The Leadership We Need to Drive Climate Action in Africa

In Africa, Climate, environment, Features 16 by Mary Kurek

Finding Your Purpose and Making Skills and Talents Count by Dr. Richard Munang

“If you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accidents” – this African proverb encapsulates the continent’s climate change predicament. That while it has been a source of misfortune, it constantly provides us with lessons to climate-proof and grow our economies – but only if our actions are persuaded by facts. Scientists estimate that over the past 100 years, temperatures across Africa have increased by an average of 0.5 – 2℃. In a sample of 30 African countries, two-thirds or over 60% of them are warming faster than the globe, and the trend is projected to continue in the coming decades. The socioeconomic impacts are also significantly disproportionate and life-changing. Africa’s disproportionate vulnerability is reinforced by the prevailing low levels of socioeconomic development on the continent mainly due to lack of resources to quickly recover from its effects. We must, therefore, become leaders in driving climate action knowing fully well that leadership is not taught in a classroom. Rather leadership is a skill that needs to be developed and we need to all catch the spirit of it and operate in that calling.

Africa’s Reality Check

Africa has the majority of the world’s arable land but at the same time, over 257 million people go to bed hungry every day. We have children, who would otherwise grow to exercise their talents and gifts to build a better Africa, dying before their fifth birthday – all because of lack of food. This is a big dumper to progress because as one of my favourite African proverbs reminds us – “every adversity, carries with it seeds of equal or greater benefit.” This directly implies that challenges are disguised opportunities and our youth will be greatly rewarded if they prioritise devising solutions to the continent’s challenges.

Takeaways, of how you can position yourself as a leader to make  positive change a reality in your life, country, and continent

We must become competitive:

Treasure your skills and work constantly to perfect them. What will make you relevant – what will make you stand out for the long-run in this highly competitive globe is not how you look, but what you can do and how well you do it. It will be Your skills. This is the only premium you need.

We must stay engaged: An area of comparative advantage in Africa, which provides the shortest route to building competitive enterprises is the agro-value chain. And I am not talking about farming here – but the linkages along the entire value chain that result in an end product that consumers want to buy. This is Africa’s area of comparative advantage that can be built into global competitiveness. Africa loses $48 billion dollars along the agro-value chain due to lack of value addition. Enterprise engagements that work to eliminate the various inefficiencies along this chain – be it in processing, storage, linkages to markets, etc. puts you in line to tap this $48 billion. These are wealth opportunities that are now being taken by others.

Be a leader: Leadership is not about political leadership alone and it is not about pointing fingers – rather it is about taking personal responsibility. Everyone is a leader – meaning we all must take responsibility to do the right thing and inspire others to do right. We must use our skills and talents to engage in productive enterprise that drives economic prosperity in our continent and inspires others to do
the same.

An African proverb reminds us that “a bridge is repaired only when someone falls into the water.”  Considering the high vulnerability Africa faces – its low economic base and the climate action and SDGs financing gap, Africa has already fallen into the water and we need to act quickly and decisively to salvage the situation. No one country can do it alone– and the need for a collaborative approach is upon us. Buttressing environment and climate action as an enterprise opportunity that eliminates inefficiencies and drives creation of competitive enterprises is the way to go.


Dr. Richard Munang is the Africa Regional Climate Change Coordinator at the UN Environment. He is responsible for guiding the actualization of UN Environment’s climate-resilient development strategy for Africa in a manner that ensures human wellbeing. He has won many awards including but not limited to: the first person to win the prestigious African Environmental Hero Award 2016, he is the 2016 winner of UNEP’s recognition highest award, the Baobab staff awards for Programme Innovation. He has been involved in enhancing human and institutional capacity building skills, as well as mentoring and empowering thousands of young professionals across Africa. He is the author of the Book – Making Africa work through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism.  Dr. Munang holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Change & Policy from the University of Nottingham and an Executive Certificate in Climate Change and Energy Policy from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.”

Richard’s Networking Interests:

  • Obama
  • Richard Branson