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Governance And Climate Change In Africa: The Nexus


Climate change is a complex challenge globally and it has far-reaching consequences on growth and human security in Africa. It has to be addressed with the commitment and urgency it deserves. While the science is clear and incontrovertible on the causes and its impacts on sustainable development, tackling it effectively is beyond the availability of resources. It requires strong governance, both at the domestic and global levels.

The nexus between governance and climate change in Africa is a critical one. Despite being the continent least responsible for global warming, Africa bears the brunt of its consequences, which if not addressed vigorously will deepen the already dire socio-economic challenges. The continent can no longer bemoan the failure of the industrialized world to adequately support Africa’s mitigation and adaption policies. It serves no purpose. Although disappointing, the position of the industrialized world on climate change vis-a-vis Africa is not surprising! African states must assume their own responsibilities and address the gaping governance gaps which have impeded their performance on climate change. Unfortunately, the gravity of the challenge posed by climate change in Africa is lost on the vast majority of Africans because their leaders and governments have not demonstrated to their citizens the centrality of climate change to sustainable development. The citizens see climate change as an exoteric discourse or as an obsession of the Western World, with little or no relevance to their lives. African Civil Society organizations have also been utterly effete in its advocacy on climate change. The clock ticks!  Governance remains the vital missing link in developing strong and sustainable climate change outcomes in Africa.

A Compelling Correlation: Good Governance and Climate Change Performance


There’s a strong correlation between a country’s ranking in good governance and its performance on climate change and effective climate change action. African states can leverage good governance principles to enhance policy coherence, streamline decision-making processes, and mobilize resources for climate initiatives. Transparent and accountable governance structures foster trust and cooperation among stakeholders, facilitating the implementation of climate policies and programs. Additionally, inclusive governance practices empower marginalized communities to participate in climate decision-making processes, ensuring that climate action is responsive to their needs and priorities with strong emphasis on the following three key pillars of good governance:

  • Transparency and Accountability:Open decision-making processes and holding leaders accountable foster public trust and encourage long-term climate action plans with citizen buy-in. Conversely, a lack of transparency can lead to corruption and hinder effective resource allocation for climate initiatives.
  • Rule of Law and Regulatory Frameworks:Strong legal frameworks are essential for setting ambitious climate targets, enforcing environmental regulations, and attracting private sector investment in clean energy technologies. Weak rule of law undermines enforcement and discourages long-term planning.
  • Institutional Capacity and Efficiency:Well-functioning institutions with skilled personnel are crucial for effectively implementing climate policies, managing resources, and conducting research and development in climate-resilient practices. Limited institutional capacity hinders the ability to translate plans into action. This is a vital gap in Africa’s climate change policies.

Good governance by itself does not ensure that climate action will yield the requisite outcomes. The following three drivers are needed:

  • Effective Policy Design and Implementation:Strong governance allows for the development and implementation of comprehensive climate policies that address both mitigation and adaptation strategies.
  • Resource Mobilization and Management:Transparent and accountable governance attracts domestic and international climate finance, ensuring efficient allocation and utilization of resources for climate action.
  • Long-Term Planning and Stability:Good governance fosters stable political environments that enable long-term planning for climate action, encouraging investments in renewable energy infrastructure and adaptation measures without fear of short-term political shifts.

From Planning to Implementation: Limiting Factors

Several nagging factors continue to hinder African states’ performance on climate change. Despite the fact that African countries have been signatories to the Conference of the Parties (COP) agreements on climate change and have subsequently produced, with the best of intentions, the Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), save for a few countries, African countries have not made significant strides in the implementation of their own INDCs. The following four factors continue to impede Africa’s quest to implement its own INDCs at the

country level:

  • Limited Resources:Because of poverty and lack the financial resources many African countries are unable to invest in renewable energy, requisite climate-resilient infrastructure, and adaptation projects.
  • Institutional Capacity:Many African institutions are weak and consequently lack the skilled personnel with the needed capacity and expertise to develop and implement effective climate policies.
  • Competing Priorities:Short-term and “bread and butter issues” such as poverty reduction and food security often take precedence over long-term climate challenges. Paradoxically, the solution to these issues lie in the implementation of the climate change agenda.
  • Civil Society Engagement:The Civil Society in most African states have limited roles in decision-making processes. The demand-side of governance in Africa is very weak which hinders transparency and accountability in climate governance. Corruption and mismanagement of resources are also impediments which must be addressed and mitigated at the Civil Society and public sector levels.

Climate Change Sceptics and the Agnostics: Commitment gap

It is important to mention that a very important impediment to achieving effective climate action in most African states is the commitment gap between Climate change sceptics and agnostics.

There are some African leaders, who are signatories to the COP agreements, and have developed their INDCs, but are either still sceptical of the science behind climate change or are agnostic about it. Some argue that the challenge is overblown and even if real, are not convinced that the threat is imminent. Others among them argue, falsely, that it is the problem of the industrialized world. Both do not see climate change as a priority, but as a means of accessing financial support from the industrialized world. When that external funding is not forthcoming, climate change is not a priority. This explains in part, significantly, why many African States are lagging very much behind on the implementation of their INDCs in addition to the four limiting factors already discussed. Any wonder that the citizens also see climate change as the least of their problems? Bridging the information and knowledge gap through strong advocacy on climate change must be a top priority for the African Union, the sub-regional organizations as well as the multilateral organizations if the Sustainable Development Goals (2030) and African Union Agenda 2063 are to be met.

The Way Forward: Climate Change as a Priority Imperative of a Balance: Sustainability and Development in Africa


Africa faces a unique challenge in addressing climate change. The continent needs economic growth and development to lift millions out of poverty, yet it is highly vulnerable to climate impacts like droughts and floods, with limited resources to combat the scourge of climate change, Consequently, Africa’s long-term Climate Change vision and policies must prioritize sustainability, ensuring a delicate balance between economic development and environmental protection for future generations. Focusing solely on emissions reduction will slow the pace of development, leading to social unrest and insecurity.  Sustainable policies also consider long-term environmental health alongside immediate economic needs. By focusing on sustainable solutions, Africa can address climate change while achieving its development goals as well. A few examples and initiatives are illustrative of how this delicate balance between economic development and sustainability can be addressed in Africa at the continental and country levels.

  • The Great Green Wall initiative is a gigantic pan-African project adopted in 2007 by the African Union (AU),  designed to plant a wall of trees stretching across the length and width of the continent to combat desertification and restore degraded land. Its present and expanded goal is to restore 100 million hectares of land, capture 250 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and create 10 million jobs by 2030. It envisages creating jobs in rural communities, improving food security, and mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon. This initiative, if successful and sustained, will go a long way to conserving Africa’s rainforests and supporting local communities in sustainable forest management practices like ecotourism and non-timber product harvesting
  • Climate-Smart Agriculture is being employed in some African countries which promote practices like drought-resistant soil health and water resources.
  • Off-Grid Solar Solutions: Many African countries lack access to reliable electricity. However, companies are providing innovative solutions like mobile solar kiosks selling solar lamps and phone charging, particularly in the rural areas. This improves economic activities, promotes clean energy access, and reduces reliance on kerosene, a major polluting fuel source across many African countries. It remains the fuel of choice for a lot of Africans who cannot afford clean energy alternatives.

Rwanda’s Green City Initiative is a noteworthy initiative that proves that sustainability in climate change is not antithetical to economic growth and development. Kigali is

  • well on its way to becoming a sustainable city through the introduction of car-free zones, green buildings, and a focus on renewable energy. This sustainable climate change policies are attracting eco-tourists and businesses and boosting the economy.
  • Kenya is harnessing geothermal energy as a major and reliable source of power which reduces its reliance on fossil fuels, limits air pollution and promotes economic growth at the same time.

It is imperative to harness good governance practices to enhance resilience, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and foster inclusive growth. Moreover, strengthening governance structures will enable African states to play a more proactive and influential role in global negotiations, ensuring that COP decisions are effectively implemented and that the industrialized world meets its obligations.

African countries should prioritize several key areas in mitigating the dire impact of climate change on development, including investing in renewable energy sources, exploring innovative financing mechanisms, facilitating technology transfer, integrating climate change considerations into national development planning processes, and strengthening institutional capacity to become effective players in global climate negotiations.

In addition, African countries should ensure that climate change considerations are embedded across sectors, including agriculture, energy, water, and infrastructure. Strengthening institutional capacity and providing training and support to enhance the implementation of climate change policies and programs is crucial. Moreover, engaging diverse stakeholders, including civil society organizations, local communities, and the private sector, enhances the legitimacy and effectiveness of climate policies.

Africa’s climate change strategy must entail a comprehensive strategy with the following six key components:

  • Ambitious Emission Reduction: Setting high targets to lower greenhouse gases.
  • Adaptation and Resilience: Enhancing the ability to adapt to climate impacts.
  • Sustainable Energy Transition: Moving towards renewable and sustainable energy sources.
  • Climate Finance and Technology: Securing funds and technology for climate efforts.
  • Policy Coherence: Ensuring policies are integrated and support climate goals.
  • Good Governance Nexus: Emphasizing transparency, accountability, participation, and efficiency.

Africa’s “best practices”: Where there is political will

A few countries in Africa have demonstrated that where there is a political will, climate change policies on adaptation and mitigation can be implemented, albeit with modest resources at home or from the industrialized North in spite of other constraints already mentioned. The following, by no means exhaustive, are noteworthy “best practices” in Africa on Climate Change:

  1. Morocco is a leader in renewable energy. It has ambitious solar and wind programs and aims to generate 52% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
  2. Ethiopia has made significant strides in reforestation. It has a national plan to increase forest cover from its current 15% to 30% by 2030, contributing to carbon sequestration. Its Climate-Resilient Green Economy Strategy is an example of a comprehensive strategy designed to promote sustainable development while addressing climate change. Other initiatives such as reforestation efforts, renewable energy projects, and sustainable land management practices have contributed to economic growth and environmental sustainability.
  3. Rwanda has prioritized a commendable sustainable waste management program. It has implemented a successful plastic bag ban and enforces policies that promote waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. This is in addition to its Green City initiative already discussed.
  4. Kenya has a strong commitment to clean energy sources. It is a leader in geothermal energy development in Africa, by utilising its natural resources for clean electricity generation. In addition, Kenya promotes climate-smart agriculture practices that reduce emissions and increase resilience to climate impacts.
  5. South Africa has a comprehensive adaptation strategy. It has developed a National Adaptation Strategy and established a Climate Change Commission to oversee its implementation. This is a strong commitment to planning, implementation and managing for results.

A number of these “best practices” are works in progress, nevertheless, these initiatives offer valuable examples and insights for other African countries to emulate or adapt to suit their particular context.


Good governance is not a guarantee of success, given the other factors already discussed, but it is definitely a key enabler for effective climate action and results. By addressing governance deficits, gaps and building stronger institutions, African countries can mitigate the myriad of challenges that have impeded most countries from translating their INDCs into concrete sustainable development outcomes. The clock is ticking!

Professor Okey Onyejekwe
Executive Secretary

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