Adapting to Climate Change: East Africa's Path Forward

Climate change has quickly shifted from being a very tangible menace to becoming a concrete reality worldwide, with its impacts being felt across various regions, including East Africa. The continent is indeed one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change globally, despite accounting only for 4% of global emissions.

East Africa, encompassing countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Somalia, is particularly vulnerable due to its reliance on agriculture and limited adaptive capacity: almost 70% of the population Is employed in activities which are directly linked to agriculture, one of the most affected sectors by climate change effects. Just to mention a few examples: In 2019 a drought In East Africa affected an estimated 15 million people, while rainfall variability led to floods In Kenya in 2020 that displaced over 300.000 people and caused significant losses to the agricultural sector. Moreover, the rise of temperature could lead the region to lose 10% to 20% In major staple crops production such as maize and beans already by 2050.

However, the effects of climate change are not only limited to agricultural activities, but are cross-cutting across all socio-economic activities and cause natural resources progressive depletion. The African Development Bank estimates that climate-related losses could reach up to 2% to 4% of GDP per year by 2040.

In this framework, climate finance plays a crucial role in addressing the disparity between current and future generations in terms of the impact of climate change. Despite this, the funding allocated for climate finance purposes is far less than funding for fossil fuels, hindering the transition efforts of the region: remarkably, in 2020 East Africa could only cover 11% of its estimated annual climate financing needs, leaving uncovered about $59.6 billion yearly. To match this financing needs it will be necessary to leverage on both public and private finance, through a number of financial tools and available instruments, such as concessional loans, carbon credit mechanisms, conditional and non-conditional finance etc.

This funding gap also undermines the countries' ability to achieve their National Determined Contributions, indeed in 2022 only three countries were on track to achieve their NDC's targets: Djibouti, Tanzania and Seychelles. The root causes of this challenge might be partially answered by the following issues:

  • Resource Constraints: Limited domestic resources mean that East African countries rely heavily on international climate finance. However, funding from developed nations and international organizations often falls short of the required amounts.
  • Capacity Issues: Many countries in the region lack the institutional capacity to effectively mobilize and manage climate finance, further exacerbating the funding gap.
  • Competing Priorities: High levels of poverty and development challenges mean that governments often have to prioritize immediate socio-economic needs over long-term climate investments.

The effects of climate change in East Africa are profound and multifaceted, impacting agriculture, water resources, health, and the economy. While the challenges are significant, the region is actively working towards adaptation and mitigation to safeguard its future. Continued support from international organizations, coupled with robust national policies, is crucial to building resilience against the adverse effects of climate change.

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