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  • 21 September 2022

Climate finance to Africa: What we know about ODA

This blog explores how better climate finance to countries experiencing protracted crisis can contribute towards our global future.

From drought to cyclones and flooding, extreme weather events and slow onset disasters are highlighting the need for adequate funding across the humanitarian–development–peace nexus. In 2021, an estimated 306 million people living in 73 countries were in need of humanitarian assistance, and over half of them lived in countries facing high levels of vulnerability to climate change. These climate-relevant and climate-induced disasters highlight gaps in funding across the nexus, and an urgent need to relieve communities from their worst effects has many actors turning toward the possibilities for climate finance.

Commitments related to climate finance are made through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreements at annual Conferences of Parties (COPs). Parties to the convention outline not only their own individual emissions reductions, but also their support for the efforts of others. Yet, while the worst impacts of climate change are immediately and increasingly bearing down on those least able to cope, the global commitment to US$100 billion a year in climate finance was missed in 2020 and will this year be the subject of negotiations at COP27.

Climate-relevant official development assistance (ODA) for Africa and African countries

Quantifying and tracking climate finance is difficult. There is no single repository of data, nor is there perfect consensus on which activities qualify as climate finance. Comprehensive coverage of spending by all providers is lacking. The vast array of providers, both public and private, report their spending and activities in various ways, at various times, and using various definitions. Other providers simply do not report their spending officially.

The Rio markers on biodiversity, climate change mitigation, adaptation and desertification applied to ODA reported to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) go some way in identifying climate-related finance within development assistance, although their application is incomplete and inconsistent. The latest data from the markers show that, while overall climate finance is growing and commitments to Africa and African countries have increased, Africa still receives less climate finance than other regions. Furthermore, the portfolio of both recipients and donors is not diversified. Both the lack of institutional and infrastructure coping capacity in recipient countries, and lack of accessible finance for Africa and African countries further compound the risk of multiple and protracted crises.

Between 2018–2020, a total of US$113.1 billion of climate-related ODA was reported to the OECD DAC. Just under a quarter (24.6%) of this was aimed at countries in Africa, equal to US$27.8 billion, primarily toward countries south of the Sahara. This compares to 42.6% toward Asia, 9.7% to the Americas, 5.8% to Europe, 1.4% to Oceania, and 15.9% toward projects with a global, or unspecified, geographic focus. During this time, climate-relevant ODA to Africa grew by 37% (US$10.7 billion), in line with a global increase of 34%.

Nevertheless, on average, African countries received less climate finance per country (US$414.6 million) than the average for all countries (US$576.8 million). Furthermore, climate-related ODA to Africa is not well distributed. Just three countries – Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco – account for slightly over a quarter (27.3%) of all African climate-related ODA (9.9%, 9.4% and 8.0% of the country-allocable total, respectively).

Five countries – Germany, France, the EU, Japan and the UK – account for 73.7% of climate-related ODA commitments to Africa between 2018 and 2020. The mix of financing (by objective) varies across target countries. In South Sudan for example, adaptation accounts for over 90% of commitments, compared to around 25% in Senegal.

Figure 1: Climate-related ODA to Africa, by objective

Figure 1: Climate-related ODA to Africa, by objective


Source: Development Initiatives based on OECD DAC CRS.

Notes: Shares are based on gross ODA commitments marked either significant or principal using the OECD DAC’s Rio markers for climate change adaptation or climate change mitigation, 2018-2020.

Of the US$27.8 billion committed between 2018 and 2020 to Africa or African countries from DAC donor countries, German donor agencies accounted for 25.7% (US$7.1 billion), with major commitments to mitigation projects in North Africa (specifically Morocco and Tunisia) plus regional adaptation projects south of the Sahara. French agencies account for 20.1% (US$5.6 billion) with commitments to mitigation projects in Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and Tunisia, alongside major adaptation commitments to Nigeria and Kenya. The EU accounts for 15.2% (US$4.2 billion), spending a greater proportion on adaptation interventions, with major commitments to projects in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Malawi, plus some mixed purpose commitments to Mozambique and the entire south of Sahara region.

Climate finance in the most fragile states

Countries experiencing protracted crisis are among the most vulnerable and are least able to adapt to the impacts of climate change. International support is critical to enabling them to manage and adapt to limit the exacerbating effects of a natural disaster. These countries receive a small proportion of their total ODA for climate adaptation and a relatively small share of total ODA for climate adaptation.

Between 2018 and 2020, the 22 countries on the African continent experiencing protracted crisis received a total of US$12.1 billion of climate-related ODA, US$6.4 billion of which was for adaptation purposes. On average, these countries received US$291.4 million of adaptation ODA per country, compared with their non-crisis-affected counterparts, who received US$110.3 million. While countries in protracted crisis received more adaptation ODA on average than non-crisis countries, larger recipients of adaptation finance such as Kenya and Ethiopia (both in protracted crisis) skew this average. Together, Kenya and Ethiopia accounted for 35.6% of adaptation ODA to protracted crisis countries in Africa between 2018 and 2020. Excluding these, the average funding to other protracted crisis countries is almost US$100 million lower, at US$206.6 million, a small amount in relation to the US$100 billion a year target for overall climate finance.

The lack of adequate funding to states in crisis is also highlighted by multilateral climate funds. To date, the 20 fragile and conflict-affected states in Africa have received only 31% (US$415.3 million) of these funds’ US$1.4 billion adaptation funding to Africa. These figures are stark – countries in crisis are most in need of international support to adapt to climate change. Furthermore, no clear mechanism yet exists to diminish the climate losses and damages communities face, with these costs borne by local actors or the humanitarian system.

Better climate financing for Africa

Climate finance commitments from countries giving aid are based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities: all states are responsible for addressing global environmental destruction, but not all states are equally responsible. However, climate finance to Africa and African countries is heavily weighted towards only a few actors. Most climate finance is also allocated in the form of loans, further contributing to the debt crisis many African states face.

Failure to adequately address climate-relevant and climate-induced disasters through averting, minimising and addressing the worst effects of climate change in Africa will contribute to environmental, socioeconomic and political disruption with ripple effects across the globe. Mechanisms that utilise the ‘all benefit, all contribute and all decide’ approach outlined in Global Public Investment, inclusive of a climate justice angle; streamlined, transparent use of the Rio markers, and clearly measured impacts of climate projects, such as the use of carbon credits, are some ways to begin to address these risks. Ultimately, a decolonised, harmonised, predictable and accountable financing system is critical. Climate finance to Africa and African countries is an investment, not charity, towards our global future.