The repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic in countries across Africa are not limited to health and employment. The continent is also grappling with a disproportionate burden of climate change, the weak socio-economic status of women, and an alarming rise in food insecurity. Such issues are widespread, with marginalized communities bearing the brunt of the worldwide health emergency.
These were some of the troubling conclusions reached at a recent webinar hosted by the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and African youth leaders. The event, which was called “Addressing COVID-19 through the lenses of climate change, gender and land rights in Africa,” brought together over a dozen youth leaders from countries in Africa as well as experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB), CIF and Oxfam.
COVID-19 has exposed how vulnerable households, firms, and countries are to shocks, and how unprepared many of them were. Dora N. Cudjoe, Senior Operations Officer at CIF, told the webinar that holistic and collaborative solutions are required to tackle the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19. “COVID-19 is not a stand-alone issue that simply requires urgent health attention,” she said. “Tackling the crisis demands multi-sectoral and integrated solutions that respond to climate change, food security, gender, land rights and much more.”
An important feature of the event was the prominence of young African leaders in the discussions. Bringing their voices into the climate debate and decision-making process is important because they will be charged with confronting the effects of climate change in the future. This model is one that CIF encourages, and it aligns with the United Nations’ pledge to include young people in the climate emergency debate.
Keeping the financing flowing of critical importance in recovery effort
CIF and the AfDB both work to boost climate resilience by promoting mitigation, mobilizing financial resources to scale up and expand climate actions, and creating enabling environments to ensure each nation’s carbon footprint is minimized. At the webinar, it was agreed that this must be done in a way that promotes gender equality and supports job creation. These areas have both been adversely affected by COVID-19.
For example, Oxfam reported that female farmers have suffered from the pandemic, which threatens to undo the hard-won gains for gender equality in many African countries in recent years. Grace Ananda, Women Land Rights Officer at the Oxfam Pan Africa Program based in Kenya, cited a policy to facilitate women’s rights to land in Rwanda as a positive example and a model for other countries to follow as they implement policies to recover after COVID-19.
The pandemic has also created “major labor deficits” across Africa, according to Freeman Elohor Oluowo, Founder of the African Centre for Climate Actions and Rural Development (ACCARD).
“We need to see young people getting involved in agricultural production and become agro-entrepreneurs,” he said.
He urged CIF and the AfDB to advance climate-friendly COVID-19 recovery policies to support local livelihoods, linking climate change to the farmer-herder conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in Nigeria in particular. Freeman also called on African governments to “make sure that all recovery plans and actions are gender-responsive, with measures to grant greater access to rural markets for women farmers.”
CIF believes that a post-pandemic recovery in Africa will require large and ongoing investments, but that these should not come at the expense of the environment or undermine previous climate gains. 2020 has revealed how important improving financial preparedness is in bolstering resilience to shocks like pandemics or climate change. By developing customized packages of risk-financing instruments to protect the poorest and most vulnerable groups across Africa, we can build back better for a greener and more inclusive future.