Challenges and opportunities of climate change: The case of East Africa

Editor's note:

This chapter was published in the edited volume “Keys to Climate Action: How Developing Countries Could Drive Global Success and Local Prosperity.”

East Africa has several fast-growing economies that will see a sustained increase in energy demand over time. In this working paper, Ndung’u and Azomahou describe the extensive costs of climate change already borne across the region, hurting economic growth, food security, health, and human capital. Since agriculture is the key source of livelihood and employment for much of the region’s population, the authors draw particular attention to the urgency of adaptation and resilience efforts in the farm section. To increase the energy supply and demand efficiently, East African countries can tap into their huge potential for renewable energy, creating regional grid integrations, with a modern regulator mixing in the multiple renewable sources in the region in an efficient way. This will not be politically simple—regional and domestic policy coordination will also require considerable cross-border sharing of technological expertise and increased foreign investment in clean energy deployment.

Interview with the authors

What is one main message from your chapter?

The chapter documents the challenges and opportunities of climate change in East Africa to enable the region to have a cleaner and more prosperous future where the adverse effects of climate change are limited.

What presents the biggest opportunity?

The urgency to respond to climate change brings an opportunity that can contribute to much-needed economic transformation in the region. Climate-resilient, low-carbon development can boost inclusive growth while bridging the energy deficit and reducing food insecurity and poverty.

What serves as the biggest challenge?

Clean energy systems require significantly more capital expenditure than fossil fuel systems (Kidunduhu, 2021). Financing and investment are fundamental challenges in East Africa, where African countries face higher interest rates than other parts of the world, increasing the cost of clean energy system deployment.

What gives you the most hope?

A crucial area where climate change forms an opportunity for Africa is to leapfrog straight to clean energy, avoiding decades of inefficient spending on polluting energy sources. Unequal access to energy in Africa reinforces existing inequalities, and restructuring the energy systems also levels the ground for creating low-carbon jobs, sustaining growth, improving health, eradicating poverty, and boosting government revenues through subsidy reform and carbon pricing alone (GCEC, 2018).