Key lessons from WRI webinar: ‘COP27: What’s at stake for Africa?’

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COP27 Africa

What is at stake for Africa during COP27 (and how can financial mechanisms support)?

This year, Africa will play host to COP27, as it is being held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 

Africa is a continent of multiple developing countries, many of which are amongst the countries most vulnerable to climate change. With worsening economic conditions, an increasing rate of extreme weather, and correlated political issues, support for Africa must be seen as an urgent part of global adaptation and mitigation responses. 

On October 18th, we were able to attend the ‘COP27: What’s at Stake for Africa?’ webinar held by the World Resources Institute (WRI), which brought together several WRI experts and youth leaders to speak on what is at stake for Africa during COP27, and determine what would be valuable expectations within successful outcomes for the continent. 

Moderating the webinar was Rebekah Shirley, Director of Research, Data & Innovation. She was joined by Susan Chomba (Director of Vital Landscapes), Helen Wanjohi (Resilient Cities Lead), Shehnaaz Moosa (from SouthSouthNorth), and Ineza Grace (from the Loss & Damage Youth Collaboration).

Following on from this insightful seminar, we’ve put together a summary of the key points that were raised and supporting financial solutions which you can explore below:

  • Cross-cutting points
  • Food systems
  • Urbanisation
  • Energy transition
  • Gender equality and social inclusion

Watch the webinar here: 

Cross-cutting points

If Glasgow (COP26) was seen as the ‘Nature COP’, with a large focus of the summit on reaffirming the need to protect, conserve and restore natural ecosystems, then COP27 in Egypt should be remembered as the ‘Food & Energy COP’. 

Africa is at a critical juncture right now. Decisions on how food is grown securely and how development can be achieved as the climate changes are going to be needed as soon as possible. Any decisions taken will have profound implications for not only African communities, but the global community and economy as well. 

Food is a big topic because we have seen how climate change and other issues (such as COVID 19 and the war in Ukraine) can affect supply chains internationally. Similarly, current inflation has been having an impact. The US Federal Reserve estimates that the aforementioned war in Ukraine has contributed to a 1.3% rise in inflation globally, which in turn affects levels of food security, especially in developing countries. What is true in Africa is also true the world over, as this war has exposed the vulnerability of countries who are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. 

Food systems

Within the webinar, food systems and food security were discussed many times. One of the key focuses for COP27 will be around the type of food systems that should be developed within Africa. Not only does this have relevance for the concept of food security as a whole, it is also relevant for debates regarding adaptation, mitigation, a just transition towards a low carbon economy, and the need for increased finance flows.

In terms of finance, the African continent is in need of finance for food systems that are and remain resilient now and in the future, ones that leapfrog systems that are not compatible with the changing climate. 

Finally, the webinar’s panellists observed that the majority of food produced in Africa is grown by smallholder farmers and that, to maximise effectiveness, solutions should be developed in close dialogue with the intended beneficiaries to ensure they meet their needs. 


According to multiple studies, Africa has the fastest rate of urbanisation in the world (McKinsey, 2018; Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2018; OECD, 2020). Unfortunately, cities there are highly vulnerable to climate change. 

For example, the WRI predicts that there will be a 300% increase in water demand in urban centres by 2030. What this means is that robust finance is needed to address these challenges and support sustainable, resilient development in the continent. Adequate financing would also help to overcome barriers such as:

  • Credit worthiness;
  • Lack of capacity;
  • Lack of bankable projects;
  • Overall governance issues of public service delivery, corruption and accountability.

The webinar speakers also brought attention to the fact that focus needs to be extended beyond the region’s major urban hubs. For example, in addition to investing in Nairobi and Lagos’ urban geographies, climate-resilient infrastructure should be prioritised in secondary cities, and in areas that exist outside of main African markets. The logic behind this is that there is a need to diversify the areas where jobs are also available, so development is not limited to capital cities. 

During COP27, there is a need to acknowledge that public finance is inadequate and, unfortunately, this is unlikely to change in the near future. A robust tool for dealing with this issue is increasing the level of access to blended finance sources, alongside using public investment effectively in order to reduce the risk for any private investors. 

Energy transition in Africa

Energy transition is, of course, a vital part of climate discussions, and has been a huge talking point for multiple past COP summits. During the webinar, the WRI speakers raised a key question: ‘What role, if any, should fossil fuels play in meeting the African region’s energy needs?’

Africa remains highly dependent on fossil fuels, with far more money going towards FF than into green energy. Currently, only 2% of clean energy finance is being channelled into Africa, which is nowhere close to being a sufficient amount. 

Research put forward by the WRI suggests that every dollar invested in Solar PV would create 1.5x more jobs than for every dollar invested in fossil fuels. However, the data needed to be making the types of large investment decisions required is still inadequate. A potential solution is through increasing access to finance, which would in turn increase access to improved data streams that can support effective transition pathways.

Gender equality and social inclusion

A large part of the conversation around climate change is how we can adequately address gender disparities and the increased vulnerability of women. On this, questions regarding funding arise:

  • How do funds flow from the global to the local level?
  • How can institutions remain accountable and funds reach those on the frontlines of climate change?
  • How can funding be geared to be accessible for women and other vulnerable communities and demographics?

In many cases, communities that are on the frontlines of climate change are not complacent. They are already innovating but lack the support needed to truly achieve resilience. Small-to-medium-sized enterprises lack the capacity to expand their businesses, and access to low-cost, long-term finance is hard to come by. 

Furthermore, the return on investment within such scenarios is not always easy to quantify. The tangible and intangible benefits need to be ascertained when channelling finance to African countries.

What’s next for Africa at COP27?

It’s very important to plan infrastructure and systems before the finance is provided. Deep analysis is needed on where finance should be given and how it can be given equitably. The availability of investment alone is not the panacea for African cities and communities, as you need both infrastructure and software. Therefore, it is important that finance continues to be made available for capacity building and technical assistance. 

COP27 has the potential to be a huge turning point in addressing the future of Africa’s interconnected issues, especially in regards to climate, food and energy. However, this will only happen if developed countries exhibit the political will and viable funding options to catalyse the action needed.

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