Government officials, international organizations, NGOs and the private sector from more than 60 African nations attended Monday's opening in Gabon's capital, Libreville, to prepare for the COP27 U.N. climate conference slated for November in Egypt.
Host President Ali Bongo Ondimba told the gathering the continent has to speak with one voice and offer "concrete" proposals for COP27.
"The time has come for Africans to take our destiny into our own hands," he said, emphasizing the global failure to meet climate targets.
"Our continent is blessed with all the necessary assets for sustainable prosperity, abundant natural resources... and the world's youngest and largest working population," he said.
"But Africa and the rest of the world must address climate change," when the U.N.'s intergovernmental climate panel "describes Africa as the most vulnerable continent.
"Droughts are causing extreme famines and displacing millions of people across the continent," Bongo said.
"Today, 22 million of people in the Horn of Africa face starvation because of the drought and famine, countries in the south of the continent are regularly hit by cyclones, rising sea levels threaten cities such as Dakar, Lagos, Capetown and Libreville."
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, head of COP27, which will be held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, said, "Despite contributing less than 4% of global emissions," Africa was "one of the most devastated by the impacts of climate change."
"Also, Africa is obliged, with limited financial means and scant levels of support, to spend about two to three per cent of its GDP per annum to adapt to these impacts," Shoukry said, calling it a "climate injustice."
Denouncing the failure of developed countries to deliver on their climate commitments, he warned, "There is no extra time, no plan B and there should also be no backsliding or backtracking on commitments and pledges."
Climate change has been a pain for most economies in Africa that are mostly dependent on agriculture for food security and foreign currency generation. At a time when the continent is still grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, African populations are also bearing the brunt of seasonal change, sever droughts couple with inconsistent rainfalls.
The catastrophes that African countries face in view of climate change cut across economic and environmental disasters. Environmental disasters such as cyclones and floods have been recurrent within the length and breadth of the continent. Countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique experienced Cyclone Idai which took the lives of many an African and rampaged properties.
The number of people residing in informal settlements across the African continent has exponentially increased, posing a threat to dwellers who settle in those environmental risk infested areas. African governments’ failure to provide adequate and affordable housing result in the establishment, densification and expansion of informal settlements. Because informal settlements are often located on marginal and precarious land, residents are vulnerable in the event of environmental disasters.
The unjust nature of this dynamic becomes particularly stark when examining the main contributors to human-induced climate change in the form of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Historically, it is the European Union and the United States who share the dubious honor of being the most prolific GHG emitters.
Today, countries such as China and India can compete, in part due to the relocation of manufacturing processes for supporting western wealth, itself dependent on mass over-consumption and an unhealthy obsession with economic growth.
The true environmental cost of this wealth has been externalized to those residing in the global South, and various other low-income regions across the African continent and beyond. This presents an injustice that African leaders are set to put before the international table during the UN COP27.