Reviewing Akinwumi Adesina’s comment on adaptation


I don’t pay rapt attention to elite gatherings like the World Economic Forum, G7 and G-20 among others because such meetings (usually comprised of politicians, business moguls, plenipotentiaries, diplomats and technocrats) hardly benefit the hoi polloi. Even though problems like extreme poverty, income inequality and malnutrition are discussed in such assemblies, they rarely make any positive impact on the status quo.

I have successfully extended that apathy to similar congregations at the regional and continental levels. Their hallmarks are the usual reading of boilerplate statements by participants and the regurgitation of Pan Africanism rhetoric by panel discussants. Despite my awareness that the theme for the Africa Development Bank Group’s 2022 Annual Meeting, which was held between May 23 and 27 in Accra, was ‘Achieving Climate Resilience and a Just Energy Transition for Africa,’ which should ordinarily have tickled my fancy and created a high level of inquisitiveness, it didn’t dawn on me to meticulously follow the discussions. I had thought that reading the communiqué would suffice.

Through happenstance, I came in contact with an excerpt of the remark of the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, during one of the sessions. For the record, I have been an admirer of Adesina right from the time he was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture during the Goodluck Jonathan administration. The Growth Enhancement Support Scheme he spearheaded ensured the transparent distribution of fertilisers, seeds and agrochemicals to smallholder farmers. His other sterling achievements made me take exception to the slightly indecent description of him by the British Broadcasting Corporation as a ‘‘Flamboyant Nigerian banker’’ when he was re-elected as the bank’s President for the second term.

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Some of Adesina’s remarks during the meeting centred on the negative impacts of climate change in Africa. He estimated the cost of the continent’s annual loss to climate change to be between $7bn and $15bn; while projecting a cost of $40bn annually by 2030. Adesina then made some intriguing comments on the inevitability of climate change adaptation for Africa.

It wasn’t the doubling of financing for climate to $25bn by 2025 that thrilled me in his remarks, rather what made me euphoric in his statement is that 66% share of the bank’s climate finance goes to adaptation, making the bank the de facto leader in climate change adaptation on the continent and globally. Having been an advocate of prioritising adaptation above mitigation, it is comforting to hear that the AfDB under Adesina understands the importance of adaptation.

The Interl Panel on Climate Change, in its report, stated unambiguously the existence of a huge adaptation gap between current levels and the one needed to respond to the impact of climate risks. That gap, according to the report is found in lower-income population groups. Therefore, diverting a huge percentage of climate finance to adaptation is well within reason. Apart from the fact that adaptation helps to address the fundamental impacts of climate change, which is basically felt at the lowest level of governance, it also provides opportunities for local communities to be actively involved in the decision-making processes of effective adaptation measures. Its role in making economies climate-resilient and reducing climate disasters cannot be over-emphasised. Studies have shown that spending on adaptation measures like early-warning systems and public awareness have huge returns. The returns from a $1bn investment on early warning systems, public awareness and disaster response in developing countries, according to some studies, can range between $4bn and $36bn.

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One of the sectors where Africa needs to prioritise adaptation is agriculture. Besides being the most vulnerable sector to climate change, it employs more than half of the continent’s population and accounts for about 14% of sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product. Even though the continent’s agricultural sector provides more than 80% of the food supply, its huge potential remains largely untapped. The execution of climate-smart adaptation investment projects in the agricultural sector will help ensure food security a la reducing food imports and post-harvest loss while increasing yields and solving malnutrition. According to the Africa Adaptation Accelerator Programme, deploying the right technologies may increase the worth of agriculture to $1tn by 2030 from its current annual $300bn. With the many benefits that adaptation tends to offer, the bank has made the right choice in climate finance.

  • Kolawole Olaniyi writes from Lagos

Contact: [email protected]

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