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BRIDGES OF OPPORTUNITY: PARTNERING FOR AFRICA–EUROPE GREEN DEVELOPMENT

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United Nations University - Institute for Natural Resources in Africa
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The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the heightened vulnerability of the world’s poorest and most marginalized. It has also underscored the disparities in development between the rich economies and the less developed ones, emphasizing the critical need to enhance Africa’s adaptive capacity. The combined impacts of climate change and Covid-19 call for urgent and radical solutions to future exogenous shocks. Disruption caused by Covid-19 has so far resulted in Africa’s economy contracting by some 2.6%, with a loss of gross domestic product (GDP) of US$120 billion (ECA, 2020). Healthcare will require an additional US$100 billion in expenditure, 28.2 million–49.2 million more Africans will fall back into extreme poverty, and more than 100 million people are at risk of hunger (Food Security Information Network (FSIN), 2020). An estimated 25 million–30 million job losses are anticipated in both the formal and informal sectors. This comes on top of climate change-related projections that GDP in West and East Africa will contract by up to 15% by 2050, in North and southern Africa by as much as 10%, and in Central Africa by 5% (UNEP, AfDB & ECA, 2020). Crop yields could decrease by up to 15%, and more frequent and more intense extreme weather events are predicted (Sultan et al., 2019). An ambitious plan to ensure stimulus spending in Africa to ‘build back better’ after Covid-19 has been unveiled. Backed by 54 African leaders, recommendations were issued by the Global Center on Adaptation and the African Adaptation Initiative (Global Center on Adaptation & African Adaptation Initiative, 2020). Beyond this, African environment ministers proposed an African Green Stimulus Programme at the eighth special session of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN). The African-led initiative aims to support green recovery in order to address the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of Covid-19 in a sustainable manner (AMCEN, 2021). However, faced with these challenges, Africa must go further and ‘build forward better’ towards a green recovery. This requires investment in a green transition that is likely to yield greater and more sustainable benefits than dependence on fossil fuels, which is already creating dire consequences for economies, the environment and public health. The slump in oil prices is a prelude to future impacts on fossil fuel-reliant African economies as the world continues to decarbonize. This discussion paper presents a synthesis of expert views and research that recommend a green transition pathway for Africa’s development, thus providing content and context for the next European Union (EU)–African Union (AU) summit. The note outlines the ability of the European Green Deal to catalyse a new partnership with Africa. It underscores the need to leverage Africa’s renewable energy resources and raises critical questions, including about the role that natural gas can play as a fuel of the energy transition.

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