The Private Sector in Africa Can Do More to Tackle Climate Change

Frequently in the developing world, when one thinks of climate change, the picture that comes into mind is non-state actors and governments at the fore front of climate action be it through diverse interventions or at the annual multilateral climate change talks. That the private sector in most African countries has found itself in total neglect in development matters (save for their Corporate Social Responsibility activities) is not further from the truth. Recent research in the form of a paper, Engaging the Private Sector in Adaptation to Climate Change in Developing Countries: Importance, Status, and Challenges, has found that engaging the private sector in identifying climate risks and their governance interventions in the global south needs to be a greater priority. 

All too often, African countries’ responses to climate change are shaped and driven by international initiatives and narratives. The paper points out the significance of the private sector in climate action is evidenced by the increasing empirical evidence including best practices from climate funds supported adaptation projects. Most climate funds so far have been sources from cash-strapped public sources or from those which do not seek significant returns on investment. In recognizing this fact, this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos published a report, Climate Adaptation: Seizing the Challenge, pointing out that research findings indicate the deficit of funding in adaptation projects must be met by the private sector. This will require creation of a return on investment for those investors as well as the public sector providing a regulation for enabling private climate investments the report adds.  

Africa is at a critical juncture where investments in long-lived capital are in high gear and the private sector can drive the investment in climate resilient infrastructure and services in the core development sectors. At the moment, the private sector is actively involved in the fight against climate change fight through resource efficiency (especially energy in manufacturing). Bolder action in Africa such as use of a lower carbon footprint coating material for use especially in beverage and food packaging is needed as other regions of the world move towards this direction.