Climate Change and Africa

06 May 2008

Paul Collier, Gordon Conway and Tony Venables

Oxford Review of Economic Policy 24, (2008), 337-353 Reprinted in The Economics and Politics of Climate Change (forthcoming) eds G. Cameron and D. Helm, Oxford University Press

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The impact of climate change on Africa is likely to be severe because of adverse direct effects, high agricultural dependence, and limited capacity to adapt. Direct effects vary widely across the continent, with some areas (eg eastern Africa) predicted to get wetter, but much of southern Africa getting drier and hotter. Crop yields will be adversely affected and the frequency of extreme weather events will increase. Adaptation to climate change is primarily a private sector response and should involve relocation of people, changes in the sectoral structure of production, and changes in crop patterns. The role of government is primarily to provide the information, incentives and economic environment to facilitate such changes. Adaptation will be impeded by Africa’s fragmentation into small countries and ethnic groups, and by poor business environments. On the mitigation side, there is a need to design emissions trading frameworks that support greater African participation than at present, and that include land-use change. Mitigation undertaken elsewhere will have a major impact on Africa, both positive (eg new technologies) and negative (eg commodity price changes arising from biofuel policies).