Accelerating Adaptation in Africa: Insights from African Adaptation Experts

Africa’s climate is already changing: average land temperatures have increased by more than 1°C since pre-industrial times, sea levels are rising and extreme weather events, such as storms and droughts, are more frequent. Further climate change is inevitable. Adapting to its impacts is essential for African societies to develop sustainably. CDKN interviewed leading African scientists and climate change adaptation practitioners, in late 2020, to identify the key actions African countries must take to rise to this challenge. CDKN also commissioned a series of articles by adaptation African experts on ‘Accelerating adaptation action in Africa’ and undertook a related literature scan. Statements from these leading scientists and practitioners are presented throughout the report. This consultation highlighted three key areas of investment for unlocking effective, accelerated adaptation at scale in Africa: Investing in people’s skills and knowledge; investing in climate-resilient economies, which are well-informed by climate risk; investing in nature. For each of these three areas – people, climate-resilient economies, and nature – the paper provides detail on promising approaches to policy and programme design and investment that are already demonstrated in Africa. Specific entry points and opportunities are provided for each area, along with many grounded examples. We flag technological and financial innovations with the potential to be rolled out at significantly greater scale. The paper concludes that, as elsewhere around the globe, bringing adaptation to scale in Africa does not mean straightforward replication of adaptation solutions from one locality to another. Given the immense diversity in geo-physical, ecological, social and cultural settings across Africa, adaptation solutions must, naturally, be locally-appropriate and locally-owned if they are to succeed. Working with indigenous knowledge is important. It capitalises on knowledge that people have developed to cope with existing climate variability. It helps build solutions that have legitimacy in local contexts. However, some indigenous knowledge techniques on their own will not be sufficient, where significant shifts in climate have already occurred, or will occur. Local wisdom must be integrated with scientific understanding of climate change, including scientific projections of future climate change, to inform development decisions with long time horizons of five or more years. Implementing more widespread and ambitious adaptation in Africa will require more such partnerships, to integrate these different forms of knowledge and advance understanding and action.