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The Nairobi Declaration must leverage South-South trade, investment and know-how to address the climate emergency

Written by Deodat Maharaj

Image credit:Africa Climate Summit, Nairobi, September 2023. Flickr/UNclimatechange-UNEP-ArtanJama-02 Image license:(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Africa and the Caribbean share deep historical and people-to-people ties. Indeed, the African Union has identified the Caribbean as Africa’s sixth region. The shared experience of the climate emergency has created another commonality, and one that presents an existential threat to both regions, particularly for small states.

African governments, similar to their Caribbean counterparts, have limited capacity to respond to the climate crisis due to debt distress and economic shocks, necessitating urgent action including debt relief and increased liquidity.

Building on Bridgetown 2.0 and the Paris Pact, the Africa Climate Summit (ACS) in September can help advance a transformational agenda to reset and reshape trade and investment relationships to build climate resilience.

However, we need to move swiftly from high-level policy discourse to tangible actions, where it matters on the ground. The private sector must be a central driver of this transformation, supported by appropriate policy frameworks. Whilst commitments at the highest levels must be secured, direct business-to-business engagement is imperative, particularly in deepening South–South trade and investment relationships.

There have been a number of recent high-level initiatives aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties between Africa and the Caribbean, such as the AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum. The ACS will primarily focus on driving green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the world. The expected outcomes, including those outlined in the Nairobi Declaration, will enable African countries to develop detailed plans and secure investments to support green growth, not only on the continent but also globally, as Africa plays its part in supporting decarbonisation efforts elsewhere.

The ACS also includes a focus on sustainable agriculture – this is an area where the Caribbean has demonstrated strong commitment, at the highest levels, to deploy technology, alongside digitalisation and innovation. Incentives are being provided across the board to support investments in this sector. Addressing the climate emergency through greening trade must go hand in hand with tackling food insecurity and encouraging agricultural production, which is also a priority in the Caribbean. Caribbean leaders have a clear goal of reducing food imports by 25% by 2025. However, to be successful in this venture and to build true climate resilience, stronger partnerships and deeper collaboration are required.

South–South linkages offer a viable option for fostering direct business engagement and the transfer of know-how, thus bringing the call to action and the Nairobi Declaration to life.