By FATIMA DENTON
“We have outsourced the task of taking care of our problems and at the same time the opportunity we have with it… “Ali Mufuruki.
I reflected over the words of Ali Mufuruki, Tanzania’s entrepreneur, philanthropist and leadership coach at a recent African Leadership meeting held in Dar. I remember pondering away, weighed by the avowal in his voice that accompanied the quiet sermon, worth its weight in gold. Have we really outsourced the task of taking care of our problems and the opportunities that come with problem solving?
During this week’s climate summit, convened by the Secretary General, António Guterres, in New York, the climate change crisis has gathered new momentum. Students across the world are on strike as they demand greater commitment and stronger action from world leaders. At the same time, I am left wondering how Africa is preparing itself for the summit and beyond. Though this climate summit may not be in the same order of magnitude as COP 21, some three years ago, the problems still remain.
In fact, if there is one certainty, it is that climate change has assumed a vital position in our societies, businesses and daily lives. While the agency that Africa displays is apparent, especially given that it is the only region of the world that has a dedicated Committee of African Heads of States on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) which discusses strategic climate change matters in order to arrive at a common African position, might it be erroneous to lump all the countries together under the ubiquitous ‘African’ label?
The recent IPCC Climate Change and Land report (2019) revealed worrying signs. Africa’s land – the cradle of its food system – is under serious threat. This report is of tremendous significance for Africa, not least because populations are projected to nearly double the current 1.5 billion by 2050. Indeed, out of Africa’s total land area (2,966 million hectares), 494 million hectares are degraded.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) estimates that land degradation affects up to two thirds of productive land area in Africa. Even with high average growth rates at nearly 4 per cent, Africa ranks as the world’s second most unequal continent. In addition, food imports are on the rise in Africa, valued at more than $35 billion annually, a figure that could rise to $110 billion by 2025 if current trade trends continue.
Though initiatives like the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) demonstrate the ‘can-do’ attitude of the region, there is a strong need to get back to basics, and managing land resources should be a starting point. Indeed, it seems inconceivable that a continent endowed with more than 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is unable to feed itself. Yet whilst the challenge is huge, it is not insurmountable.
Managing land resources would mean staying ahead of food production which, in sub-Saharan Africa, needs to increase by 60 per cent over the next 15 years to feed the growing population. Innovative solutions that can help farmers boost harvests and make certain staples such as wheat more drought and heat tolerant are coming to the fore, so too are drone technologies that monitor crop health to help farmers mitigate crop failure and disease.
The world is fast evolving and Africa along with it. The global climate issue is not simply about carbon emissions, though this has been the currency of power since the industrial revolution, but about Africa