Africa Climate Summit

An alternative vision for Africa’s climate agenda?

Divergent visions for the Africa Climate Summit’s agenda and goals emerged even as the event itself was yet to start. Instead of treating green growth only, an array of voices from civil society wanted to realign the focus to more transformative approaches.

Christiane Käsgen
IMAGO / Joerg Boethling
August 31, 2023

Kenya was set to host the very first Africa Climate Summit in early September with the explicit intention of countering the climate crisis with a vision of “green growth” for the continent. Civil society organizations, meanwhile, were instead calling for a greater focus on transformative, African-led approaches as well as a shared agenda that, while addressing the challenges at play, puts the African peoples’ well-being and the continent’s resilience center stage.

Officially titled “Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World,” the inaugural Africa Climate Summit was all set to take place from September 4–6 in Nairobi, Kenya. The summit was jointly organized by the African Union, the event’s host nation of Kenya, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
In the run-up to the summit, meanwhile, more than 400 African NGOs had signed a petition criticizing the influence of non-African actors on the event’s agenda and focus. An array of voices from civil society was urgently calling to realign the focus beyond so-called “green growth”, instead charting a new course for the continent that protects its people, food systems, water resources, and biodiversity. 

"The African Climate Summit, which has relegated critical African issues to the backburner, must advance an alternative African climate and development vision.”

Quote fromAmy Giliam Thorp (Power Shift Afrika)

A number of the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s partner organizations were present at both the summit as well as at Africa Climate Week, which run almost in parallel at the same venue. These included Power Shift Africa, the World Resources Institute, TMG Research, and Germanwatch. In side events, background discussions, and workshops they helped spotlight otherwise underrepresented civil society perspectives on climate-resilient land use.

Why Africa needs an alternative climate vision

Many African regions are already suffering the catastrophic impacts of droughts, floods, and crop failures – a trend that is only set to worsen in the future. At the summit, our partners advocated for solutions that promote climate adaptation and resilience, while substantially drawing on the knowledge and realities of local and indigenous communities.

Power Shift Africa in partnership with Germanwatch, and representatives of African civil society and local communities discussed their visions for a sustainable future with representatives from the German Federal Foreign Office and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. This includes acknowledging the links that exist between systems and key sectors, such as agriculture and energy, as well as recognizing the importance of food sovereignty, agroecological approaches, and land rights for a just transformation of land use across the African continent.

For its part, Berlin-based think tank TMG Research took advantage of the summit to follow up on the results of a strategy workshop on the promotion of women’s land rights, as per all three Rio Conventions, hosted in July by the UNCCD Secretariat, TMG, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Government-appointed representatives of the Rio Conventions from a range of African countries, known as National Focal Points, met in Nairobi to discuss how to better harness synergies between national climate action, sustainable land use, and biodiversity conservation.

The World Resources Institute, meanwhile, was facilitating the participation of women and young people at the summit who have championed restoration in their respective regions and communities. These groups shared their experiences of and work on addressing the climate crisis at the summit. 

The African civil society faced the challenging task of harnessing the political momentum of the summit while questioning the vision put forth by the summit organizers and providing alternative perspectives. Pivotal was the involvement of people with lived experience – farmers, women, representatives of indigenous groups, and local communities. Their voices not only had a direct role to play in highlighting the importance of climate adaptation and building resilience for the African continent but also enriched policy debates through local realities and experiences.


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