Due to climate change, Africa has been heavily hit by droughts, rising sea levels and new weather patterns
Ahead of COP21, Kofi Annan has expressed his belief that this event is “Africa’s moment to lead the world.” Indeed, Africa is one of the fastest growing regions for clean energy, attracting $2.8 billion in investment in 2014, and countries like South Africa, Ethiopia and Rwanda have emerged as global leaders in climate-conscious development.
The potential benefits of increasing Africa’s renewable capacity are significant. It has been predicted, for example, that solar power could become the continent’s most significant power source by 2050. This requires substantial financial investment and the development of local technical capacity. Unfortunately, there is a significant skills shortage in the areas of climate monitoring, reporting, mitigation and adaptation on the African continent. As a result, it is of paramount importance that African governments build capacity at community, academic and institutional levels to produce actionable knowledge-based strategies which address the many and varied problems of climate change.
Due to climate change, Africa has been heavily hit by droughts, rising sea levels and new weather patterns. The decreasing levels of rainfall in Africa are undermining harvests and contributing to food shortages. These issues are compounded by Africa’s often marginalised voice in matters of climate change on the world stage. If concrete actions are not taken, more than 43 million people could fall into extreme poverty by 2030. In the face of the associated disaster risks, complex and transdisciplinary solutions are required. Such measures must be supported by careful planning, building and sharing of scientific knowledge and early warning systems. The technical aspects of each process must be underpinned by a rigorous research agenda which is directly applicable and usable for governments and policy makers across the continent.
In light of these overarching trends, the role of the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) is of vital importance in pooling resources and coordinating research and training in Africa to navigate the risks brought by climate change. The discussions at COP21 will undoubtedly highlight the need for capacity building in the form of educational training in Africa, and PAUWES sits at the nexus of such efforts.
PAUWES is a trilateral project between the African Union, Algeria and Germany. Algeria is proud to host the Institute, which is situated on the campus of the University of Tlemcen, as it aligns with the new national programme of development of renewable energy launched by the Algerian Government to horizon 2030.
Translating academia into policy making, PAUWES is collaborating with African and European experts to design and implement a research agenda which will support governments across Africa in making strategic decisions and facing climate change head on. For example, one area that PAUWES is focusing on is growing technical capacity related to green growth, water management and security. This gives PAUWES a critical position in contributing to a more environmentally, politically and commercially sustainable outlook on the continent.
PAUWES has a specific responsibility and assigned role to implement research programmes identified in the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024) published by the African Union. This highlights the pan-African significance of the institution and its role in contributing to a lasting change in Africa in the area of climate change policies and strategies. Given PAUWES’ focus on water and energy sectors, the Institute is in a position to provide specialist insight and research on these vital areas for the continent. In particular, it will consider ways in which to facilitate much greater innovation, entrepreneurship and technology transfer that could raise the quality of research and higher education in Africa.
Ultimately, the institute’s underlying aspiration and role is to train students, equipping them with the skills that they need to translate ideas into reality. PAUWES is building the next generation of scientists and policy makers who will help support and shape Africa’s policy making in water, energy and climate science. Africa is currently paying a heavy price for the actions of industrialised countries, but through the talent and commitment of its young people, it can also play a definitive role in overcoming climate change in the years to come.
– Abdellatif Zerga & Thameur Chaibi