Africa can rise to the climate challenge

Every year, Africa Day gives us the chance to celebrate the diversity and success of our continent and highlight its cultural and economic potential. 

The theme for Africa Day 2023 is “accelerating the development and diffusion of emerging technologies for a green, inclusive and resilient Africa”.

Africa can rise to the climate challenge if it embraces its own potential. The African Climate Reality Project (ACRP) plays a key role in strengthening citizen engagement through awareness and capacity-building programs and training.

Contextualising climate change solutions

The ACRP is a hub for wide-ranging educational and advocacy projects, building and executing action-focused climate campaigns. 

Aurélie Kalenga, ACRP communications manager, says that although Africa is not one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis, it is being hit first and hardest, noting: “In the face of the climate crisis, African leaders need to implement appropriate, culturally relevant changes within an African context.”

“Africans have been using indigenous practices for centuries,” Kalenga continues. “African leaders should listen to indigenous communities and embrace traditional and sustainable methods (of farming, for example).”

The ACRP believes that African leaders should not try to replicate exclusionary models that have led to the climate crisis, and that Africans must find new ways of addressing socioeconomic and climate problems. Moving towards clean energy, for example, is an opportunity to leapfrog harmful fossil fuel energy production and address energy access issues and mitigation goals. This echoes the theme for Africa Day 2023.

A Just Energy Transition?

The South African government’s Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET IP) seeks to implement a proposed US$8.5 billion investment package to accelerate the country’s transition to cleaner energy. Part of the global Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), it has, however, raised concerns.

As part of the Fair Finance Coalition Southern Africa (FFCSA), ACRP has been a key voice in the concerns around the JETP, and while it recognises the need for climate finance, it believes this must be used to support a truly just transition that supports affected communities and creates a safety net for affected workers.

The JETP IP writing process was not entirely consultative and was only made publicly available a day before being taken to COP28 for negotiations. “While finance deals are often shrouded in secrecy, in a country like South Africa where corruption is a real threat, civil society must continue to call for accountability and transparency. A justice approach includes principles developed by the ACRP, like justice, transparency, human rights, and gender equity,” emphasises ACRP campaigner Courtney Morgan.

Misguided priorities

In the face of an electricity crisis, Morgan points to a specific need for South Africa to invest significantly in electricity infrastructure.

“While there is a need to shift to clean energy, there is also a need to electrify large parts of the continent. Clean energy will help Africa to address the climate crisis and allow us to meet the material needs of Africans, knowing that renewable energy can be rolled out in new and innovative ways. These include decentralised and small-scale projects with community ownership models,” she explains.

“Questions have been raised about how the three priority areas – the electricity sector, electric vehicle manufacturing, and green hydrogen development – were established,” Morgan notes. 

The ACRP believes that money allocated to green hydrogen would be better allocated to addressing energy security, while the social protection financing allocated is insufficient to truly achieve justice outcomes. This again points to a lack of meaningful consultation.

Building a generation of active citizens

This disconnect between decision-makers and the public is one of the key issues the ACRP is looking to address.

ACRP community engagement coordinator, Ziyanda Nkumane, highlights the importance of knowledge sharing: “ACRP empowers communities across Africa to advance the clean energy agenda. It provides awareness and capacity building programmes and training, including action-focused campaigns like Zero Emissions I Omissions.”

Education is a key part of this knowledge transfer. “Education leads to action. For the youth to secure their future, take necessary actions, and participate in decision-making that supports moving towards a liveable society, we must equip them with the skills to better understand the climate crisis,” says Morgan.

“As well as giving them the science, this means encouraging critical thinking and action-based education that builds a new generation of active citizens who care for people and the planet,” she continues. “As we create spaces for co-learning and an exchange of knowledge with young people, we also capacitate a generation to take action and process difficult information in a healthy way.” 

Nkumane says that similarly, the ACRP encourages its network of Climate Leaders to participate in formal policy processes: “We also build influence through partnerships and coalitions with community-based organisations and the FFCSA.”

The ACRP has developed numerous tools and resources to support this network of active African citizens, including the Climate Change Curriculum. “The curriculum addresses climate change literacy in high schools, empowering learners with the values and attitudes to become Active Citizens,” says Nkumane. “The curriculum is based on ACRP’s Not on Our Soil docuseries, which focuses on community, youth, gender, civil society, and journalism, and their link with climate change and climate justice.”

The content is aimed at Grade 10 and 11 learners and can be integrated into the syllabus for Life Orientation, English, or Geography. “ACRP and FTFA are currently hosting a series of training workshops with educators based on the curriculum, which is accredited by the South African Council for Educators,” Nkumane adds.

Last year, ACRP produced the award-winning short film African Voices for Africa’s Forests in partnership with ReWild Africa. The film explores climate justice, land rights issues, and nature-based solutions in Cameroon.

“There are also toolkits on how citizens can engage with legislature and how gender can be mainstreamed in South Africa’s climate change response,” says Nkumane. “Other toolkits include topics like waste management, soil, and tree planting.”

To find out more about the ACRP, visit their website or contact Aurélie Kalenga at

ACRP is an initiative of Food & Trees for Africa, a leading Section 21 Non-Profit Organisation that addresses food security, environmental sustainability, and greening.

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