By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | May 25, 2023
Delivering his keynote address at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the COP28 President and the UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, emphasized the great potential that the African continent has to become a paragon of sustainable development. He also addressed the key challenges that need to be overcome in order to make this ambitious goal a reality.
The 2023 Annual Meeting is the 58th iteration of the event, convening high-level decision-makers in Africa, key officials of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, leading academics and representatives of non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the private sector. Held under the theme of ‘Mobilising Private Sector Financing for Climate and Green Growth in Africa’, the event also marks the 49th Meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Fund.
Dr. Al Jaber began his speech by thanking HE Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the President of the Republic of Egypt, for his steady guidance and for the success of the previous iteration of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, which he said renewed the global focus on achieving a fair deal for climate finance in Africa.
He also commended the AfDB, stating: “The AfDB has been at the forefront of the evolution that is very much needed in the architecture of MDBs (Multilateral Development Banks) and IFIs (International Financial Institutions). The AfDB prioritized sustainable industrial growth in Africa and has been able to raise its clean tech investments from nine percent to 45 percent of its portfolio in only four years. That is a remarkable achievement.”
Dr. Al Jaber reflected that the continent is on track for its population to grow from 1.4 to 2.5 billion people by 2050, adding that this cohort would have an average age of 19 years, making it the youngest of any region in the world.
“These young people have a right to a healthy, prosperous future, and there is no reason why they can’t have it. Africa is rich in many things, but also very rich in clean energy sources, including wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal. As such, it has huge potential for low-carbon growth and sustainable socio-economic development,” he said.
However, he noted that there is one critical challenge that forms a potential roadblock for the continent to achieve sustainable growth: “That is the lack of available, accessible, and affordable finance. This is putting the world’s climate goals and Africa’s sustainable development at real risk,” he stressed.
The COP28 President urged attendees to be cognisant of certain basic realities. “The 54 countries of Africa have done the least to cause climate change, contributing less than four percent of global emissions. Yet, they are suffering some of the worst consequences. The AfDB estimates that Africa loses up to 15 percent of its potential GDP as a result of climate-related impacts,” he said.
At the same time, he noted that the current gap in global climate finance was huge, particularly pertaining to what percentage has been delegated to the African continent. “When it comes to renewable energy, only two percent of the $3 trillion invested worldwide over the last 20 years has made it to Africa. The total climate finance for Africa currently stands at around $30 billion, when it needs to be at least 10 times that amount,” he revealed.
He noted how, if the balance on climate finance can be shifted to Africa, the continent could potentially become a defining force in low-carbon sustainable growth. “Addressing the finance gap is a top priority for the COP28 presidency and my team,” he said.
He further noted that, under his leadership, he and his team look forward to working together with all parties to make practical and tangible progress in this regard.
In the next part of his speech, Dr. Al Jaber addressed what the countries of the Global North can do to mitigate the finance gap. “As a first step, developed nations need to live up to their historic responsibilities, and they must come through with the $100 billion in climate finance they pledged over a decade ago. Donor countries also need to double their commitment to adaptation finance by 2025 to help build Africa’s resilience,” he declared. “To make transformational progress, we need to shift gears in mobilizing private finance. This is where the reform of IFIs and MDBs can make a big difference, by unlocking much more concessional finance, lowering risk, and attracting private capital.”
“There are encouraging signals coming from donor countries on this front, which I hope will soon be followed by real and concrete actions,” he said. He went on to explain how the upcoming COP28 conference would focus on exploring additional parallel mechanisms, which would help to supercharge the flow of private finance to Africa.
“By adopting policies and regulations that create a favourable investment climate for the private sector, African governments can build a robust pipeline of sustainable investment,” he said. He also acknowledged the work already being done by the AfDB in coming up with innovative and blended solutions in both public and private finance with the primary goal of expanding clean growth throughout the continent via Africa50, the infrastructure investment platform for the continent, by facilitating project development as well as mobilising finance across the public and private sectors.
“The UAE is leveraging over a billion dollars in investments in renewable projects across Africa through public and private partnerships,” he stated. “But progress is incremental, and what is needed here are big steps and transformational progress.”
“Mobilising public and private finance for Africa will have game-changing results for development and climate goals,” highlighted Dr. Al Jaber. “It will help deliver clean energy for the 600 million people who lack access to electricity and the almost one billion who lack access to clean cooking fuels. It will create new industries, new jobs, and sustainable growth.”
He continued: “We do believe that there is great potential for Africa to set an example for low-carbon, high-growth, sustainable development. Finance is going to be a critical success factor. In fact, finance is the key to turning good intentions into real results. And this year, with the Global Stocktake [which will be a highlight of COP28 in Dubai], we need every country and every stakeholder united in solidarity on this issue, alongside mitigation, adaptation, and, of course, loss and damage.”
Bringing his speech to a close, Dr. Al Jaber underscored the fact that addressing climate change requires more than just talking about numbers. “It is more than meeting goals. It is about people who deserve a better future for their families. Delivering effective climate finance to Africa will help Africa develop, progress, and prosper,” he said.
“It will help put the world back on the right track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and it will enable an energy transition that leaves no one behind. And that is what we are committed to deliver at COP28,” he concluded.
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