In this insightful and wide-ranging interview, Professor Patrick Verkooijen, Chief Executive Officer of Global Center on Adaptation discusses the organization’s establishment, its main objectives, challenges and the plans for the future.
The Global Center on Adaptation in Africa (GCA Africa), based at the African Development Bank (AfDB), has launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program to mobilize US$25 billion to scale up transformative actions on climate adaptation. It hopes to mobilize funds and bridge the financing gap for climate adaptation across Africa. Here are the interview excerpts:
What does the setting up of the Global Center on Adaptation mean for Africa?
Africa is on the frontline of our climate emergency. Five out of the ten world most climate vulnerable countries are in Africa. Contributing a meager 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is more victim than contributor to climate change, with the bulk of its emissions deriving from deforestation and poor land use practices. Climate change is already negatively affecting the continent’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Its impacts are showing up in extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves affecting most of the continent with severe economic consequences. Hurricanes Idai and Kenneth in 2018 that hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi affected over 3 million people, led to the death of over a thousand people and damaged infrastructure worth about US$ 2 billion.
Compounding the already enormous climate challenges, Covid-19 has ushered in an era of multiple, intersecting systemic shocks, and one of its casualties has been our capacity to adapt and respond to escalating climate risks. Investment in climate adaptation fell in 2020, even as more than 50 million people were affected. There is no doubt the adaptation challenge for Africa is extraordinary. For us, although the adaptation challenge is a global agenda, our priority is Africa.
We must make up for lost ground and lost time by accelerating action on climate adaption and resilience. Climate change did not stop because of Covid-19, and neither should the urgent task of preparing humanity to live with the multiple effects of a warming planet. If the virus is a shared global challenge so too should be the need to build resilience against future shocks.
In September last year, in the midst of the pandemic, we virtually launched our Africa office hosted by the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Many African Heads of State and Government participated – they understand how vital accelerated adaptation action is because they are living with the impacts of climate change every day.Our rationale is that it doesn’t make sense to have an Africa office in isolation. We also have offices in Beijing and Dhaka because we think solutions that work well in South Asia, for example, could potentially also be translated to Africa and vice versa.
Do you target regions and different segments of the population in Africa? How do you determine and direct the activities of the GCA-Africa?
If we fail to include fairness and equity in how we adapt to a warming planet, we risk pushing millions more people into poverty. We know how that story ends – with more conflict, migration and instability. With that in mind, we work closely with our partners including the African Adaptation Initiative and the African Development Bank to ensure our activities are directed towards where the need is greatest. Partneringwith existing networks, platforms and organizations ensures that we don’t duplicate existing resources but can play a role in effectively filling the gaps that exist.
Right now global, regional, national, subnational and local entities are working simultaneously, and in parallel to support adaptation actions and many important initiatives exist. However, the speed and scale of adaptation action is grossly insufficient to meet the demand and many stakeholders are not connected to the resources, knowledge, expertise or support others can offer them. GCA is key to bridging this gap while ensuring at the same time that best practices can be replicated and scaled up in order to catalyze progress towards resilience in the most effective and efficient way.
Africa’s development – be it in infrastructure, agricultural production, urban development, and youth empowerment – can have a different path from other regions. Africa can have a development that is based on deep understanding of climate risks for planning, resilient approaches with nature and people at the center, and continuous innovations in technology, financing, and governance for a climate-smart adapted future.
What are the long-term priority objectives here? But in the short-term, what projects would you tackle in Africa?
The short-term objective, in terms of the programs, is to make sure that when COVID-19 support packages are developed — and they are being developed in real time by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and other partners — they have resilience or adaptation action embedded in them. Current estimates of the cost of climate change to Africa are between US$7 – US$15 billion per year. African countries are projected to experience clear detrimental macroeconomic consequences from climate change over the coming decades. The IMF estimates that this cost could rise to US$50 billion by 2040, about 3% of the continent’s GDP. It is estimated that climate change could result in lower GDP per capita growth ranging, on average, from 10 to 13 per cent, with the poorest countries in Africa displaying the highest adaptation deficit. So it’s important we act, and we act now.
Let me give an example. As part of the recovery package in Africa and other continents, there is a lot of investment in infrastructure. We want to make sure that these investments have climate risk embedded in their design and hence in their implementation and maintenance. We don’t want to build infrastructure anymore which will be destroyed when the next floods come.
For us there is a very simple business case, over and above a moral argument, that investing in adaptation is good economics. We think that it is absolutely vital that, in the development of these new infrastructure projects or agriculture projects, that the climate lens is being applied consistently, and that is what we are planning to do in Africa long-term. We are developing tools, guidelines, methodologies, and innovation programs for governments and development partners to do precisely that.You cannot develop properly without taking climate into consideration. There is this integrated approach that is not always applied, not only in Africa but also across the globe. That is what we are working on.
Since the start of this initiative, what would you consider as your main achievements on the continent? How did you overcome the initial challenges in order to get these positive results?
The urgency of the compounded COVID-19 and climate crises is compelling a new and expanded effort to accelerate momentum on Africa’s adaptation efforts. At the GCA we are joining forces with the African Development Bank to use their complementary expertise, resources and networks to develop and implement a new bold Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to galvanize climate resilient actions through a triple win approach to address COVID-19, climate change, and the economy.
The AAAP will contribute to closing Africa’s adaptation gap, support African countries to make a transformational shift in their development pathways by putting climate adaptation and resilience at the center of their critical growth-oriented and inclusive policies, programs, and institutions.
As part of this program, just a couple of weeks ago, at the inaugural Climate Adaptation Summit, hosted by the Netherlands, we announced a new program to deploy billions of dollars to help young people in Africa build a new digitally-driven model of agriculture that can feed the continent’s people and boost prosperity even as the planet heats up. The African Development Bank has already committed to put half its climate finance towards the initiative – US$12.5 billion between now and 2025.
The challenge now is to raise an equal amount from donor governments, the private sector and international climate funds. In the Covid-context this is challenging – our latest report “State and Trends in Adaptation” showed that investment in climate adaptation fell in 2020 even as more than 50 million people were affected by a record number of floods, droughts, wildfires and storms.
The pandemic is eroding recent progress in building climate resilience, leaving countries and communities more vulnerable to future shocks. I think awareness is really starting to increase that we can either delay climate action and pay for that choice or plan now and prosper. The returns in investing in building climate adaptation and resilience are much greater than the investment – investing US$1.8 trillion globally in the next decade could generate US$7.1 trillion in total net benefits.
We are also working to strengthen ecosystems that support youth-led climate adaptation entrepreneurship, and youth participation in adaptation policies; scale up climate adaptation innovations by strengthening business development services to 10,000 youth-owned enterprises and 10,000 youth with business ideas on jobs and adaptation; develop tailored skills and provide starting tool packs for one million youth to prepare them for climate resilient jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities in adaptation and unlock US$ 3 billion in credit for adaptation action by innovative youth-owned enterprises through innovative financial instruments.
With all these on the agenda, what role do African leaders have to play in terms of the global adaptation agenda?
With climate-related disasters expected to slow GDP per capita growth, African Governments are likely to experience increasing pressure on budgets and fiscal balances. Climate extremes are already leading to increased government expenditure, a reduction in the volume of collected taxes, ultimately resulting in an increase in government debt and impairment of investments. Adaptation and investment in climate resilience remain high development and investment priorities for Africa if the continent is to attain the SDGs.
In their Nationally Determined Contributions, African countries have already identified key areas where investments in adaptation and resilience building could yield high dividends. These include agriculture and forestry, water resources, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity and ecosystems, and human settlement. Many African countries are also in the process of preparing and finalizing their National Adaptation Plans.
Having said that climate change is an all of society problem. No one can solve it alone. The role of African leaders is crucial to mobilise governments to boost climate action on both mitigation and adaptation. They need to improve their ability to incorporate climate risks in to planning and financing major infrastructure, agriculture and other resilience-related investments. With the youngest population in the world, Africa needs to find ways to unlock the power of its youth for adaptation – something we are very focused on at the GCA. Having said all of that, there are already a lot of good adaptation initiatives happening on the continent and many other countries in different regions are going to be able to learn from what Africa is doing.
Besides this, what specifically are the expectations from the leaders, looking at the fact that policies and approaches are different in African countries?
Earlier this year we published a GCA policy brief, with the African Adaptation Initiative which recommended focusing stimulus investment in Africa on resilient infrastructure and food security to overcome the COVID-climate crisis. This was endorsed by 54 Heads of State and Government on the continent so when it comes to the need to accelerate adaptation action, it’s clear African countries are very much aligned. We are working hard on the ground to facilitate knowledge management and capacity building both within countries and between countries as well as promoting partnerships and co-operation at sub-regional and regional levels for increased synergy and scale. This cannot happen without the support of African leaders.
For example in Ghana, we are working to develop its first national-level assessment of the resilience of its infrastructure systems to climate change. By exploring and showcasing the potential co-benefits of nature-based solutions as part of country-level package of investment in grey and green infrastructure, Ghana will function as a demonstration country of how to reduce costs and enhance ecosystems and we plan to roll out the initiative to other countries across the continent.
What platforms are there for discussing the GCA initiatives and programs for African elite and the public? Do foreign organizations offer any support for these?
In January 2021, we hosted our first annual Ministerial Dialogue with over 50 ministers and leaders from international organizations including the newly appointed climate envoy John Kerry and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva. The aim of this event is to help scale-up global leadership cooperation to accelerate climate adaptation. Going forward it will also serve as an annual high-level forum on climate change adaptation, acting as a lever for global leadership to drive a decade of transformation for a climate resilient world by 2030. African leaders were very active in the dialogue and we look forward to hearing from them in our future sessions.
There are also other partnerships such as the Climate Commissions of the African Union and the African Climate Policy Center. The African Risk Capacity, a specialized agency of the African Union is making important progress enabling countries to manage climate risks and access rapid financing to respond to climate disasters. The African Union is leading the pan-African Great Green Wall initiative which involves many international organizations and foreign governments.
But climate adaptation will not be successful if it just comes from the top-down. The design of adaptation actions must include and be led by local communities who ware best placed to understand needs. Solutions need to be context relevant and accompanied by soft support designed to enhance uptake such as formal education initiatives, agricultural extension or behavioral change campaigns.
Do you suggest governments have to act now to accelerate issues that you have on the agenda for the next few years? What kind of support do you envisage from African governments?
Over half of Africa’s total population experiences food insecurity. The growing number of extreme climate events, from droughts and new crop diseases to floods and unpredictable growing seasons, continues to threaten Africa’s ability to feed itself. There are increasing rainfall and malaria risks in East Africa, increasing water stress and decreasing agricultural growing periods North Africa, severe flood risks in coastal settlements in West Africa and increased food insecurity, malaria risks and water stress in Southern Africa. The effect of aggregated climate impacts could decrease the continents GDP by 30 percent by 2050.
Suffice to say Africa really doesn’t a moment to lose and we need to accelerate climate adaptation now. In looking towards recovery from the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that we all build forward better. It is our responsibility to ensure that the opportunity isn’t wasted and countries around the world must support Africa in this.
About African Development Bank: The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group is the premier development finance institution in Africa with a mandate to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in the continent, thereby contributing to poverty reduction.
The Bank Group achieves this objective by mobilizing and allocating resources for investment in the continent; and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts. The African Development Bank’s authorized capital of around $208 billion, and is subscribed to by 81 member countries made up of 54 African countries and 27 non-African countries. For more information, visit www.afdb.org
Africa Needs Increased Financial Support to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
Seventy-eight years ago, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the nations of the world made a solemn commitment to save future generations from the horror and the suffering of war.
Through the United Nations Charter these nations accepted a shared mandate to foster peace and to promote fundamental human rights, social progress and a better standard of life for all.
And yet, as we gather here, much of humanity is confronted by war and conflict, by want and hunger, by disease and environmental disaster.
Solidarity and trust between states is being eroded.
Inequality, poverty and unemployment are deepening.
In these conditions and in the wake of a devastating global pandemic, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals seem increasingly remote.
At the moment when every human effort should be directed towards the realisation of Agenda 2030, our attention and our energies have once again been diverted by the scourge of war.
But these woes, these divisions, these seemingly intractable troubles, can and must be overcome.
Over millennia, the human race has demonstrated an enormous capacity for resilience, adaptation, innovation, compassion and solidarity.
At this moment, we are all called upon to reaffirm these essential qualities that define our common humanity.
These qualities must be evident in how we work together as a global community and as nations to end war and conflict.
Democratic South Africa has consistently advocated for dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy to prevent and end conflict and achieve lasting peace.
It has committed itself to the promotion of human rights, human dignity, justice, democracy and adherence to international law.
From the experience of our own journey from apartheid to democracy, we value the importance of engaging all parties to conflicts to achieve peaceful, just and enduring resolutions.
It is these principles that inform South Africa’s participation in the African Peace Initiative, which seeks a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
In this conflict, as in all conflicts, we have insisted that the UN Charter’s principle of respect for the territorial integrity of every country should be upheld.
Our participation in the African Peace Initiative is informed by a desire to see an end to the suffering of those most directly affected by the conflict and the millions on our continent and across the world who, as a result of the conflict, are now vulnerable to worsening hunger and deprivation.
As the international community, we must do everything within our means to enable meaningful dialogue, just as we should refrain from any actions that fuel the conflict.
As we confront other conflicts in several parts of the world, including on our continent Africa, we need to be investing in prevention and peacebuilding.
We support the call by the UN Secretary-General in the New Agenda for Peace for Member States to provide more sustainable and predictable financing to peacebuilding efforts.
As a global community, we should be concerned by recent incidents of unconstitutional changes of government in some parts of Africa.
The global community needs to work alongside the African Union to support peace efforts in the eastern DRC, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan, northern Mozambique, the Great Lakes Region, the Sahel, Niger and the Horn of Africa.
The African Union Peace and Security Council has declared that it stands ready to deepen its cooperation with the UN Security Council to silence the guns on the African continent and to achieve peace, stability and development.
We are called upon to remain true to the founding principles of the United Nations, by recognising the inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination in line with the relevant UN General Assembly resolutions.
We must work for peace in the Middle East. For as long as the land of the Palestinians remains occupied, for as long as their rights are ignored and their dignity denied, such peace will remain elusive.
The actions of the Government of Israel have imperiled the possibility of a viable two state solution.
The principles of the UN Charter on territorial integrity and on the prohibition on the annexation of land through the use of force must be applied in this situation.
South Africa continues to call for the lifting of the economic embargo against Cuba, which has caused untold damage to the country’s economy and people.
Sanctions against Zimbabwe should also be lifted as they are imposing untold suffering on ordinary Zimbabweans.
As many people around the world are confronted by hunger and want the essential human qualities of cooperation and solidarity must be evident in the actions we take to bridge the divide between wealthy and poor.
We must summon the necessary will and resolve to regain the momentum towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
This means that we must address the fundamental development challenges that have long characterised our unequal world.
To address the developmental challenges that face many people in the world we required targeted investment, technology transfer and capacity building support, especially in key areas such as industrialisation, infrastructure, agriculture, water, energy, education and health.
This also requires predictable and sustained financial support, including supportive trade policies, from the international community.
We call on our partners from wealthier countries to meet the financial commitments they have made.
It is a great concern that these wealthier countries have failed to meet their undertakings to mobilise 100 billion dollars a year for developing economies to take climate action.
We support the proposals outlined in the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Stimulus.
In particular, we support the call to tackle debt and debt distress, to massively scale up affordable long-term financing to 500 billion dollars a year, and to expand contingency financing to countries in need.
It is a grave indictment of this international community that we can spend so much on war, but we cannot support action that needs to be taken to meet the most basic needs of billions of people.
The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals depends fundamentally on the empowerment of women in all spheres of life.
Social and economic progress will not be possible unless we end gender discrimination. We must ensure that there is equal access for women to health care, education and economic opportunities.
We must pay particular attention to the provision of adequate health services to every woman, child and adolescent. By doing so, we will fundamentally improve the health and well-being of all.
The empowerment of women must be central to the actions we now take towards the realisation of Agenda 2030.
The essential human qualities of innovation and adaptation must be evident in the actions we take to prevent the destruction of our planet.
Africa is warming faster than the rest of the world.
We are told that of the 20 climate hotspots in the world, 17 are in Africa.
Centuries after the end of the slave trade, decades after the end of the colonial exploitation of Africa’s resources, the people of our continent are once again bearing the cost of the industrialisation and development of the wealthy nations of the world.
This is a price that the people of Africa are no longer prepared to pay.
We urge global leaders to accelerate global decarbonisation while pursuing equality and shared prosperity.
We need to advance all three pillars of the Paris Agreement – mitigation, adaptation and support – with equal ambition and urgency.
African countries, alongside other developing economy countries, need increased financial support to both implement the 2030 Agenda and achieve their climate change goals in a comprehensive and integrated manner.
We need to operationalise the Loss and Damage Fund for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters, as agreed at COP27.
Africa has embraced this challenge.
Africa is determined to deploy smart, digital and efficient green technologies to expand industrial production, boost agricultural yields, drive growth and create sustained employment for Africa’s people.
As the global community, we must ensure the essential qualities that define our humanity are evident in the institutions that manage the conduct of international relations.
We require institutions that are inclusive, representative, democratic and advance the interests of all nations.
We require a renewed commitment to multilateralism, based on clear rules and supported by effective institutions.
This is the moment to proceed with the reform of the United Nations Security Council, to give meaning to the principle of the sovereign equality of nations and to enable the council to respond more effectively to current geopolitical realities.
We are pleased that the Common African Position on the reform of the Security Council is increasingly enjoying wide support.
This process must move to text-based negotiations, creating an opportunity for convergence between Member States.
We must ensure that the voice of the African continent and the global South is strengthened in the United Nations and broader multilateral system.
All the peoples represented here in this United Nations had their origins in Africa.
In Africa, they developed the tools and capabilities to spread across the world and achievable remarkable feats of development and progress.
Despite its history, despite the legacy of exploitation and subjugation, despite the ongoing challenge of conflict and instability, Africa is determined to regain its position as a site of human progress.
Through the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is creating a wider seamless trading area of low tariffs and accelerated interconnectivity, African countries are mobilising their collective means and resources to achieve shared prosperity.
Through the African Continental Free Trade Area, African countries are establishing the foundation for a massive increase in trade, accelerated infrastructure development, regional integration and sustainable industrialisation.
As the global community, we have the means and we have the desire to confront and overcome the enormous challenges that face humanity today.
As the nations gathered here in this General Assembly, let us demonstrate that we have both the will and the resolve to secure a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for our world and for the generations that will follow.
A New Wave of Leaders in West Africa: A departure from instability to stability
In recent years, West African countries have witnessed a notable shift in political dynamics, characterized by the emergence of a new wave of politicians. These leaders, often hailing from younger generations, mostly military, bring with them a fresh perspective and a renewed commitment to addressing the pressing concerns of their countries. Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced a resurgence of coup d’états, marking the departure from instability to stability with a better political landscape compared to previous decades per se. This phenomenon prompts a critical examination of the underlying factors driving these political transformations and their implications for governance, stability, and regional dynamics in West Africa. In this context, it becomes imperative to analyze the interplay between these new political actors and the resurgence of coup d’états and to discern the broader implications for the socio-political landscape of the region.
Causes and Catalysts of Coup d’états in African Countries
The surge in coup d’état in some sub-Saharan African countries seems to be a departure from a long hold of colonialists to freedom. Recently, the crisis in Burkina Faso has spotlighted a shift in political approaches, with a new generation of politicians aiming to address the pressing concerns faced by the society, particularly the youth, who are growing up on a path seemingly devoid of opportunities. Following Burkina Faso, Niger has witnessed a change in leadership due to the predecessor’s failure to adhere to the law and serve the interests of the people. Prior to Niger, Mali boldly resisted colonialists, and now Gabon has taken a similar stance. What is the correlation or the relationship between these coup d’états, and what are the possible causes?
The coup d’état in Mali raised a lot of concerns about France’s foreign policies in Africa, but the narrative on the international realm seems to favor the country with the higher bargaining power. In most of the African countries, instability and political tensions have become common. A surge of grievance and discontent with leaders has emerged as people become increasingly open-minded, largely due to the influence of social media platforms. This trend has raised questions about the fragility of governance structures in several African countries and the challenges they face in consolidating democratic institutions. Factors such as political corruption, socioeconomic disparities, ethnic and regional tensions, and security threats have contributed to the resurgence of coup attempts. For instance, Burkina Faso experienced a revolt in 2014, leading to a transition towards a more democratic system. Similarly, Sudan saw mass civilian protests in 2019 and recently in Gabon, ultimately bringing down a longstanding autocratic or so-called democratic leader. These examples highlight the complex dynamics at play in Africa’s evolving political landscape, where both traditional military-led coups and hybrid models involving various actors are on the rise.
The international community and regional organizations such as the African Union (UA), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), also known as CEDEAO in French, have been actively engaged in responding to these coup attempts. Diplomatic efforts, peacekeeping missions, other military interventions, and even sanctions have pressured coup leaders and sought resolutions that align with democratic values. However, the effectiveness of these interventions varies from case to case, and the delicate balance between stability and democracy remains a central challenge. As Africa navigates this period of political
transformation, there is a growing need to strengthen institutions, foster civic engagement, and uphold the rule of law to ensure that the departure from instability leads to lasting stability and democratic progress on the continent (Nkurunziza, 2020; Williams, 2018; Kandeh, 2021). However, despite the coup attempts, poor governance and political corruption remain some serious unsolved issues.
Governance Failure and Political Corruption
While the surge in coup d’états may appear concerning at first glance, it also signals a shifting dynamic in African politics. It reflects a growing desire for accountable governance and the rejection of autocratic regimes, as citizens increasingly demand transparency, representation, and a voice in their countries’ affairs. This changing political landscape is echoed in the popular uprisings and movements that are sweeping across the continent. There is an increasing belief that a positive change and the determination of African citizens to shape their own political destinies can be a reality. However, unexpected rise in coup attempts continues to raise concerns about the region’s progress towards stability and democratic governance. Factors such as socioeconomic disparities, governance failures, and security challenges have contributed to the fertile ground for discontent and unrest. An analysis of these factors and reforms from one regime to another is not convincing since the political landscape never really change and the leaders kept falling in the same path.
Governance failures and political corruption have long been persistent challenges in Africa, contributing to instability, economic stagnation, and diminished public trust in institutions. Weak governance structures, characterized by inadequate checks and balances, limited transparency, and a lack of accountability mechanisms, have allowed corruption to thrive. The misallocation of public resources and embezzlement of funds intended for essential services like healthcare, education, and infrastructure development have been detrimental to the well-being of citizens (Osei-Tutu & Mahama, 2017). This pervasive corruption not only hampers economic growth but also undermines the legitimacy of governments and erodes public confidence in the effectiveness of state institutions. The impact of corruption on development is particularly pronounced in several sectors like healthcare and education, where limited resources are stretched thin, leading to inadequate service provision and compromised public welfare (Méon & Weill, 2010). Efforts to combat corruption and improve governance in Africa are crucial for fostering sustainable development and ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are equitably distributed among all citizens, but first and foremost, strengthening institutional frameworks, promoting transparency, and empowering civil society are essential to address the challenges that are facing African countries.
Transitions to stable governance and the path from instability to stability
A successful transition to stable governance can provide valuable insights into the key factors and strategies that may contribute to sustainable political stability. Ghana has experienced a successful transition from military rule to democratic governance in the early 1990s. Through a combination of strong civil society activism, international support, and an effective transitional justice mechanism, Ghana has managed to establish a stable democratic system, and still today there is no coup attempt. The establishment of democratic institutions, coupled with a commitment to the rule of law, allowed for the peaceful transfer of power through multiple elections, solidifying Ghana’s reputation as one of the most politically stable countries in West Africa. I hope that Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Gabon will seize the opportunities presented to forge a more robust democratic system anchored in resilient and trustworthy institutions. These foundations, coupled with effective accountability mechanisms, hold the potential to catalyze the restoration and progress of these nations.
In examining the emergence of the new wave of politicians in West African countries alongside the resurgence of coup d’états, it has become evident that Africa is at a critical juncture in its political evolution. The dynamic between these factors highlights a complex struggle for governance and stability. While the infusion of fresh perspectives offers a promise for transformative change with youth conscious awakening, the specter of coup d’états must serve as a stark reminder of persisting challenges and the need for robust democratic institutions. The success of the new leaders in this political landscape may require a commitment to inclusive governance, transparency, and accountability. Learning from the successes and failures of past political transitions will be instrumental in steering these nations towards a future characterized by stable, prosperous, and democratic societies. The path ahead may be fraught with obstacles, but with determination, strategic foresight, and a collective dedication to the betterment of their nations, West Africa has the potential to emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.
Africa is not yet a paradise, Russia must learn to navigate the challenges
With the emerging multipolar world, Russia has to ditch its decades-long peripheral engagement with Africa. In practical terms, the first Russia-Africa summit was to raise relations unto a more quantitative level, especially promoting frequent interaction and boosting presence in economic spheres. Winning Africa’s sympathy through hyperbolic pledges and promises, tonnes of bilateral agreements most of which have largely remained unfulfilled, would not be enough in this competitive geopolitical era. Beyond Sochi and St. Petersburg summits, however, policy proposals until now lack effective visible actions. Critics say Russia, most probably, needs to show some degree of assertiveness.
In the past few years, Russia’s geopolitical influence has already been heard on the global stage. It claims to be pursuing an integrative multipolar relations with friendly countries around the world, including those in Africa. But Russia is still not a popular holiday destination for Africa’s political elite, corporate business leaders and middle-class. The politicians and corporate business leaders highly prefer to spend their vacation in the United States and Europe, some Asian destinations are increasingly becoming their preferential choice. That trend is unlikely to change, it will remain as such for the next decades.
After the first symbolic Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea city of Sochi in October 2019, both Russia and Africa adopted a joint declaration – in fact a comprehensive document which outlines various parameters for uplifting cooperation into a new qualitative stage.
In order to boost effective economic interests and to foster cooperation, frequent interaction is therefore necessary. The frequency of interaction should not only be established during summits, but some basic strategic steps and measures are necessary to encourage simply holiday travels to both regions. These are significantly missing in the current relations between Russia and Africa. Critics often say Russia is contributing enormously to its own so-termed isolation, it closes its doors especially when there are huge opportunities to develop first-class tourism.
With current geopolitical situation, Africa’s middle-class estimated at 380 million still have other suitable alternative holiday destinations. Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi beach or Crimea are not their desired priority for spending vacations. Russian tour operators acknowledge that there is nothing such as African tourism to Russia. On the opposite side, Morocco, Egypt, Seychelles, South Africa and Zanzibar are the few African destinations popular among Russian vacationers.
The second summit declaration on 28 July 2023 in Saint Petersburg, points to building on the historical and time-tested friendly ties between the Russian Federation and African States. Here Russia officials only dream of official state visit by heads of African states and ministers as an essential pillar of their version of multipolar world.
Since the first symbolic Sochi summit held 2019, very little has happened on the tourism, social and cultural sides. Russia and Africa have been discussing how best to explore untapped resources, the possibilities of promoting cooperation in the field of tourism, dissemination of information on tourism opportunities of the Russian Federation and African States.
Meanwhile, Russia and Africa have agreed to promote exchanges of delegations, athletes, teams, coaches and other specialists in the field of sports training. And further down, take steps toward ensuring respect for the rights of journalists and promoting the development of media outlets. While reiterating professional training programmes, academic and student exchanges et cetera, all these have, in practical terms, remained largely as official documents stacked in computerized files and would later be pushed into electronic historical archives.
For the past few years since Sochi, the first declaration remains tacitly as a declaration. The basic question often asked is for what purposes are the summit declarations. Worse, series of speeches and juicy-coated remarks are seemingly for linguistic colouration. “Russia is ready to build multifaceted relations with Africa. If Russia Wins, Africa Wins!” remarked by the Current Chairman of the African Union, Comoros President Azali Assoumani during the late July St. Petersburg summit.
After the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi (2019), and within the framework of the joint declaration that was adopted, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation created a Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. With hopes for a comprehensive and enduring collaboration on long-term programs, Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum has since then been networking for potential Russian, African and international organisations with the aim of effectively promoting Russia’s economic interests in Africa and to foster mutually beneficial cooperation with African countries.
Early September 2023, local Russian media abuzzed with latest information emerging from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Russia plans ‘visa-free regime’ with all African countries, referring to the fact that it was within the framework of Russia and Africa’s action plan adopted at the second summit in St. Petersburg.
Our investigations and research indicate that Russia has visa-free agreements with six African countries. And visa-free regime only applied to African countries that signed agreements with Foreign Ministry. Within the agreements, only holders of diplomatic passports are permitted under this consular agreement. Moreover, the point on developing or facilitating work, easing contacts with African countries, between ordinary citizens of Russia and Africa still need visas to travel both ways.
According to sources monitored, agreements have to be signed after successful negotiation with Russian authorities. One source confirmed in an interview with me that Russia has an agreement on visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic service passports with 32 countries on the continent, and yet refused to make public and to the media the official list of approved African countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and the African leaders adopted the final declaration of the second Russia-Africa summit. An action plan of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum for the period 2023-2026 and a number of other documents were also adopted.
In addition, a number of agreements, contracts and other documents related to various areas of cooperation between Russia and Africa were approved on the sidelines of the forum and the summit.
“We highly appreciate the results of our joint work at the summit. I am confident that the results achieved will form a good basis for further deepening the Russian-African partnership in the interests of prosperity and well-being of our peoples,” Putin said in a speech posted to official Kremlin website.
Putin was pleased with the results of the summit, which was held in a “constructive and very friendly atmosphere.” Russia and the Africa have confirmed their position on the formation of a multipolar world order.
According to the stipulated rules and regulations, the Russia-Africa summit will be held every three years. In the period between the Russia-Africa summits, the mechanism of dialogue partnership will operate, regular political consultations will continue through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Russia, African countries and the leadership of the African Union.
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