Sanda Ojiambo: Let’s hold people accountable

Voices from COP27

On 9 November, the UN Global Compact brought together more than 50 leading CEOs from major Africa companies including the Bank of Africa, Nation Media Group and Vodacom Group Limited, to launch the Africa Business Leaders Coalition to make sure the perspectives of African Business leaders are part of the global conversations on the private sector’s role in dressing the continent’s most pressing issues, including climate change.

Sanda Ojiambo, the Executive Director of the Compact, explains the importance of this coalition and what it means for climate action across Africa.

Question: How significant is this announcement for Africa?

Sanda Ojiambo: It’s the first time that we know of the private sector for north, south, east and west Africa has come together, united around one issue. Thanks to the convening power that we have as a United Nations, were were be able to bring this group together. That’s the first thing.

I think the statement covers two things. First, it adds to the continued voice, the need for accountability by global actors, those who make pledges to fulfill commitments to secure Africa’s climate sustainability. The second talks about their own commitment towards climate action within their companies, within the industries and for the continent. So it’s essentially a two part piece – let’s hold people accountable but we will also do our part for what we can do for climate action.

Question: How are businesses supporting Africa’s transition to cleaner, greener economies?

Sanda Ojiambo: There are some really key business and economic decisions around what just transition is. What I hear from many African business leaders and heads of state – yes, we do recognize there is a climate crisis. People want to argue that we should stop exploiting fossil fuels and move to more green and renewable technology. That is fine. I don’t think it’s a principle that is under contention.

It’s not that simple – because the cost of financing is much higher, countries may be in the middle of economic transitions to become middle-income manufacturing economies. So it’s not as simple as a principle. I think it can only be just and equitable when you understand the barriers to implementation that are very important, and aren’t immediate – you can’t address them immediately.

Question: African Business leaders have issued a statement showing their commitment to climate action, including increasing the share of renewables in their energy use. What now?

Sanda Ojiambo: The statement is out, the business leaders then have to hold themselves to account. We’ve asked them to drive climate action within their own businesses, to lead climate action within their industries. They will continue to grow momentum around companies who sign up on the statement.

We want more companies to commit to taking climate action, to commit to following the principles of the Global Compact, and ultimately be able to make that change within the industries and their countries on finance.

Question: As an African, how is climate change affecting your community?

Sanda Ojiambo: When I was last in my home village, one thing that is very clear is that people say that they don’t know anymore – when is the harvesting season and when is the planting season because everything has changed. So even at the most domestic subsistence level, I can tell you that definitely something is amiss.

This obviously extends much further into large scale farming, which is critical for the Kenya’s economy and for its domestic and international earnings. That’s a first. Secondly, right now, there’s the most significant drought in the Horn of Africa. So it’s very clear that we can feel the impacts right here.


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