Africa is vulnerable to climate change on two fronts: firstly, because of existing vulnerabilities and secondly, due to capacity limitations for disaster mitigation and inability to adapt to climate change. There is an urgent need to ensure that activities centring on adaptation to climate change and sustainable energy development are increased and maintained so as to generate sustainable livelihoods.This paper is a preliminary attempt to identify points of vulnerability as they relate to climate change-related events and sketch out what changes are needed - both politically and programmatically - to increase resilience. It explores the current state of vulnerability and details potential for adaptation. Results are presented summarising the key vulnerabilities for eight sub-Saharan countries: Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
It is argued that energy development for Africa in a changing climate will require greater emphasis on small-scale, decentralised and diversified supply and increased distribution to households and enterprises alike. A diversified and distributed energy mix is identified as the best insurance policy against climate change. However, it is argued that adaptation of energy policies and systems is only part of the solution; building up the resiliency of local populations and energy systems is equally important.
Key priorities identified for policy are:
harness the value of indigenous knowledge to plan and achieve resilience
mobilise adequate and stable financial resources
mainstream adaptation and resilience in the development process
develop policies to institutionalise and mobilise “social capital”
The authors conclude that, despite the obstacles facing Africa, hope is not lost. They identify a number of positive characteristics upon which successful programmes can and should be built, including:
culturally, Africa has strong social networks, which serve an important function in educating communities, disseminating information and serving as substitutes for collateral in micro-loans
as primary collectors and users of biomass and water, women are well-placed to monitor and manage resources, spur innovation on adaptive techniques and experiment with new management approaches
Africa’s decades-long experience coping with poverty that may be its strongest resource. By its collective survival, the region has shown itself to be adaptive and resilient despite enormous obstacles.