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Action Plan for Africa

Marcel Kok summarizes the action plan that resulted from a workshop on integrated assessment for climate change in Africa.

The author works at the Dutch National Research Programme on Global Air Pollution and Climate Change in Bilthoven, The Netherlands. He was on the organizing committee of the workshop discussed in this report and in the next three articles.

A workshop on integrated assessment for climate change in Africa was held in Kadoma, Zimbabwe, in late November 1998 as part of an initiative supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Seventy-five people attended the workshop. Participants came from a range of academic backgrounds as well as from national and international governmental organizations, business and non-governmental organizations.

Though there are many definitions of integrated assessment, integrated assessment is taken here as an approach aiming to produce a coherent picture of causes, impacts and solutions to support decision making. Synthesizing and communicating knowledge in support of policy deliberations is the objective.

As stated in the Action Plan developed at the workshop, the major challenge facing Africa is to ensure an equitable standard of living for present and future generations, providing adequate food, clean water and energy, safe shelter, a healthy environment, an educated public and satisfying work. These are of highest priority and should constitute the basis for integrated assessment in support of decision making.

Three areas for priority action were identified at the workshop: food security; ecosystem/biodiversity conservation; and development.

Food security

Integrated assessment of food security, water, and health in Africa in the context of climate change was identified as the most important domain linking current development concerns to future vulnerability to climate impacts.

Key factors impacting on poverty and related food security include population, water resource conditions, climatic factors, transport, technologies, governance, health, crop and livestock pests and diseases, soils, conflicts, off-farm income, markets and land tenure. The first six were ranked as most important.

Future prospects will be shaped by education, water resource development, communications development, health care, human security, infrastructure development, international trade, and stimulation of the private sector. Decisions may involve governments, foreign donors, private companies, and traditional authorities.

Ecosystem/biodiversity conservation

The key generic issues facing decision makers in Africa in the area of ecosystem management are: the sustainable use of renewable natural resources; land degradation; shortage of available, usable water; natural hazards; pollution management; the design of appropriate institutions for environmental management; and the impact of infrastructural development on the environment.

Integrated assessment is useful (and in most cases essential) in addressing these issues, since they all contain significant feedbacks, multiple stakeholders, non-linearities and many important socio-economic-biophysical links. Though climate change is not considered a priority issue in this context, it has a direct and important link to all these issues.

Many integrated assessments have been completed, are underway or are planned in this broad area in Africa. Where infrastructure is already in place, there is generally no need to create new integrated assessments, but to identify ways in which the existing and planned projects can be supplemented or integrated at a higher level, and also adapted for climate change investigations. If there is no infrastructure in place, integrated assessment needs to be developed. The development of tools to predict rate and type of land transformation is a key area with Africa-specific dimensions and a wide impact on many issues.


The overriding developmental issue for Africa is improvement in quality of life of the population. This is seen in terms of food security, human settlement, infrastructure development, financial security and energy security. The workshop considered that the major drivers of development are population dynamics in the region and economic growth, and agreed that it was essential to understand the underlying factors that influence the rate of economic development and growth, including capital availability. The question is how alternative development strategies affect vulnerability to climate change and the avoidance of emissions (mitigation).

Many countries in the region have undertaken some form of analysis of climate change issues. These analyses have ranged from greenhouse gas inventories to mitigation analysis and vulnerability and adaptation analysis. Most of these studies have addressed broad economic baselines and development of emission baselines and assessment of different mitigation options which stress clean development paths. Though useful, these studies have been project-oriented, externally-driven and funded and the capacity of the models has hardly been exploited. Sustainable development indicators have yet to be incorporated.

The need for more effective links

The workshop participants concluded that research communities in Africa provide a sound basis for carrying out integrated assessments. Much research has been done that is highly relevant to integrated assessment, although many of the researchers are not yet included in the global change research community. There is also a clear need to establish better links between research communities and decision makers at the national and international level, as well as the private sector and local communities.

Further information

A full report of the meeting in English or French is available from the author:

Marcel Kok, RIVM, PO Box 1 (pb59), 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands. Fax: 31-30-2744436. Email: marcel.kok@rivm.nl.

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