Time to reflect as Africa is hit hard by cyclones and drought

Friday May 24 2019


By Lerato Ngakane

Today, thousands of Africans are hitting the streets to demand climate justice and the end of fossil fuels investments, which are causing a climate crisis on a planetary scale.

Organised under the slogan #AfrikaVuka, (Vuka means “to awaken” in isiZulu), this regional day of action coincides with the celebration of African Day on May 25, a symbol of the aspiration of Africans to self-determination and fight against the looting of natural resources.

Throughout Africa, fossil fuels business, particularly coal, continues to grow at an impressive rate. New coal-fired plants are being projected from South Africa to Senegal, from Kenya to Mozambique, via the DR Congo and Ivory Coast.

In recent years, Chinese banks have become the last resort for African coal projects when other financial institutions refuse to finance these dirty fuels, the main source of carbon emissions. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana, Kenya and Madagascar are among the countries where Chinese investments in coal projects are envisaged in the coming years.

Deadly cyclones after a year of drought and water stress. In a space of two months, two powerful cyclones shook southern and eastern Africa. Cyclone Idai alone is reported to have taken the lives of 843 people with dozens of others still missing. The UN estimated that Idai and subsequent flooding caused damage worth more than $1b in infrastructure only. More than 100,000 homes have been damaged, with at least one million hectares of crops destroyed. The city of Beira in Mozambique is by far the most affected.

Extreme weather events like cyclone Idai and Kenneth have been particularly devastating on the African continent where the means of prevention and adaptation are weak and the response capacity rather limited. Such tropical cyclones could become more frequent and deadly as a result of climate change in countries that are historically the least responsible for global warming. 1.5 °C synonymous with survival


As the continent most affected by climate change, African countries must have a strong interest in limiting the temperature below 1.5° C as prescribed by the IPCC last October. For millions of Africans, it is a question of survival as the impacts of global warming hit them hard.

For countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have experienced more frequent and intense climatic extremes over the past 10 years, a global warming scenario above 1.5° C would be particularly dramatic. South Africa, the biggest continental emitter of GHGs, recently faced one of its most severe droughts and water crisis.

Africa today is at the crossroad faced with a crucial choice: following an outdated and dangerous energy model that could dramatically increase its climate vulnerability, or turning resolutely towards a 100 per cent renewable economy.

A rapid transition without coal is technically and economically feasible. However, it will require strong political leadership, an immediate halt to proposed coal-fired power plants and come up with plans to phase out existing power plants, among others.,
Lerato Ngakane,