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Kenya's President William Ruto on May 5 2023. Picture: MONICAH MWANGI/REUTERS
Kenya's President William Ruto on May 5 2023. Picture: MONICAH MWANGI/REUTERS

Nairobi — Kenyan President William Ruto on Monday urged delegates to Africa’s first climate summit to see the crisis as a unique opportunity for the continent to attract large-scale investments.

Organisers say they expect hundreds of millions of dollars in deals to be announced at the three-day summit in Nairobi, during which they aim to showcase Africa as a destination for climate investment rather than a victim of floods, drought and famine.

African leaders are pushing market-based financing instruments such as carbon credits and debt-for-nature swaps in a bid to mobilise funding that they say has been slow to arrive from rich-world donors.

“For a very long time we have looked at this as a problem. It is time we flipped and looked at it from the other side,” Ruto told delegates. “We must see in green growth not just a climate imperative but also a fountain of multibillion-dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the world is primed to capitalise on,” he said.

Several speakers at the summit, however, said they had seen little progress towards accelerating climate financing. Africa has received only about 12% of the finance it needs to cope with climate impacts, according to a report in 2022 by the nonprofit Climate Policy Initiative.

“There hasn’t been any success for an African country in attracting climate finance,” said Bogolo Kenewendo, a UN climate adviser and former trade minister in Botswana.

She said Africa’s struggles to attract capital persist largely because of a perception the continent is too risky, despite significant improvements to the investment environment in many countries. “We need a complete overhaul of the global financial infrastructure,” she said.

More than 20 presidents and heads of government are expected to attend the summit from Tuesday. They plan to issue a declaration outlining Africa’s position ahead of a UN climate conference later in September and the COP28 UN summit in the United Arab Emirates from late November.

Companies and governments began announcing investments and financing commitments.

One of the top lenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rawbank, and global energy trader Vitol announced a $20m investment in renewable energy, clean cooking and forest conservation in the DRC.

Britain said UK-backed projects worth £49m will be announced over the course of the summit. Germany announced a €60m debt swap with Kenya to free up money for renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.

Many African campaigners have opposed the summit’s approach to climate finance, saying it advances Western priorities at the expense of the continent. They say carbon credits, which allow polluters to offset emissions by funding green activities, are a pretext for wealthier countries and corporations to continue polluting.

“Africa needs funding from countries that have got rich off our suffering. They owe a climate debt,” said Mohamed Adow, the director of energy at the Power Shift Africa think-tank.

About 500 people marched in downtown Nairobi on Monday to protest against the summit’s agenda and demand financial compensation for climate damage from rich countries.

African leaders have also been calling for debt relief to help free up money to spend on renewable energy, conservation and adaptation.

A new working paper released by the Debt Relief for Green and Inclusive Recovery Project found that countries in Sub-Saharan Africa face annual debt servicing costs that are nearly the same as their climate finance needs.

Reuters

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