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AFC sponsors 50 young leaders to bridge climate divide


One can understand a certain amount of frustration from African policymakers.

Berlin is building a “safety buffer” of about 30 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year LNG import capacity from 2027, says a recent report by the German ministry for the economy — something that was deemed necessary by Russia’s invasion on Ukraine. Meanwhile, African countries are being pressured not to move forward with gas projects.

The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), one of the continent’s leading infrastructure financiers, believes this disparity in global efforts to reach net zero is shame, as it masks potential for progress.

“For far too long, Africa has been viewed by the rest of the world as a place of ‘problems’ – and yet Africa holds the solutions to many of the fundamental problems facing the world today, particularly in relation to climate change,” says AFC President and CEO Samaila Zubairu. 

On one side is Africa, which bears a disproportionate burden from the negative impact of climate change, despite contributing only 3.8% of greenhouse gas emissions.  

At the opposite end are the high-emitting countries, which for the most part – wildfires on Greek islands notwithstanding – are currently relatively unaffected. This is creating a misleading sense of normalcy as climate issues escalate in the global South.

Shipping is the single biggest CO2 emitter after China, the US, India, Russia and Japan at 3.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions – about equivalent to all African nations combined

“To achieve progress on offsetting climate change, therefore, it is imperative for the global North and global South to come together to explore innovative solutions,” says Sanjeev Gupta, board member and head of financial services at AFC. 

To that end, they have partnered with international leadership development organisation Common Purpose to create a leadership programme for leaders from both north and south, to bridge the divide. 

Driving difficult conversations

Some 50 dynamic young leaders from Africa and the rest of the world will train together to better learn to understand what climate change actually looks like from the other end of the planet and, hopefully, do something about it.  

“We need to prepare and invest in the next generation of leaders in Africa so they are not only equipped with the skills and ability to influence change, but so they feel empowered and able to drive difficult conversations,” says Adirupa Sengupta, Group Chief Executive, Common Purpose Charitable Trust. “They need to be able to navigate the power dynamics involved and be able to collaborate to find new solutions and take them to the world.” 

For Gupta, this must have an innovative dimension if it is to work. “While cutting emissions is critical for the more developed and highest polluting wealthier nations, it is important to recognise that the relatively lower emitting nations of sub-Saharan Africa may have a more significant universal impact on offsetting climate change through other approaches.”  

That could include pushing for localisation of production, to minimise emissions from shipping or transport.  

An AFC white paper, ‘A Pragmatic Path to Net Zero’, points to the fact that Africa is the world’s biggest store of minerals and commodities – everything from copper and iron ore to cotton, cocoa and coffee. “Most of these commodities and minerals are shipped half way around the world to Asia for manufacturing and processing, before being transported yet again to the consumer marketplace. This is a key reason why shipping is the single biggest CO2 emitter after China, the US, India, Russia and Japan at 3.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions – about equivalent to all African nations combined,” says the report. 

The cohort will also work on finding solutions to, investing in infrastructure in a way that anticipates the large climate changes happening in a decade from now, says Gupta. Finally, the cohort can seek to “use financial innovation to attract investments that support climate-friendly initiatives”.

Those have what it takes can apply here.

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