Africa climate leadership takes the spotlight

Blog Post
The inaugural Africa Climate Summit will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from September 4-6. Amani Nation/Unsplash
Published September 1, 2023

Jide Ikeako

Director, Africa Program, Global Energy Transition Initiative

Cherono Sego

Senior Program Associate

Next week, heads of state and climate leaders from around the world will convene at the inaugural Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. Co-hosted by the African Union Commission and the Republic of Kenya, the event will focus on collaborative efforts to drive green growth, climate finance, and solutions for Africa and the world. The gathering is being held during Africa Climate Week, which is hosted by the UNFCCC and the Kenyan Government. It comes at a crucial moment amid a global push for greater and more effective climate finance, especially for the countries least responsible for and disproportionately impacted by climate change. 

As a continent that has long been at the forefront of climate change, Africa is pivotal in the global fight for a livable future. Africa is uniquely positioned to draw on its expertise, share insights, and advance solutions that accelerate green growth and support global renewable energy needs. The Africa Climate Summit is a can’t-miss opportunity for governments, philanthropy, and organizations both inside and outside Africa to collaborate and advance collective climate action.

A landmark summit 

We are approaching an important point in this year’s climate calendar. Earlier this year, the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact generated momentum but not much action for reimagining the international financial system to address inequality and climate change. Since then, global climate impacts have only intensified, and the pressure is on for leaders to translate good intentions into tangible outcomes.

The Africa Climate Summit is well-positioned to help accelerate climate action. With big deals for private and public funding anticipated next week, there are positive signs that the summit will deliver critical investments for nature-based solutions, clean energy, and climate adaptation. This progress, in turn, will help spur more transformative action at COP28.

The summit also marks a milestone for the African region and its role as a global climate leader. The event seeks to promote collaboration and collective action and “shift the narrative away from a division between the Global North and the Global South in addressing the climate crisis.” At the same time, there are growing concerns about non-African influences on the summit’s agenda overshadowing regional priorities. 

We believe the summit will be a watershed moment for global climate cooperation because it is the first time that leaders from Africa have organized a special global climate summit to accelerate climate action. The themes are particularly relevant to countries in the Global South, including financing climate action and green growth. In particular, with just energy transitions and partnerships (JETPs) gaining traction in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam) and Africa (South Africa and anticipated in Nigeria and Senegal), the summit is an opportunity to not only highlight specialized climate financing, but to also ask questions about its structure, efficacy, equitability, and implementation. 

A growing opportunity for philanthropy 

Since 2015, climate philanthropy funding to the African continent has been rising by an average of 30% each year. Between 2020 and 2021 alone, funding grew rapidly with a 50% increase. Despite this progress, funding falls far short of the need, and the region accounts for only 5% of total funding for climate mitigation action. More broadly, total annual climate finance flows in Africa stand at only $29.5 billion — significantly less than the $277 billion per year that African countries need to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and meet 2030 climate goals, according to a 2022 report by the Climate Policy Initiative

A growing number of local partners, including the African Climate Foundation, are guiding funders as they increase their engagement in Africa. At ClimateWorks, we have expanded our activities with more funding to implementing partners based in Africa and international partnerships designed to support the region’s push for sustainable climate finance and clean energy while ensuring a just and equitable transition. 

For the Africa Climate Summit, ClimateWorks granted $300,000 in funding for the technical team developing the agenda to support engagement across African countries and civil society. We will also have staff attend the summit to meet with local partners, listen, and learn. 

We believe philanthropy’s engagement is essential to catalyzing transformative action in Africa, and we look forward to growing our collaboration with local organizations working on the ground to propel the continent toward climate-resilient development.