Transcript of Keynote Address by Masego Madzwamuse
November 15, 2022

Habari, Dumelang, Salibonani. I wish I was there in person and feel the energy in that space as old friends get together over the next couple of days. As Maurice said, the pandemic is still with us. I am a recent victim of COVID-19, and it has really messed with my head. I am going to spare us a bit in the sense that in my conversations with you today, I will have to rely very heavily on my notes, so I do not forget anything that is important.


As Ebrima has already painted the picture for us, every day, climate emergencies are present somewhere for someone wherever they are in the world. Extreme weather events famine, sea level rise, forced migration, and poverty mean that for many hundreds and millions of people, climate change is a reality. Recently, the International Panel on Climate Change, together with the intergovernmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services released the first joint report that explains the interconnectedness between biodiversity loss and the climate change we are facing at the moment. It shows that environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change are both driven by human economic activities, and they both reinforce each other. Not only that but there is also a direct impact on human wellbeing. For us in the African continent, this is a reality that we are very familiar with.


As we have seen with the COVID pandemic, the structural driver of the pandemics that we see all over the world has to do with a total collapse of our ecological systems that are driven by unsustainable economic models. As such, the problems of the multiple crises that we are going through at the moment, call upon us to shift away from siloed responses. It is for this reason that I am really encouraged to see that at the center of the dialogues over the next couple of days, you are looking at systems change, and what it means in terms of the responses from the philanthropy community.


From a climate perspective, what are we dealing with? Many have said that we are facing a decisive decade for us to take transformative action. The reason is that global emissions need to be halved, relative to where we were in 2019, and we also need to half our global emissions by 2030 so that we can reach net zero by mid-century. We must limit temperature rise to less than two degrees and make an effort to make sure that we stay below 1.5 degrees. This has been the challenge for the last two decades. Despite over 30 years of efforts, we have failed to address the problem.


Now, what do we do to attend and respond to the challenges that are facing? We must stop runaway climate change and build resilience into our life-giving systems so that we can adapt and mitigate the impacts. Across the African continent, the dual and multi-intersectional challenges that we face intersect. We therefore need to define a clear pathway to prosperous development that is rooted in equity and justice.


A few points are fundamental and worth mentioning. The two previous speakers have made reference to poverty, hurricanes, droughts, floods, and the reality that those who are most hit by climate change are those who are least responsible. We see this through record-breaking droughts that we are experiencing in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, as well as increasing deadly tropical cyclones that we are seeing in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and many other places around us.


Historically, Africa is not a major greenhouse gas emitter at a global level, we have produced only 2% cumulative global emissions. However, our total emissions are estimated to double by 2050. This is not a scenario that we can afford. We have reached planetary boundaries; every part of the planetary earth is hurting, and that hurt is in turn hurting human wellbeing. There is also nuance in the sense that while we talk about Africa cumulatively contributing very little to greenhouse gas emissions, some countries within our continent are part of the global major emitters of greenhouse gases; Nigeria and South Africa being amongst them. Let me just pick up here and say that the fact that we contribute the least to climate change and that we are the most vulnerable as a continent. It is not a new conversation, but it has been a point of dialogue for the past 20 years. In fact, an argument that is as old as the Paris Declaration itself even predates it. That cannot be the beginning and the end of our story. It is not the beginning and the end of the African story. What ought to be part of our story is what action looks like, and what we envision the solutions to look like from an African perspective.


When I say this, it is not to absolve the Western world and the developed countries that have amongst their wealth and development on the backdrop of colonial extractive systems that have fueled the climate crisis that we face at the moment. It is one that calls upon and calls on the recognition of differentiated responsibilities, while at the same time the solidarity to act as a collective in addressing one of the biggest global challenges that we face. So far, philanthropy funding at a global level has largely focused on bringing down emissions. By so doing, focusing solely on the mitigation agenda, we have overlooked the need to address the immediate vulnerability that communities on the frontlines deal with on a daily basis.


Climate Finance in its current structure does not take into account historical redress. There is a fundamental step in systems change and funding for us to build resilience that we need to look into. Africa has repeatedly stated the need to raise 100 billion US dollars on an annual basis. Initially, the target was by 2020, to meet the adaptation challenge. However, we have failed to meet this target, and the target has been pushed back by another five years. Recently, Climate Works released a report in 2020 that noted that out of 1.1 billion that foundations have given to climate mitigation, only 40 million has gone to Africa compared to 150 million that has gone to Europe, and 360 million that has gone to the US. Africa gets only 4% of climate mitigation funding. There might be a solid rationale behind this, considering the mitigation burden that is required in Western geographies and other parts of the world. But the skew in resources is unjust, and when we consider the infrastructure gap between climate, carbon emissions, and vulnerability that I spoke about earlier, this is where the heart of injustice sits. Africa has been left behind. Despite the talk about our need to leapfrog toward a low-carbon development path.


I would like to attend to what is happening in the energy sector and Maurice spoke so passionately about his love for all things energy. The continent’s geographic diversity holds an immense potential for solar, and wind power, and ithin its diverse natural resource base, minerals needed to fuel and support the clean energy transition and technologies that are required for the future. There is an increase in demand for cobalt, copper nickel, lithium, and rare minerals that is skyrocketing. The result is a dash for African resources from China, Europe from the US from all over the world. The question is, will the continent benefit from a future low-carbon development path and the energy transition, as well as the dependence on these natural resources to fuel this future?


There is an unrecognised and untapped potential in terms of how we position ourselves in the efforts to identify strategic solutions. When we look at the funding that is available for energy transition, Africa attracts only 2% of the investments worldwide. We need up to about 375 billion in investments by 2030 for us to tap into Africa’s renewable energy potential by 2030. It far exceeds what we have already put on the table to fund the adaptation agenda. At the moment, China is the largest financier for renewable energy in Africa and holds a 51 market share percent of investments in renewable energy with the EU following closely. That said, we have to pay attention to the structure of funding that is coming through the EU. The bulk of the funding that comes out of the EU comes in the form of loans and it is creating or adding to an already existing debt burden that is strangling the African continent and hindering our growth. So growing debt, in the context of climate finance, is an issue that we need to be paying attention to as philanthropy and as the networks and infrastructures that support philanthropy are field.


We are, however, noting some positive shifts. Here, African philanthropy must position itself to help the continent take advantage of near-term opportunities as well as future plans. Last month, Climate Works recently shared introductory Africa country profiles for climate philanthropy, focusing on six of our major economies in the continent, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa. From this series, they identified an overview for funders to develop engagement strategies with these countries in consultation with African-led, African-grown, and African-focused organisations and their local partners. I think that the groups that ought to be leading the charge in terms of defining the priorities for investment and providing seed funding ought to be coming from African philanthropy so that we can take control of the future of our continent.


A number of other initiatives exist. The African Adaptation Initiative has put together a set of proposals that are drawing on nationally determined commitments in preparation for COP27. We as the Oak Foundation are working with other foundations to map the fields in the continent to understand African philanthropy organisations that are funding climate, African re-granting entities that are supporting climate change work, NGOs, and social movements, that are focusing on the actions that are required, including some that may not be working on climate change, but have potential to build cross-sectoral and integrated responses to this fields. We would really welcome your partnerships, as we look to understand the field and how we may be best placed to support. The philanthropy responses ought to go beyond providing funding, we have to understand what where this funding might go and what it might focus on.


At the risk of losing time, I just want to go through a few of the opportunities, in the near term, as well as long-term opportunities that I see emerging. We need to have an understanding of tracking the funding flows that are coming to the continent and the sectors that are funded, including understanding where the funding gaps lie. We need to find a way in which we can support regional climate funds that are emerging in the continent. I am glad to see in the programme that you have the African Climate Foundation speaking in the next session. We have to look at greening financial systems in the continent, and making sure that justice is centered in the design of climate finance, as well as in providing institutional support to the robust network of organisations that exist in the continent and are doing important work, tapping into economic justice movements that Ebrima spoke about earlier, as well as philanthropy playing a progressive role to meet people where they are at.


To do this, we might want to understand how various organisations operate and what issues they are organising around. There is no better place to understand sites of struggle and justice concerns than to look at what social movements across the continent are working on. Some of the movements that have been leading the charge for many years include movements that work in the areas of food sovereignty and land rights because agriculture being one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions is going to be yet another frontier of climate action, also recognising that agriculture as a sector in our continent is very vulnerable to climate change. We have a suite of organisations that have been doing work for decades that require support; the Rural Women’s Assembly, the African Food Sovereignty Alliance, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, climate youth movements, and various climate justice movements that we ought to be looking at how to support – the right energy partnership is spearheaded by indigenous peoples across our continent. But these movements are largely invisible, underfunded, and hardly attract stable funding in the long term.


The other area that requires attention is one around knowledge and shaping narratives. In a recent report that was done by Carbon Briefs released last year, they picked up a report from the Routers, where they came up with a list of what they call the 1000 Routers Hotlist of Influential Climate Scientists. Only five came from the African continent, and the list of African authors was dominated by South Africa. Overall, African authors only make up 1% of authorship for a continent that represents 17% of the world’s population. I, for one, know that we do not have a shortage of research capacities and thought leadership in the continent to drive the narrative and discourse on climate change.


I have worked with several organisations, and perhaps what we need is to rescue them from the stranglehold of the UN agencies. We have organisations such as the Climate Research for Development that was developed in 2013, and the African Academy for Science which is a research network and platform that brings together more than 40 different African institutions, and individual researchers. These are all networks of researchers all over the continent who are doing important work and require funding to be able to do this work. I am going to quote what the continent had to say about that scenario, “if we do not find African thought leadership in this work, we are in a situation where in deciding how the world responds to climate crisis, policymakers and philanthropy rely on research that is generated by white men based in the Global North”. I talk about people based on the Global South because I think that that is where the framing ought to be coming from if we are to be looking, looking forward. We have to look at investing in knowledge generation and supporting networks in the global south to do this important work.


Last is the area of looking at how we support narrative change and strategic communication, and how we support dialogue that is driven by our people. I spoke about the wealth that the continent has, and how this wealth is likely to fuel energy transition going into the future. We cannot do that if we are not shaping the discourse on what this looks like. Let us rally behind some of our very powerful organisations that are doing important work, such as Power Shift Africa, that are shaping the narrative on what we do with the resources and how we might want to take this wealth in this world forward.


In conclusion, Chair, I would like to wrap up by saying that a lasting solution to the climate crisis is more than a technical and managerial response. We need to think about climate responses as part of human rights approaches to address social inequality and agency. At the heart of this, justice and equity are not nice to have, they are essential. It is not soft work; it is the work of the day. Where we are going is as important as how we get there, and the time for African philanthropy to step up is now. Thank you.