Magazine Article -

Africa: From Crisis to Opportunity Through Clean Technology

  • Cindy Shiner
| March 8, 2010

Calestous Juma is professor of the Practice of International Development and director of the Science, Technology and Globalization Project at the Harvard Kennedy School. He also directs the Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Juma currently is writing a book, tentatively titled, "Going for Green Growth: Low-Carbon Innovation Strategies for Africa." He spoke in an email exchange with AllAfrica's Cindy Shiner about climate change and Africa.

How have Africans responded to the threat of climate change?

Developing countries are taking climate change very seriously. This is mainly because they regularly experience the impacts of natural disasters such as droughts, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. Many of them experience persistent famines. They are therefore quite aware of how vulnerable their societies are and the challenges associated with responding to natural calamities. They know that their economic systems are not robust enough to cope with many of the predicted impacts of climate change. This knowledge informs their perception of the risks associated with climate change. African countries have been particularly sensitized to climate change from their experience with drought. They pushed for a UN treaty of drought and desertification. Their concerns about drought and climate are now conflated.

Climate change has been called a crosscutting issue, one that should be treated like Aids, for example. How do you see climate change as being a crosscutting issue in Africa and how should this influence the way it is handled?

The term "crosscutting" does not adequately capture the projected impact of climate change. This is a global phenomenon of Biblical proportions. It is the stuff that legends are made of - but our children will experience it. Climate change will have far-reaching implications for Africa's ability to foster human welfare. The most dramatic impacts will be felt in areas such as the availability of freshwater, food production and tourism (due to impacts on wildlife whose habitats are fragile ecosystems).

One way to respond to the challenge is to build resilient economic systems based on decentralized energy sources, distributed populations and modern agriculture which involves the diversification of crops. In some areas African countries might have to switch from growing cereals to growing more climate-resilient tree-crops such as breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)....

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For Academic Citation: Shiner, Cindy. “Africa: From Crisis to Opportunity Through Clean Technology.”, March 8, 2010.

The Author


Calestous Juma