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Africa seeking to tap investment on climate action

Kenya's president opened a landmark African climate summit on Monday saying the continent had an "unparalleled opportunity" to benefit from action to tackle global warming.

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi comes ahead of a flurry of diplomatic meetings leading to the November COP28 climate summit in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, which will likely be dominated by clashing visions for the world’s energy future.

The three-day event is billed as bringing together leaders from the 54-nation continent to define a shared vision of Africa’s green development — an ambitious aim in a politically and economically diverse region whose communities are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

“Delivering prosperity and wellbeing for Africa’s growing population without pushing the world deeper into climate disaster is not an abstract proposition, or mere wishful thinking. It is a real possibility, proven by science,” President William Ruto said in his opening address.

“The overarching theme… is the unparalleled opportunity that climate action represents for Africa,” he said.

“For a very long time we have looked at this as a problem. It is time we flipped and looked at it from the other side,” Ruto said.

“We must see in green growth not just a climate imperative but also a fountain of multi-billion-dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the world is primed to capitalise.”

Africa, he said, had the potential to be entirely energy self-sufficient through renewable resources, noting that Kenya itself aimed to be “100 percent renewable” by 2030.

Ruto has said that the international community must help unblock financing for the continent of 1.4 billion people and ease the mounting debt burden on African countries.

Joseph Nganga, Ruto’s appointee to head the summit, said the conference would demonstrate that “Africa is not just a victim but a dynamic continent with solutions for the world”.

Security has been tightened and roads closed around the summit venue in central Nairobi, where the government says 30,000 people have registered to attend the event.

Civil society groups are expected to protest near the conference against what they call its “deeply compromised agenda” and focus on rich-nation interests.

 Daunting challenges

A draft version of the final declaration seen by AFP puts the spotlight on Africa’s vast renewable energy potential, young workforce and natural assets.

Those include 40 percent of global reserves of cobalt, manganese and platinum crucial for batteries and hydrogen fuel-cells.

But there are daunting challenges for a continent where hundreds of millions of people currently lack access to electricity.

Reminders of political instability in the region came last week, with a military takeover in Gabon little more than a month after a coup in Niger.

Countries in Africa are also hamstrung by mounting debt costs and a dearth of finance.

Despite hosting 60 percent of the world’s best solar energy resources, Africa has roughly the same amount of installed capacity as Belgium, according to a commentary published last month by Ruto and the International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol.

Currently, only about three percent of energy investments worldwide are made in Africa.

Charra Tesfaye Terfassa from the think tank E3G said the summit should balance optimism with a tough assessment of the challenges to “chart a new path for Africa to be a key part of the global conversation and benefit from the opportunities of the transition”.

The Nairobi meeting is expected to draw several African heads of state, UN head Antonio Guterres, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and other leaders.

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