African policymakers will kick off a landmark climate summit in Kenya on Monday aimed at reframing the continent as a budding renewable energy powerhouse and calling for international financial help to unlock its potential.
Kenyan President William Ruto says he wants the first Africa Climate Summit to help “deliver African solutions” to the November COP28 climate summit in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, which will likely be dominated by clashing visions for the world’s energy future.
Africa, home to 1.2 billion people spread across 54 nations, is politically and economically diverse and its communities are among the most vulnerable to climate change.
Analysts say if the summit can bring together leaders from the continent to define a shared vision of Africa’s green development, then that could ripple across a flurry of international diplomatic and economic meetings leading up to COP28.
Joseph Nganga, Ruto’s appointee to head the summit, said the conference would demonstrate that “Africa is not just a victim but a dynamic continent with solutions for the world”.
“We have the power to address this crisis… Africa represents a positive opportunity for the world if we work together towards mutually beneficial outcomes,” said Nganga from the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, which promotes renewable power in developing nations.
Security has been tightened and roads closed around the summit venue in central Nairobi, where the government says 30,000 people have registered to attend the three-day event.
Civil society groups are expected to protest near the summit at its opening on Monday against what they call its “deeply compromised agenda” and focus on rich-nation interests.
A draft version of the final declaration seen by AFP puts the spotlight on Africa’s vast renewable energy potential, young workforce, and natural assets.
Those include 40 percent of global reserves of cobalt, manganese, and platinum crucial for batteries and hydrogen fuel-cells.
But there are daunting challenges for a continent where hundreds of millions of people currently lack access to electricity.
Reminders of political instability in the region came last week, with a military takeover in Gabon little more than a month after a coup in Niger.
Countries in Africa are also hamstrung by mounting debt costs and a dearth of finance.
Despite hosting 60 percent of the world’s best solar energy resources, Africa has roughly the same amount of installed capacity as Belgium, according to a commentary published last month by Ruto and the International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol.
Currently, only about three percent of energy investments worldwide are made in Africa.
Charra Tesfaye Terfassa of the think tank E3G, said the summit should balance optimism with a tough assessment of the challenges to “chart a new path for Africa to be a key part of the global conversation and benefit from the opportunities of the transition.”
The Nairobi meeting is expected to draw several African heads of state, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and UN head Antonio Guterres and other leaders.