The reality of climate change is upon us, and the world is forced to take notice. As the magnitude and frequency of weather-induced natural disasters increase, we are facing a crisis where phenomena like prolonged droughts, heat waves, tropical storms, floods, forest fires, rising seas, etc., are occurring at an unprecedented rate. This is a massive global challenge that demands immediate attention, more so in Africa, which stands as one of the most impacted regions.
As we understand the extent of this threat, international solidarity is important. It has become abundantly clear that only through a collaborative approach can we make a notable difference in protecting the lives and livelihoods of all.
In the wake of climate threat, the African Risk Capacity (ARC), a specialised agency of the African Union, was founded in 2012 with a mandate to help African countries plan, prepare and respond to natural disaster risks and disease outbreaks.
From inception, ARC has recognised the enormity of the task at hand, and acknowledged the importance of smart strategic partnerships in achieving the African climate response vision. More than ever, we have to pool our strengths, seek opportunities to explore and exploit synergies, speak with one voice, share knowledge and learn from each other if we are to sustainably strengthen Africa’s resilience and build its adaptation capabilities.
As climate change intensifies, we’ve come to learn alarming facts. Scientists have confirmed that the amount of carbon monoxide in the air is at its highest in about 2m years, and that the last decade has been the hottest in just over a century, and this is wreaking havoc globally.
To bring it back home, multiple reports confirm that although Africa contributes less than 4% of greenhouse emissions, the least of any continent, it is disproportionately affected by climate change. According to a report by the African Development Bank, over 60% of the continent’s population are smallholder farmers, making the agriculture sector predominant in most African economies, yet it is the most vulnerable to natural disasters.
In addition to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contain global warming through more responsible actions, the immediate threat of weather-related disasters also demands a suite of solutions to respond to our current reality, and protect lives and livelihoods.
Relative to other disciplines, the area of Disaster Risk Management (DRM) is a fairly new concept that is advancing rapidly, propelled by an appreciation of the impending threats. This supports the argument that success can only be reached through a deliberate collaborative effort from stakeholders where the interests of all are prioritised.
The United Nations and other global bodies have led efforts to galvanise consolidated climate action plans that countries have to personalise. Owing to the scale of climate change and its impact, DRM is a vast topic that cuts across multiple sectors, starting with the immediate threat on lives and livelihoods, to its impact on vital elements such as food security, human settlement, health, poverty, migration, gender equality and much more.
In the same breath, response efforts require multiple, complementary solutions, and a concerted effort from all, including continental and regional bodies, governments and policy makers, civil society organisations, and communities to strengthen resilience and promote adaptation.
The impact that ARC has had in working with participating member states has been made possible through smart partnerships that have complemented internal capabilities.
Work in countries has been supported by donor partners who have come on board to fund capacity building programmes, enable research and development initiatives, cover the organisation’s operational expenses, and provide premium finance to African countries to increase insurance coverage when participating in ARC insurance risk pools.
Similarly, the work to improve resilience and adaptation requires financial resources to fund the various workstreams that make up DRM. As it is, most African economies are under severe pressure to meet their traditional basic needs such as healthcare and education. In a Covid-19 era, this pressure is compounded by the current health crisis which is demanding excessive resources.
Regardless of any country’s financial position, climate change response has to be prioritised. Financial partners therefore have a critical role to play in funding climate action to prevent disasters from escalating to humanitarian crisis levels.
ARC’s research and development function has been instrumental in availing solutions to enable member states to respond to the onslaught of disasters. To date, the organisation boasts a Crop Drought and a Rangeland Drought solution that help member states respond to droughts, and a Tropical Cyclone model that was developed for the South West Indian Ocean region to predict cyclones as they occur.
The development of ARC’s Flood model and an Outbreak and Epidemics solution are at advanced stages, and the launch of both is expected in 2022. These developments and ongoing improvement initiatives are also made possible by technical partners who complement our in-house capabilities.
Building an Africa that is resilient in the face of disasters
The continent’s resilience building and adaption work is broad, and the solutions are not found under just one roof. As we are able to harness available technologies and skills, the impact will be greater. Technical partnerships will promote the exchange of knowledge, and allow stakeholders to strengthen what they do.
DRM is a growing discipline that is evolving rapidly. The smart partnership approach is a means to an end that will enable Africa to achieve more than we ever could if we were working in silos. The idea of working towards one goal that comes with partnership arrangements will greatly benefit the continent’s vision of building an Africa that is resilient and adaptable to weather-related disasters.
Guided by a common vision and values, Africa can have access to world-class solutions.