Africa’s Position in the New Climate Accord at COP28

Beneath the surface of Africa lies a wealth of enormous mineral resources. The African continent contains up to 90% of the world’s platinum, chromium and gold deposits and 40% of its total gold reserves. Africa has the world’s most significant cobalt reserves, diamonds, platinum and uranium.

Ten percent of the world’s internally renewable freshwater supply and 65% of its arable land are found in Africa. The resources of Africa are essential to the global economy, particularly to the West and the United States.

This explains the numerous foreign invasions of Africa throughout history, the most recent in the 20th century when Europeans invaded and occupied the continent for almost a century. Africa saw a tremendous deal of big-power competition during the Cold War.

In the current era, China, Russia and India are showing a greater desire to compete in this region with the West and the United States specifically. This transformation will have a significant impact on the world order.

Demand for many essential minerals is rising quickly on a global scale. Most predictions of increased demand are based on the assumption that fuel-based energy sources will gradually vanish globally and be replaced with high-quality batteries for electric vehicles and power storage.

Critical minerals are necessary to operate several consumer gadgets, medical devices, high-performance metals and engines, including those employed in the military and defense sectors.

The U.S. economy and national security depend on a steady supply of important minerals from Africa, which provide the basis for many goods and services critical to the rapidly changing dynamic modern economy. The United States primarily relies on imports for some important minerals, including cobalt, graphite and manganese.

Climate Finance 

Adopting the New Collective Qualitative Goal, a new climate finance target, most of the financial issues were handled at the COP28 summit from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2023. The 2009 pledge made by industrialized countries donating $100 billion in climate funds to developing countries annually was replaced by this new goal.

The negotiators during COP28 in Dubai offered more details on defining a new target rather than working through alternative solutions for elements like its schedule, transparency procedures, sources and structure. The Loss and Damage Fund was given $725 million to begin assisting the nations most impacted by the climate catastrophe. An updated framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation was also considered.

The African continent presents a complex and multivariable conundrum. It is the continent with the fewest greenhouse gas emissions, yet it will inevitably suffer the most from the impact of climate change. Persistent poverty, unemployment and inequality add to the pressure on governments and investors to share the benefits and wealth created by natural resources.

Although these demands and challenges are clearly understood, there is inadequate capacity to deal with them. This is where the new climate funding target that was proposed at COP28 comes into play. A fundamental value proposition of climate finance is its ability to help bridge this gap.

The building up of a climate institutional framework and strategic thinking are still in the development phase in Africa. Individuals’ and communities’ capacity for adaptation is mediated through institutions by identifying needs, building knowledge, ensuring accountability, disseminating information and transferring resources.

All these are needed for adaptation, and institutions guide all. Otherwise, adaptation might not be effective without proper accountability and institutional arrangements.

It is far too large for any single institution to overcome the burden imposed as a result of climate change. It requires coordination among multiple institutions around Africa and beyond. Therefore, external technical support is needed to strengthen institutions responsible for climate change, with the support of international organizations and bilateral donors, to channel resources.

There is also a need to share lessons learned from integrated efforts through cooperation, fostering dialogue and collaboration among diverse institutions. In particular, local institutions are important vehicles for delivering climate finance.

The most effective way to manage adaptation is for institutions, such as governments, the corporate sector, civil society, and international players, to coordinate and work together.

Africa is home to several international, continental and regional institutions and organizations that are active now. These include the African Union (AU), the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Climate Policy Center and several Regional Economic Communities. However, these institutions hardly ever engage in active communication or cooperation.

During the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009 (COP15), the African nations reaffirmed their commitment to the common position. For the African negotiators, Africa’s adaptation to climate change impacts has a limited capacity, and the continent will suffer some of the most significant changes, while the response capacity of African societies is among the lowest in the world.

In addition, the main economic sectors in the area are susceptible to climate change, which is made worse by pre-existing issues such as poverty, natural catastrophes (e.g., drought and flooding) and conflicts over limited resources such as land and water.

These concerns led to the urgent need for climate change negotiations and the formulation of a common position, with a single team empowered to negotiate and represent all the member states of the AU. The 54 nations that comprise the African continent are members of the AU, a continental organization. It was formed in 2002 as the formal Organization of African Unity successor (1963–1999).

During COP15, the AU also called for an endorsement of the Copenhagen Accord. (All major economies, including China and other significant emerging nations for the first time, were required to make public pledges about emissions under the pact.) The AU continued to emphasize the following aspects: monetary compensation for lost ecological, economic and social resources and industrialized countries’ historical obligation regarding climate change.

It is high time for the United States to back public-private collaborations with African countries that would benefit both parties. The U.S. Institute of Peace convened a senior study group to develop multiple recommendations for the United States to support mutually beneficial public and private partnerships with African nations.

In addition to supporting the rule of law, transparency, and labor and environmental standards around vital minerals in Africa, the report advised promoting peace and stability through more U.S. commercial engagement. Accordingly, these alliances might help diversify supply chains for essential minerals.


The history of natural resource extraction in Africa has a poor track record, characterized by environmental degradation and increased poverty. As multinational companies become increasingly involved in extracting valuable geological materials and minerals beneath the surface of Africa and heavily engage in logging, these environmental and social problems are emerging with a new face. This certainly demands attention from both the AU and member states.

The entire submission of national policies to the constantly shifting ideologies of foreign powers has been the tragedy of Africa’s policy creation and execution over the past decades.

African policymakers should harmonize their positions on international climate change dialogues. They should also promote and coordinate positions on bilateral and multilateral issues. Africa should support and promote mechanisms that foster interregional cooperation.

The AU should work to strengthen these relationships and commit to relentlessly pursuing the creation of new kinds of partnerships on a continental and global scale.

In addition, the AU’s growing relationship with countries of the South must fill the gaps in Africa’s relationship with the North. It must be a relationship of mutuality and cross-advantage and a tool for economic, political and social development. It must also add significant value to what exists in the member states in the sub-regions of the African continent.


  • Debay Tadesse

    Debay Tadesse, Ph.D., graduated with a B.A. in world history from Georgia State University and an M.A. in African history and a Ph.D. in African studies with a focus on public policy and development from Howard University. He is currently a lecturer at Fresno City College and Fresno State.

    View all posts
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
21 days ago

A really nice essay. Question: What do you mean by sub-regions of the African continent? I agree that the AU needs to take a strong leadership positions on these issues.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x