Africa is set to be one of the most afflicted continents from the impacts of climate change. Compounding Africa’s fragile economic basis to deal with the consequences is the impact the global economic recession is having. The continent is set to lose $40 billion in 2009 as a result of stagnated growth, which continues to plummet as the crisis takes hold. The impacts of these loses are huge for the poorest of the poor living in the continent – equivalent to two weeks income for each of Africa’s 900 million people. The impacts of the crisis are wide and varying from crashing copper prices in Zambia to reduced tourism in Kenya.
It is crucial South Africa takes a purposeful and strong stance at the G20 summit due to the huge vulnerability of many African countries, however many debate the leverage it will have. The vulnerabilities are greatest within the most dependent nations especially those with weak budgets and Balance of Payments. It is essential South Africa is able to effectively highlight these needs at the G20 discussions as capital is desperately required, a trade deal must be secured and the Millennium Development Goals and their failures must be dealt with and reassessed. A huge challenge, considering the $30 billion shortfall in donations for the 2010 aid budgets. If there is no money pledged to the financial losses Africa will suffer in 2009, climate policy has no chance of entering in many national policy discourses across the continent despite the afflictions it will cause.
Both Britain and the Obama administration have promised action on Africa however the significance of the recession, existing Middle East conflicts and the need for a global climate deal with clock ticking towards Copenhagen may result in Africa’s woes being sidelined. South Africa needs to flag the importance of Africa in policy discussions, especially the potential for investment in line with Cap and Trade systems and a drive for energy efficiency, which has not been prevalent in most African nations. Nigeria for example as huge potential for solar investments with its climate yet the use of diesel generators is prevalent due to the dysfunctional state of the state run power grids. This highlights Africa’s inherent problem which the G20 discussions table is unlikely to make any impact on – huge potential that cannot be manifested due to corrupt and perfidious governance.
South Africa has a monumental responsibility at the G20 to attempt to prove to the world’s leading nations the role Africa can play in abating the recession and reestablishing the global economy. Potential lies in investments such as the huge potential for sustainable biofuels, appealing to many OECD nations in terms of energy security at low cost. If regulation allows economies like that of South Africa, the flagship for the continent, to be established many other nations will recognize the potential for investment funds in Africa’s emerging economies.
In order to capitalize on the discussions of the G20 South Africa needs to engage as determined leaders for the continent and display Africa’s readiness to be part of Obama’s ‘new foundation for prosperity.’ It needs to flag the issues of the budgetary hole in Africa’s account due to the recession and importantly Africa’s position in climate negotiations and the importance of strong policy in individual nation states. This is imperative, as the floods that are currently ravaging the Southern African drainage systems show the consequences climate change will have on the continent. Around 500,000 people have been affected with whole villages lost in Angola, Namibia and Zambia – further worsening the plight of vulnerable Africa citizens living on the edge of survival.