2016 over hostilities from residents concerned about a lack of proper community engagement, compensation, relocation and the manner in which the land was leased  - public participation.

 The Award-winning film "Thank you For the Rain" ,adapted from the life experiences of Kisilu, a Kenyan farmer from Kitui county; shows why community action is equally important in the face of climate change. Through Kisilu’s actions, a whole community is mobilized to find localized solutions to climate change to preserve their agricultural livelihoods. Community action also has the potency of enhancing transparency of elected officials and keeping climate change in the mainstay of political deliberations. 

Source: Thank You For the Rain [Kisilu, a Kenyan farmer captures his life, his family, his village and the dangers of climate change]


It can be argued that the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may be hinged on the effectiveness of SDG 13: Climate Action, given that it cuts-across most if not of all the SDGs. In the words of Nobel Laurete, Prof. Wangari Maathai (the late); “There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments”.  Indeed “Clean Land, Air and Water” can no longer be just a cliché but a rallying cry and overarching mission across all 54 African states.

Author: Wanjohi Theuri works at the intersection of energy and water in building sustainable solutions to Climate Chainge.